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A Different Way of Goal Setting

September 30, 2017
AUTHOR: Emilie
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I know that October seems like an arbitrary time in the year to just DECIDE to re-do goal-setting, but this is real and this is happening AND JANUARY FIRST IS JUST A REGULAR OL’ DAY TOO.

Something about my goal-setting system hasn’t been working lately. I’ve been struggling with this gnawing feeling for a couple of months now. That isn’t to knock the Powersheets. I love, love, love my Powersheets because in that phase of life, the Powersheets were EXACTLY what I needed. They catapulted me to such success but now that I’m in this cultivating phase of life, the Powersheets aren’t working for me.

It’s like the past two years I’ve been driving down some highway at full speed because I felt like I was running late. Now, though, I’ve decided to just stay in this little town at this exit I hadn’t planned for with everything I’ve got in my car, and I want to savor every second of it.

Mindful and Intentional

Okay, before you * insert eye roll emoji here * because could there be anything more buzz-word-y for me to talk about, give me a chance to explain what I mean.

To me, mindfulness is about doing things in such a way so that they align with your values. Mindful budgeting is about spending your money in a way that aligns with your values. It’s cool to buy that new TV instead of saving for a bigger vacation, but that’s because you’re saying that the TV right now is more important to you than the vacation. Mindful planning is about making sure the tasks you do align with your values. Not that difficult of a concept, right?

Mindfulness is most powerful when it’s paired with intentionality. The idea is that if we’re intentional with our actions, we can get closer to those ideal forms of mindfulness- not just budgeting, but in all aspects of our lives.

It boils down to this: if you’re intentional with your actions, you can live a mindful life!

Oh man, doesn’t that sounds great?! It does to me. The reality, though, is that intentionality is really freaking hard! How many times have you opened the fridge because it’s the natural thing to do when you walk into the kitchen? At least 12 today that I can think of. I counted because I have blinds in front of my fridge and moving them is a pain right now- and that means I opened my fridge even less than normal exactly because it’s a pain to do it right now.

Not a fridge-opener, eh? How many times have you checked your phone today? In the last hour? Exactly.

Putting in Work

Something being hard isn’t an excuse to not work at it though. And this is the road block that I’ve been struggling with.

You see, my goals have been serving the purpose for which they were written.

My purpose for setting goals, though, now needs to be different than it has been.

Here’s a specific example:

I’ve been wanting to learn about a new subject for a while at work. Let’s call this subject “bananacutting” just to make it easier to write about. I’ve been wanting to learn about banana cutting but I’ve been finding LOTS of excuses not to. The course is too expensive. The material would be really hard. I’m really busy. I can learn that from different sources!

Well, enough is enough. Last week, my friend Chad helped me sign up for the course on banana cutting and I’ve been diligently working on the pre-work before it starts in two weeks. I’ve been scared of taking the plunge, but I’ve reached the point where if I want to continue to grow professionally, I need to learn banana cutting.

That forced me to ask myself: Do I want to continue to grow professionally?

Before you answer with an automatic yes, though, think about it. There are lots of people who work the job that I have as parents. My role is their pinnacle because something else is more important to them- not money, not career advancement, but something else. That something else could be family or travel or their stamp collecting hobby (Hey, you do you book; it’s not my place to judge.) or something else entirely. Whatever it is, their end-all-be-all is NOT career advancement and there is nothing wrong with that!

So I had to ask MYSELF: Do I want to continue to grow professionally?

My answer was an unabashed YES. Right now, there’s nothing I want more. I want to be better at my job than I want to be better at almost anything else at my life. If I’m being totally honest (hint: I am), the only thing I care more about right now is my relationship. Fitness, reading, everything else can come after career.

If I know that my values are telling me that this is uber important to me, then, well, I need to do it, and I need to NOT do other things to make sure it gets done. Not complicated, right?

So that’s my mindset going into goal-setting from now on.

Achievement vs Habit

I shared in Shiny Squirrel Syndrome that I was struggling with what I called the dichotomy between maintenance and project goals. What I’ve realized since is that I was actually looking to categorize goals as either achievement goals or habit goals. The former is about getting something done; the latter about changing my lifestyle.

Let me illustrate further: Every month, I set a goals of reading X number of books, generally 2-3 depending on how I’m pacing for the year in my Goodreads Challenge (this year I set it for 30 books!). This is a habit goal, since my goal, if you get really into the weeds, is to continue the habit of reading. The habit of reading is important to me because infinite learning is one of the values of my life.

On the other hand, this year, I set the goal of finishing one needlepoint ornament. In August, I did exactly that and shipped it off to the finisher. In fact, I should have it prior to Christmas this year (and we’ll be able to hang it on our tree and isn’t that just so cute?!). Making this ornament was an achievement goal. I don’t need to make working on my needlepoint a regular part of my day. In fact, I’m okay not working on it for days, weeks, and even months at a time but, because finishing it was something that was important to me, it was a goal for this year. On my next ornament, which I should also get around Christmas time this year, I can set goals that reflect that this is an achievement goal. That might look like “Finish all the blue” or “Finish that detail.” I don’t need to set goals like “stitch every day for the month” because I’m not trying to build a habit, I’m trying to get something done.


Here’s what I think the process will look like:

  • What are my values?
  • Which values do I want to work on this month?
  • What goals do I want to set this month?
  • How do those goals fit in with the values I want to work on this month?

Now, this process is a work in progress. It’s going to change as I evolved, as I work through it a couple of months, and as my phases of life change. There is nothing wrong with changing the process when that’s what’s needed. I can’t blame not hitting my goals on the process when that’s not actually the case, but when it is, well, we can call a spade a spade.

Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing my October goals that I’ve set with this new process. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

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