My Thoughts on Goals & Words-of-the-Years

I’ve noticed a trend this past week, a pendulum swing between two opposite extremes:

There’s one side, with new books and courses released and planners for sale and philosophies and mantras and manifestoes about “new year, new you,” with people eager and bright-eyed about making 2019 a phenomenal year with All The Things You Are Going To Do!. These folks are ambitious, positive, and hopeful.

Then there’s the other side, with instagrams and tweets from people bemoaning all this pressure, asking the other side to calm down, to stop putting pressure on everyone, to accept that You Are Fine The Way You Are!. These folks are well-intentioned, too, and thoughtful, and a little cautious.

Neither side is wrong. But I personally find myself somewhere in the middle.

I’m definitely not a huge fan of vague, lofty resolutions, especially when they’re about an entire year. “This year, I’m cutting out all sugar.” “In 2019, I’m gonna read 100 books.” “By this time next year, I’ll be running a marathon.”

(Until recently, I used to set annual goals, too, so not knocking anyone here. It’s just in my experience, they don’t work.)

But I also truly love the start of a new year. There’s something magical about a clean slate, you know? Sure, there’s nothing specific that happened when we started a new calendar after lighting fireworks a few hours the night before. But we humans love rhythms and routines; it’s why we’re drawn to timekeeping and millstone marking.

So, it makes sense that some of us want to use this season to find hope about the coming months. Fresh off holiday celebrations, we’re hankering for a concrete commitment to something.

I think landing somewhere in the middle of all this hullabaloo, between ambitious planning and hating on it, is why at the beginning of the year, I’m drawn to both setting goals and choosing a word. (You know, two of the most common rituals in January.) They tap both my go-get-em side and my reflect-over-coffee side.

A Word on Goals

I way prefer 90-day, quarterly goals over annual goals. If you’re enrolled in my class, Like Your Life, you know this already. (Side note: I used to also hate the word ‘goals,’ but I just go with it now.)

This is because 90 days is enough time to accomplish a doable goal, and it’s a short enough amount of time to create concrete steps to make it happen. 90 days is also not enough time to set more than 1-4 small goals (at most), and if I completely bomb them, I can easily course-correct for the next 90 days and keep on truckin’. No big deal.

So, for the past two years or so, I’ve used my quarterly Think Days to set a few 90-day goals. They need to be SMARTER goals, or else they won’t work (in Like Your Life, I talk about SMART goals, but I’ve since added the -ER, to make the goal also Exciting and Risky).

This doesn’t mean I don’t like to dream about the next year in full, or envision what we might be doing by this fall or something. In fact, I like to take those dreams and turn them into fuel for my quarterly goals.


our front entry, as of last week

A few of my dreams for 2019 include: take a real-life, month-long sabbatical from work this summer (I’ve never done more than a few weeks away from the internet), travel extendedly again with my family (overseas preferred, but not required), finish my novel, and finish renovating our house (well, at least get to a point where we no longer consider our house a fixer-upper).

So? My first 90-day goals to start the year include:

1. Write 28,500 words in my novel. This is 500 words a day, for 57 days (M-F starting this week, minus a few travel days on the calendar).

2. Decide with Kyle when and where, specifically, we’ll travel as a family this summer, and auto-save a set amount each week into a savings account marked specifically for this trip.

3. Create a work plan for the first six months of the year, so that I’m fully able to log off for a month-long summer sabbatical — then share the plan with my team, so we can start setting pieces in place now.

4. Spend the next 10 Saturdays focused on house projects (starting this weekend, minus travel days), doing my part to help Kyle finish the house. This is mostly his daily domain, and I want to be more intentional about accomplishing home tasks I care about.

These feel ambitious and intentional, but also grace-filled and doable. They’re exciting to me, a bit risky (they won’t be easy, especially the first one), and also specific, measurable, actionable, time-oriented, and relevant. So, SMARTER.

This taps my go-get-em side, for sure. But, I’m also all about curling up with a novel, keeping a warm mug nearby, and not feeling like the entire purpose of my existence is to get things done.

A Word on Words

My word for 2018 was agency, and boy-howdy, was that word fulfilled or what. With agency, I was reminded that ultimately, I’m in charge of my life, I have much more power and control over it than I give myself credit (yes, God is ultimately in control, but you know what I mean), and I can choose to let go of the lies I believed were true about myself. So. much. happened. in this department last year. I almost feel like a different person. I’ve definitely matured in a number of areas, thanks to embracing agency.


the pre-spring-town-parade gathering outside our front door

My word for 2019 is community. We’ve lived in our small town for several years now, and as much as I love it, I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface of living more fully here. I want to know my neighbors better, meet new people, make a few local friends, and have more people over for dinner.

In the spirit of “less but better” with AoS, I also want to focus on deepening my already-here community, creating spaces to make it easier to talk. I want to build the post-comment section back to its former glory, when readers would leave 50+ comments per post (even though They say it’s no longer possible, thanks to social media. I choose not to believe this.). Instead of launching yet another new thing (totally my usual modus operandi), I want to cultivate what I’ve already created, and make them richer in community.

I’m leading a second Literary London this summer, and the group of women attending are fantastic. I can’t wait to foster this tiny community, to know my beloved London even better, and perhaps even to cultivate a sense of community in the village where we’ll stay — I’ve found a new guesthouse, and if it’s as lovely as it seems (fingers crossed), it may be the regular home for all future Literary Londons. We’ll see!

So, community. This word came easily to me for 2019. I’m excited to see where it’ll take me.

For You…

As I mentioned last week, podcast episode topics are now reflected in blog posts from the week — so, this Friday you’ll hear me talk more about my ideas here. I’m chatting with my friend, Crystal, a long-time regular contributor here, who on Wednesday is sharing her Day In The Life as a working mom with three kids, one of whom is only a few months old. It’s a great chat!

If you haven’t yet, you’re also welcome to the questions I use on my Think Days — just pop your email here, and I’ll send it to you:

Okay! Now check your inbox for an email from me — it has a link to the guide.

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I’d love to hear from you: Are you more of a goals person, a word-of-the-year person, or something else entirely? If you want, share below some of your goals, your word, or your squid (or whatever it is you do for the new year)!

p.s. – Like Your Life is open for enrollment — if this stuff I wrote about here resonates with you, you’ll probably love (and benefit from) the class.

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