I really enjoy reading self-improvement books. Because I have the type of personality that gets excited about something and then easily moves on, I find that I need these types of books to help me refocus on what’s important.
One thing I often find lacking in these books, however, is anything about faith. They will talk about career success, health, finances and maybe even family relationships but there is little said of one’s relationship with God. When I first converted to Catholicism, it took me a little time to marry these two worlds of mine: my love of goal setting and my new found love of Christ. Now I’m very comfortable with my process and I thought this year I would share it with all of you.
My husband and I do our goal setting exercises separately and then we come together to share our goals and create goals for our family. But the first thing we always do is to pray. Here is a prayer you can say before you dive into goal setting this year.
“Lord, please open my mind and my heart so I may desire the plan you have for my life. Not my will be done Lord but yours. Please guide my thoughts to always put you first and to remember my life’s most important goal is to become a saint in Heaven. Help me lay the pathway for that prize by choosing these goals today.”
First, these two articles by Michael Hyatt are great introductions to goal setting. If you have never set goals, I’d pause and take 10 minutes to read these:
If you are comfortable with the idea of goal setting, move on and find out how I recommend doing it so it’s easy and simple!
Step One: Imagine The Future
Grab a piece of paper. Write out THE FUTURE at the top. Then start to dream about your life. How far out is up to you. I try to picture 10 years ahead when I feel I will probably be done having children and living in a new chapter of my life without babies. Then I also try to picture 20+ years ahead when my children are grown. I think of those two “chapters” in my life and a make a list of hopes I have for that time. Some examples include: becoming debt free, being healthy enough to go hiking/camping with my children and grandchildren, having written a book, joining a lay order, walking the Camino de Santiago, being able to support my parents as they get older, having a playful marriage with my husband.
This exercise is not precise. I do not apply the idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals here. I just try to paint a picture of what I want things to look like in the future so I know what I’m fighting for. Since having kids, I know that there is no way to REALLY know what I’m going to be doing or even what I’ll want 10 or 20 years from now. But right now I can dream a little, focus on what’s important and then keep these things in mind as I make my more short-term goals.
NOTE: You may want to do this for five years out or two years out if you’ll be moving into a different chapter of your life (i.e. graduating from school, having a baby, moving out of state etc.)
Step Two: One Year From Today
Who do you want to be one year from today? Close your eyes and picture yourself. What do you look like? Are you filled with peace? Where do you live? Is there peace in your home? What have you accomplished in 2016?
Jot down some words or phrases to describe the following areas of your life:
- Other Vocation (work or volunteering)
- Your Home
- Relationships: Extended Family and Friends
- Rest (Hobbies, ways to unplug, vacations etc.)
After looking at the words or phrases I’ve chosen, I write down a S.M.A.R.T. goal for each section. The goal may be big or small. After I’m done, I look at the total list and I circle the top three which are GAME CHANGERS. If I just did three things, which would have the most impact on my life? These will be my Main Goals.
I make my Main Goals the focus for my year. The other goals I still keep written down and I still pay attention to them but I know that they are secondary, these are my Minor Goals. For example, I will not focus more on learning how to knit if it keeps me from paying down debt. I can still probably accomplish both, and a year is a long time, but we can’t have it all and now is the time to really prioritize.
I also don’t always choose a spiritual goal as one of my top three goals even though my overall life goal is to become a saint in Heaven. I find that because this desire is so strong in me, I’m pretty good about prayer routines, reading religious books and growing in my spirituality naturally. I find that it’s much harder for me to make progress in my health and my marriage so those are often in my top three big goals.
Step Three: Create a Manifesto
Type up your Major Goals and your Minor Goals on a piece of paper in the present tense as if you’ve become this new version of yourself or as if you’ve already accomplished a specific goal in 2016. You can add back in some of your words from above too. This doesn’t have to be specific like S.M.A.R.T. goals.
I weigh 135 pounds. I have paid off $5,000 of debt. I enjoy a weekly date night with my husband. I spend 30 minutes reading out loud to my children every night. I ran a 5k race in 2016. My home is peaceful. I go to Adoration weekly. I go to confession monthly.
Put a pretty frame around it. Use a font you love. Make this a beautiful piece of paper. Then hang it in your bathroom or put it on your fridge, somewhere you can see it every day. Then read it EVERY DAY.
Tips For Success
- Offer It Up
One of the amazing things about Catholics is our ability to pair suffering and sacrifice to Jesus’s suffering on the cross. We can say, “Lord, I’m going to give up $4 lattes so that I can be a good steward of my money and pay down my debt. I really want a latte but I’m going to sacrifice that and please use this sacrifice for the pro-life cause.”Yes, it really does work like that. That may seem shallow. But for some people, giving up a latte is really painful. For others it will be eating rice and beans every day to pay off student loans. Some people have chronic pain and they can offer that up to Jesus too!I think it’s important that we don’t act like pouty children when we go through things that are difficult or when we give up luxuries but to man these times meaningful by giving them to Christ. Here is a worksheet that you can fill out to keep you on track!
- Accountability Partner
My husband and I meet every Sunday night after the children have gone asleep to review our goals (both big and small) and to plan out our week. We check in about our progress and we challenge each other if we’re slacking. We give each other encouragement and advice. Then we talk about our schedule for the week and we make a meal plan together. This helps us go into the week feeling like we’re a team and knowing that we’re (mostly) on the same page ;o)
If you don’t have a husband (or perhaps a less than willing husband) find a friend to do this with. Accountability partners are HUGE if you want success in any area of your life. We need to be SEEN. We need to feel like what we do matters. And although we should all be perfect souls that do everything for Christ…. Most of us aren’t quite there yet.
- Revise Goals Every Quarter
Goals don’t always go the way we plan. That’s okay. In January of 2015, I had NO IDEA my family was going to up and move from Portland to Boise! It required several goal shifts. Life happens. Don’t let your goals slide and don’t get discouraged. Reevaluate, edit them and move on. I do this once a quarter.Make this date with yourself and put it on your calendar, then keep it!
That’s it. I try to make it very simple. I used to make goal setting a big more complicated but then my hard work would get filed away and forgotten. Now it takes me less than an hour. I review last year, make my goals, type them up and move on. I do review them every Sunday with my husband and I revise them as my life changes. My ultimate goal in life is to become a saint in Heaven and to do that by becoming the best version of myself. I do this by always trying to up my game in may different aspects of my life.
Hard work brings us joy. It gives us peace. It makes us feel fulfilled and gives use self-confidence. We need this strength to go out into the world and spread God’s love. I will be praying for you to have an amazing 2016 and that you can become the version of yourself that God most desires!