I have always been a goal setter. It’s just how my brain works. I would like to share with you the goal setting process that brought about A One-Room Schoolhouse. It is nothing too fancy, but this pattern of goal setting has been working successfully in my life for more than 25 years.
When I say “working successfully”, I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I have never completed 100% of my goals. I have never been perfect in my planning.
As a matter of fact, if you perfectly reach all of your goals, you weren’t aiming high enough. Goals should stretch you to be better. Sometimes that stretch is really hard and you don’t make it. The point is, however, that you stretched. You reached and when you reached you went farther than you would have if you never tried at all.
Reach for the stars and you never know you might just touch the moon.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” KJV
When I was a young teenager my older sister (then in her early 20’s) recommend I review Luke 2:52 as a blueprint for setting balanced goals. At the time I was a bit out of balance, putting way too much focus on academic success. In her wisdom, she could see my spirit and emotions were suffering.
My sister explained to me that this scripture gave a pattern of how Jesus developed. Well, if it worked for Jesus, it should work for me!
- Wisdom: Learning and education
- Stature: Physical health and wellness
- Favour with God: Spiritual development
- Favour with man: Social and emotional development
With these four areas in mind, providing a balanced framework for brainstorming, let me share with you my goal setting process.
Step One: Word of the Year
The first thing I do when setting goals, is to spend some time brainstorming my word of the year. This word will give my year a theme and focus. It helps me eliminate goals that don’t drive me towards where I really want to be. Additionally, it helps my mind and heart discover goals that might not have been on my radar initially.
My word of the year for 2019 was START. In 2018, ironically my word was FINISH. With so many things wrapped up in 2018, I was ready to START. The biggest thing I was going to start was… A One-Room Schoolhouse! (Read about my reasons why here.)
Often my word of the year has been a character trait I would like to develop. I have used words like patience, diligence, and gratitude. Sometimes my word has been more action-oriented like finish, rest, and simplicity. Other years have been more about a feeling like breathe, trust, or hope.
A simple Google search of “word of the year ideas” will yield hundreds of ideas. Sometimes you will just know what your word should be and other times you might want to read through some ideas until a word really speaks to you.
Step Two: Yearly Goals
Look at each of the four areas of personal development and your word of the year. Use these two forces to drive your goals. As you brainstorm goals make sure they are in line with your word of the year. This will help you stay focused and eliminate goals that don’t drive you towards your ultimate desire. Furthermore, make sure your four areas of development don’t get out of balance. Setting five learning goals but no social goals makes for a really boring year!
In 2019 I had about 10 goals, but the most important one to note here was the goal to start A One-Room Schoolhouse. I had been thinking about it and talking to my family about it for almost a year. It was time to make it happen!
The specifics of this goal were to start a 501c3 as the legal vehicle to drive A One–Room Schoolhouse, launch a website to advertise and recruit, publish a blog to inform (and maybe someday provide revenue) and find a space to host our group. And guess what…? Check! All those things are done!
Make sure your yearly goals are SMART goals. (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.) If you have a general statement, change it up to fit the SMART goal pattern.
- Get in shape – Run a 5k in under 30 minutes
- Read more – Read 2 books every month
- Make new friends – Attend the book group at the library monthly and speak to a new person at every meeting
- Save money – Save $250 every month
- Increase spirituality – Read the New Testament and journal about each chapter
If the deadline (timely) is not the end of the year, make sure you note it in your goal. Do a reality check on your goals after you have them all written down. You do want your goals to stretch you, but you don’t want to fail at all of your goals either. A good rule of thumb: If you are reaching 80% of your goals or getting 80% of the way to your goal, then you’re doing pretty well! For example, using the above goals:
80% Rule of Sucess
- You ran a 5K but finished it in 32 minutes. Not bad at all!
- You finished 22 books instead of 24 in the year. Well, that’s 22 books you might not have read at all if you didn’t have your reading goal!
- You made it to book group at the library and learned everyone’s name, but you have yet to find a new friend that you really connect with. No problem. You have met a lot of great people and got out of your comfort zone. Wonderful!
- You have been journaling so much about what you are learning in your Bible reading that you have not read the whole New Testament this year. No problem, you have made a great habit of reflective journaling while studying the Bible. Excellent work!
Goal setting does not necessarily yield perfection, it yields progress!
Step Three: Break It Down
Now that you have specific goals for the year wrapped around your word of the year theme, it’s time to get down to the nuts and blots. It is now time to get really specific.
What are you going to do monthly, weekly, daily to make these goals happen? Do you need a tracking sheet, a schedule, or a game plan? What is it going to take to make these goals a reality in your life?
Different types of goals need to be broken down in different ways. But, every goal needs to be broken into manageable pieces or they will stay too big to ever get accomplished.
Ways to break down a goal:
- Numbers goals (20 books, 1000 hours outside, 500 miles of running) need tracking sheets. These often look like boxes to check off or color in when you have completed each segment of your goal.
- Task Goals (Read the Bible, run a 5K, write a book) need broken down task plans. Which books of the Bible will you read and when? A 5k goal will need a specific training plan with workouts and dates. You will also need to register for a race. If you are writing a book you will need to have a concrete plan or “due date” for things like an outline, chapters, revisions, and editing.
- Skill Goals: Some goals are going to require some background research. If I were going to build a kitchen table I would need to engage in some basic woodworking learning well before I ever started cutting and nailing wood together. When breaking down a skill goal you will need to think about how to gain the knowledge you need to accomplish your goal. Maybe you will read a book, take a class, or find a mentor. Plan how you will gain your skill.
- Materials Needed: Many goals will need you to gather a few materials. Maybe you need an instructional book, running shoes, or a new journal. Make sure you gather the things you need to be successful.
It was a monumental task to break down all the little to-do items to start A One-Room Schoolhouse. I was overwhelmed but it is done! I have shared my learning on this process and the entire task breakdown here, including a very helpful printable!
Step Four: Accountability
Finally, and this is the step that often gets skipped, you need to build in some accountability. Accountability increases your likelihood of success tenfold.
Set yourself up for a successful year of goal achievement by building accountability into your plan.
Set up an accountability group. Join with a friend and check up on each other’s progress monthly. Post your goals around your house and check-in with your spouse. Put your goals on social media and report back on your progress.
I will forever be grateful to my board for the accountability they provided during our process. I could not have weathered this process alone. Find your people!
Start your accountability now and drop a comment below. What is your word of the year? What is your favorite goal you have set for yourself? I would love to hear about it.