how I started setting meaningful goals

About eight months ago, at the end of 2013, I stumbled upon Lara Casey's blog series on setting goals. I was super-intrigued by the concept of goal-setting and making things happen, and I was ripe for the experience (more on that later). I got my hands on a set of her Powersheets and started going through them. Before setting even one goal, she has you go through a series of exercises geared toward helping you define what's most important. At first glance, I thought some of these worksheets were silly, but I filled out all of them because, really, what did I have to lose? 

I learned that the things I wanted (a great marriage, a successful business, an orderly home, less stress, more joy) all stemmed from core values I had that I hadn't really articulated. The things I wanted were goals. The reasons I wanted them were my values. After some soul-searching, some chats with my sister and Nick, some writing, and some time alone (not always easy), I have a much more clear idea of what's important to me and why it's important. 

What does this have to do with goal-setting? Well, for me, it's where setting meaningful goals started. Once I defined my core values (things like faith, relationships, peace, health, productivity, creativity, simplicity), I could begin setting goals that I was actually motivated to accomplish. 

For example:

As I mentioned before, I was ready to change some things at the end of 2013. I felt crummy, overwhelmed, down and just kind of apathetic at the end of last year. I was pregnant and exhausted. When I did things around the house, I found myself spending lots of energy "keeping score," if you know what I mean. Hello, destructive. So the big goal was to change my attitude. Fine. But why? Because my attitude was affecting my relationships with the most important people in my life. Once I articulated that, I knew there was more at stake than just how I felt on a daily basis.

Here's how I broke it down: So the big goal (or the what) was to "improve my attitude." The reason (the why) was because my attitude was negatively affecting my relationships. And the small goals (the how) would be how I could make progress toward that big goal. In this case, I began with the small goal of spending a little time alone each morning, either reading or writing or just having a cup of coffee. The days I was able to do it, I noticed a difference in how I felt throughout the day. I couldn't do it everyday, but that's okay. It started to make a difference just recognizing that I needed time alone each day. In turn, I was more patient with my family and less overwhelmed in general.

I think goal-setting is a really personal endeavor. It's personal because while our "why" may be the same (i.e. we value health) and our "what" may even be the same (i.e. focus on personal fitness), our "how" - the meat and potatoes of our goal-setting - will be different (i.e. Kelsey will be doing CrossFit everyday while I may get out for a walk a couple times a week... maybe!). 

If you're curious about this stuff (values vs. goals), there's a ton of it on the web. Here are a few specific posts, books and blogs that have been helpful for me:

Lara Casey's series on making things happen

Powersheets by Lara Casey

Jess Lively's blog plus this post on setting intentions

This book is fun and inspiring

A great read for mornings over coffee

In case you missed it: my post on setting small goals

Do you set goals? Have you thought about or noticed the connection between the goals that tend to stick and your values?