The Goal-Setting that Brought Me Back to Life

The goals that got me out of a year-long funk...

I was in the middle of a more than year-long fog. I shared a little about that fog in my post Making Sense of a Hard Year, and shared even more in my post Slow and Steady Self-Care Over the Long Haul.

The short of it is this: A web of causes led me to a low I found myself stuck in. It was affecting my ability to feel fully alive, and finding my way through it felt stagnant, moving so much slower than I would have liked.

That's the season I was in when someone gifted me a year set of PowerSheets (a thorough goal-setting resource) from the Cultivate What Matters shop. It was an instant mood-lifter, because: How thoughtful! Also, the Cultivate What Matters team makes the most beautiful and inspiring products.

More than that, this year has been a complete turn-around from last year's fog, and I feel the goals I set and cultivated with my PowerSheets were a major catalyst to initiate that shift.

I know this might sound like one giant sales pitch. While I'm thankful to get to be an affiliate for Cultivate What Matters (*affiliate links used in this post; see full note below), I'm sharing this because of the positive influence they've had in my life this last year. Keep scrolling to see how the PowerSheets helped me and the specific goals I focused on this year.

How I started making what matters happen...

What are PowerSheets and why are they so great?

Following is a little more about PowerSheets, those fancy goal-planning pages from the Cultivate What Matters shop, and what they gave me this year especially...

1. A few therapy sessions of sorts to process.

The beginning pages offer in-depth pre-planning processing. In those pages I remembered what brings me to life, what motivates me, and what is deeply meaningful to me. I named where I was currently, embracing the good and letting go of the bad. I called out my fears by name and made the commitment to step into those fears and move forward.

I made a list of all the great things from the year before to remember God is still faithful to show up even in the valleys, then I listed the challenges to note what was in my control to change and what wasn't. I listed the people I was grateful for and took time to write some of them notes so they knew it. I reflected on the lessons I learned that year, which I shared in my Lessons on Slow post.

This pre-planning process was so many things. It was therapeutic and validating. It was revealing and healing. It was a more accurate look at where I found myself and where I was headed, that accounted for my feelings and fears, but didn't leave them in the driver's seat. This process and those 30+ pages before I even got to the goal-setting were a huge part of the value I found in PowerSheets.

2. A way to both dream about the future and workout practical steps to start now.

The goal-planning steps in the PowerSheets were just as thorough as the pre-planning. By the time I moved on to goal-planning, I felt like I had already been brought back to life. A spark that had been missing was reignited. I had a clearer idea of the goals I wanted to pursue and the smaller steps that would help me accomplish them.

I evaluated where I was currently in eight categories of my life and decided what I was saying yes to and what I was saying no to in each of those areas. This gave me a better grasp of the foundation habits I needed to work on before or along with some of the other bigger goals.

3. Accountability of sorts with monthly tending lists and reflection pages.

Beginnings are my jam, and the monthly Tending Lists in the PowerSheets mean I get to celebrate that every month. (I even started #BeginMonthly on Instagram as my way to slow down and celebrate those routine new beginnings that I love so much.)

The Tending Lists helped me stay motivated to continue progress on my goals throughout the month, however small. And the Month in Review pages helped me celebrate progress from the previous month and let go of any guilt over goals I didn't feel good about.

Whether you're into beginnings, love the middles, or are a big finisher, PowerSheets have something to make every part of that process a celebration of sorts.

4. Space to reevaluate and refocus goals each season.

In my experience, goals change with seasons of life. My Summer tends to be more family focused while the kids are out of school, Winter is often about surviving and attempting to savor, while my Spring and Fall are when I dive into my bigger personal, home, or work goals. Having checkin points to reevaluate the direction of my goals throughout the year was so helpful in making sure I was still prioritizing the right things for the current season.

Are they worth it?
We have a really tight budget, so for years I've wanted these planning pages, but just couldn't justify the cost. I am so thankful to that special person who gifted them to me. Not only was it the perfect timing when I really needed this boost in my life, it also helped me see how these pages are an investment to my overall health and wellbeing. That's exactly what I told my husband when I talked about buying my PowerSheets for 2019, and he agreed they are worth the cost.

Now, want to see the actual goals I focused on this year? Keep scrolling...

The goals and goal-planning pages that helped bring me back to life.

The Goals that Brought Me Back to Life

You know that Thomas Edison quote that says something like: Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration? That applies here. Setting goals and making plans is the important, but small beginning steps of inspiration for what's to come. They only matter if action, or perspiration, follows. Below are the goals I set this year and the steps that followed that helped me feel more fully alive after a too long low.

I naturally think in terms of categories, so I started with the following goal categories. Then within those I thought out the daily or weekly rhythms I wanted to create to improve each area. (I do better with goals that have a specific task to check off.) If there were goals that I wanted to reach but didn't have a recurring habit to work into my routine, then I wrote those down as monthly goals to work toward.


My overall goal: To feel better. It was a vague goal, but I knew in my head exactly what it would be like including more stable mental and emotional health, as well as energy and feeling alive.

Daily, weekly, or monthly habits I worked on: Devotional time, taking vitamins, morning movement, evening stretching, mini-retreats (baths, journaling, etc.), drinking tea during the week instead of coffee, dark chocolate instead of other treats, mindfulness habits, writing morning pages, reading before bed and going to bed by 10 p.m. We also attended an 8-week seminar on mental health.


My overall goal: Meaningful time together. This can get lost in the hustle of homework and dinner and bedtime routines. So I made sure family time was on my goals list as my reminder of what, or rather who, is really important in life.

Daily, weekly, or monthly habits I worked on: Morning and/or evening family worships, regular date nights that didn't include binge-watching TV. And potty-training the "baby" of the family made it on to more than one monthly goal list.


My overall goal: Professionalism and consistency. I work from home very part-time, so I wanted to do this well and build a good foundation for whatever is next for me career-wise as my youngest eases into school.

Daily, weekly, or monthly habits I worked on: Completing my freelance commitments in a timely manner, dressing for work (even though I work from home), "clocking-in" daily to continue getting ahead on my tasks list even if I was technically caught up.


My overall goal: Build thriving connections. Being a stay-at-home-/work-from-home-mom and an introvert means it's all too easy for me to be home and disconnected for long stretches. Even as an introvert, this hindered me in a lot of ways, so I wanted to show up more and be more connected in the relationships I already have.

Daily, weekly, or monthly habits I worked on: Making arrangements to see local friends in person, initiating get-togethers for a local group I'm a part of, sending hand-written notes to friends, meeting up with my Mastermind group regularly, helping lead a small church group, texting friends to checkin.


My overall goal: Spend more time outside. I started to realize I felt more fully alive the times I was outside, so I needed to be proactive to work this into my life more regularly.

Daily, weekly, or monthly habits I worked on: Reading on the porch, going for walks, exploring state parks with the family on the weekends, getting outside with the kids during school breaks, making Seasonal Bucket Lists that include outdoor adventures, driving outside city limits at least once a month.


My overall goal: Make our home a little simpler. I've been simplifying our home for a decade and have learned that simplifying isn't a once-and-done thing for me. Simplifying is an ongoing habit of going through our things, cleaning up spots that clutter easily, and making sure our home continues to be the welcoming, calm, clean place I need it to be. It's an ongoing work-in-progress and I've found my peace with that.

Daily, weekly, or monthly habits I worked on: Make a chore chart for the kids and implement daily chores, work on cleaning out and simplifying at least one area per month.


My overall goal: Stay in budget and increase income to expand sinking funds. Our budget has always been a point of frustration for us, one that's partly out of our control. So my goal was simply to control the small part that I could, and let go of the parts beyond me.

Daily, weekly, or monthly habits I worked on: Set the budget at the beginning of each month and balance the budget weekly, start sinking funds in our savings for future expenses, stay in budget.


My overall goal: Find the fun in creating again. The fog I found myself in last year was also a fog over my creativity. I didn't have the same joy in creating and so I just didn't do it as much. I wanted that back.

Daily, weekly, or monthly habits I worked on: Using my guided journals regularly, writing blog posts that I really wanted to write, doing a project for fun with no other end goal for it.

I didn't do this whole list the whole year. Instead, I focused on specific aspects of each category various times throughout the year. These goals, while pretty basic, were the foundation I needed to feel good about life again. And that's no small thing.

It's actually what I had been working on before, but with a written plan to track my progress and way to reflect, I now felt like it was meaningful work rather than trivial. I was accomplishing something important with each of these small and simple habits. No quick fixes, just moving forward slow and steady over the long haul. And that is something I will be proud of for years to come.

There are a variety of reasons I've seen improvements this year from the last couple. The goals I set with my PowerSheets definitely played a big part in that. I still have my struggles and hard days/seasons, of course. But I've become more intentional through it and seen the positive outcomes. This is the turning point in adding more life back into my life, and I am truly thankful and anticipating continued growth in the year ahead.

PowerSheets 2019: Coming October 24!


also see:
new? start here...
making sense of a hard year
slow and steady self-care
fostering connection
get my emails

*Note: Affiliate links used in this post. Purchases made through these links could earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Fostering Connection (and free conversation cards)

Fostering Connection (and free conversation cards) We were made for connection, and if we're not enjoying it now, one day we will if we don't lose heart.

I cried while giving a devotional talk to my church's mom's group. That's not unheard of. I usually share personal or vulnerable things, so emotions being attached is normal. This particular time two years ago, however, was a little different.

I didn't cry because of what I shared; I cried because as I stood in front of that group of women telling about a challenging thing we were going through, I realized that was the first time I had talked about it with any friends at all.

I felt so deeply alone in that moment realizing I had been carrying this thing myself. I was sharing a story publicly that I had yet to connect and share privately.

I believe our stories matter and I believe in the power of us telling and receiving those stories. But there's generally stages to that sharing. It starts close to ourselves, perhaps in prayer or as we process with pen and paper or to a spouse. Then it's shared in other safe places like with a counselor and a close friend or two. It could also be shared in a small group, among friends or in some type of support group.

As all of those things happen, we bring our stories together and we relate with each other. We're no longer alone with this story, we're surrounded with support and the deep healing work of connection.

We shortchange ourselves of that meaningful necessary connection when we don't share our stories in smaller, more personal ways. When we jump straight to sharing our experiences publicly in a blog post, on Facebook, or for a devotional, or if we don't share them at all, we're still as alone with it as we were before.

We are made for connection. And struggling in friendships doesn't exclude us from that connection.

The many words I've written and spoken have rarely been about friendship, because I struggle with it. I often feel like I don't belong, or wonder like Mindy Kaling's so-relate-able book title, Is everyone hanging out without me? When I go through a challenging season, I disappear from my friends not reaching out or making an effort. The term "ghosting" was made up for people like me.

Those struggles with friendship don't exclude me from connection. When asked in high school if I'd rather 10 acquaintances or 1 close friend, I always chose the 1 close friend. I want meaningful connection, and I don't get that in easy breezy conversations with people I hardly know. But I've learned I can experience connection with people I hardly know when we show up ready for connection.

How meaningful connections happen, and 80 conversation starters to inspire meaningful connections.

Connection Happens When…

Following is a little more about those meaningful connections and what makes them happen. Then, grab these conversation cards to inspire meaningful connection with your friends, during a girls night, or for some other small group gathering.

1. Connection happens when we offer connection first.
He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 
Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:38 
The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself. Proverbs 11:25
If we want to be encouraged and supported, we have to encourage and support. If we want to be invited, we need to invite. If we want to be asked how we're doing by someone who means it and wants our genuine answer, then we need to genuinely ask and await the answer from others. We need to do to others what we wish was done to us. Blessed is she who makes the first move.

2. Connection happens when we tell our stories and let others tell theirs.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Our stories matter. They're ultimately retellings of the story of salvation. By telling our stories, we’re claiming our need for and acceptance of salvation and inviting others to identify Christ in their stories, too. It’s never too late to let Jesus take over the writing of our story and even to help us reconcile or make sense of our past. Our complete-ish stories shared (with a friend, in a group, as a testimony, in an article) let others know they’re not alone, they tell about Jesus and offer an invitation to come-and-see, and they offer hope in the hurt. We don’t just experience for ourselves, we experience for a collective gain.

3. Connection happens when we love like Jesus loves, in person with our whole self.
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12
Jesus could have loved us from afar--and he did/does. But He also came to live on this earth, to interact and talk and heal and connect. When Jesus tells us to love like Him, I believe that's what He means. Love in person with our whole self. Be present to those around us. In real life. And if we're going to use technology, may it still be personal. May we still use uplifting words in personal messages to connect in genuine ways.

4. Connection happens when we are in Christ.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. ...Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:1, 7
Just as the motions of love without love is nothing, so are our acts of connecting without Christ equally lacking. When we connect in Christ first, our connections with others bring new meaning and a deeper hope that transcends this moment.

5. Connection happens when we give of ourselves in the way we know how or were created.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
We each have our own gifts and personalities and strengths. Our connections are more meaningful when we start there. I write handwritten cards to my friends, not because I think everyone should do that, but because that's one way I can share my gifts and my self with those I care about. Some people are good at phone calls or hosting or starting conversations or bringing by pizza during a difficult season. Do what you know how to do, what you were created to do.

6. Connection happens when we relate / empathize, and journey with others.
To the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Romans 12:15-16
We generally aren't meant to have the answers for other people's struggles. Usually we aren't even meant to have opinions about their experiences. Even a counselor won't often have input on what you should do; that's not our role for our fellow people. We are to show up with our own joys and struggles, and in that sharing of those human experiences we are equals in our need for Jesus and His grace and His salvation. We are in this life together, not any one person besides Christ ahead of us.

To be present in someone else's struggle and know they're present in ours--that is the depth of friendship and that is the depth we can also be present to each other's successes and joys.

7. Connection happens when we don’t give up.
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9 
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to weep, And a time to laugh; ... A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; .. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts…” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11
Just because we don’t have connection now, doesn’t mean we never will. We are assured God makes everything beautiful in its time, including our lives and including our relationships. When we feel discouraged by our present, we can be assured that we are created with the hope of eternity deeply rooted in our hearts. When right now isn't good, we can be sure that it's not the end because God's good always gets the last word.

I'm preaching all of this to myself. I've stayed on the sidelines, I've thrown the pity parties. I've had serious FOMO confirmed by social media posts telling me everything I've missed out on. But it doesn't have to be that way. I can extend invitations and believe I'm worth hanging out with. I can make an effort, even if I'm the one that made an effort last time (I'm usually not). I will show up for my people and it will be worth it.

Don't let the opportunity to connect pass you by. Reach out to encourage and support those around you (even if they're not yet "friends"). Ask how someone is doing and make sure they know you want the real answer. Entrust those close to you with your story. Show up in person with your own personality and strengths. Empathize instead of carrying the burden to rescue.

If you'd like some conversation cards to use in your conversations with your friends, for a girls night, or in a small group you're a part of, you can download my 8 conversation cards >> here. They cover 80 statements that you can use to share pieces of your own story, or turn them into questions to ask others pieces of their story.

And don't give up. We were made for connection, and if we're not enjoying it now, one day we will if we don't lose heart.

also see:

Finding the Joy in Missing Out

Replacing FOMO with JOMO: There is joy in missing out on what's best for everyone else's life so that you can live what's best for your life. Live it in love with joy.

My FOMO (fear of missing out) is actually a confirmation of having missed out every time I get online. I'm reminded of what others are doing that I'm not; local gatherings I wasn't invited to; and life milestones that I haven't met or may never meet, but my peers have.

I've actually missed out on a lot in life. Some even big things that I still think about years after the fact. Like not going to one of my BFF's weddings over a decade ago. Or not graduating high school. I've also missed out on building a career and buying a home (at least for now).

Missing out is a fact of life, and fearing it is just causing me to miss out on what I have here and now. We have every right and even the power to replace our fear and disappointment with joy, contentment, and gratitude.

Everything I have "missed out on" represents some other opportunity or life experience I got to be a part of.

I didn't make it to my friend's wedding because I was about to have a baby and didn't want to risk travelling out of state. I didn't graduate high school because it seemed pointless after the life experience I gained living overseas the nine months before. I set aside my career and our hopes of buying a home so that I could be the daily caregiver for our kids while they were young.

It all depends on our focus--am I too busy pouting about what I've missed to see the joy of what I have?

Because I have a lot, and not appreciating it in some ways is equal to not having it. Giving into the fear or disappointment over comparisons keeps me from even recognizing what's right in front of me. It may not be a lot compared to others, but since it's all I've got, it's everything to me.

Following are a few things I'm learning about replacing fear with joy:

1. There is no fear in love.
"Perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18) Fear when talked about in the FOMO context is often said in more of a joking way, but I believe it's fear nonetheless. It has no place in my life or in my faith. Jesus' perfect love casts out fear, where it is replaced with peace and joy and goodness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

2. We get to choose abundant life.
Jesus said that "the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy." Doesn't that sound like what happens when we let social media, comparisons, or other distractions or addictions suck the life out of us? Trivializing it just gives it more power. But Jesus came that we "may have life, and have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) I believe it's possible. When we take back what's being taken from us by being present and attentive and thankful. Living this one life we have with abundance.

3. Fullness of joy is in love.
After Jesus talked about the vine and branches, he summarized by saying, "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love." And we abide in His love by following his commandments to love (see #4 below). When we do this--when we abide in Jesus by loving--His joy remains in us in full. (John 15:9-11) Fullness of joy is in the fullness of our love.

4. Love as Jesus loved--in person.
Jesus' commandment is that we "love one another" as He has loved us (John 15:12). He could love us from afar--and He did/does. But He came to this world to love us in person, then gave us the Holy Spirit so that we can continue to be loved in person. Isn't that the best way to love? In person? Giving of our self? If you take away all the extras of life, what's left, the actual substance of life is love--being loved and loving others. We don't do that by being consumed and distracted and handing our lives away. We do that by being present and attentive to those around us.

Whether our fear keeps us chasing what isn't meant for us, or if it's just the emotional pit that lingers when we see our "dull" lives in contrast to "everyone else's"--the power to change that is not in doing more. It's in simply being.

Be present in this moment, in all of its unglamorous glory and know that this is life. This breathing. These people. This home. These choices that you've made and the ones still ahead. The way you spend your time and the moments that make up your life.

There is joy in it, joy in missing out on what's best for everyone else's life so that you can live what's best for your life.

Live it in love with joy.


also see:
new? start here...
getting through season transitions
how to get the most out of today
email signup

*Credit to my sister-in-law Michaela who first introduced me to the idea of JOMO (joy of missing out) years ago.