On Goals + Habits

Y’all, a new year is tough for me. I am always equally excited and equally overwhelmed. Because I love setting goals and I have a bad habit of expecting too much of myself, a fresh start is especially daunting. So my tendency, even as I’m writing this, is to pretend like this first week of 2017 is just another week (which it is) and not treat it like it’s special (because it’s not) BUT I’m fighting against that.

It is a good thing to set goals and a good thing to evaluate what makes sense for forward steps. The start of a new year provides a really easy, natural time for that so I think it’s silly to not take advantage.


However, my goal setting this year is going to look a lot different than it has in the past. Instead of making a huge list of goals or resolutions for the whole year, I am only setting one year-long goal:

To spend time each month setting goals for ONLY THAT MONTH.

So I do have a list, or four or five, that my monthly goals will refer to but each month, I am only responsible for what I have chosen for those 30 days. Not for what I want to accomplish by December.

I’m hoping this will be a more productive and achievable way to handle my goals this year and to keep from overwhelming myself, as is my terrible tendency.


Resolution setting at the beginning of the year can also be really overwhelming because I forget to approach achieving goals differently then incorporating better habits into my life. Habits and goals tend to both be included in a list of new resolutions but they are completely different.

For example, one goal might be to sign up for and run a 10K. It’s more of a task that you can plan for and do, then cross if off the list. However, a habit is something you incorporate into daily life that you continue doing for however long you have decided you want to, like going for a run three times per week.

“Sign up for a run a 10K” and “go running 3x/week” require different types of planning and need to be thought of differently.


So when I sit down for my monthly goal-setting time, I will be working through habits and goals with different strategies. It probably doesn’t make sense to try to incorporate a brand new habit every single month, while keeping the other habits I’ve got going. However, if I work on one for three months, evaluate, and then add another one to work on the next three months, I might actually be successful in keeping up some better habits. Granted, some habits might be really small and can be combined with other habits but by spacing them out this way, I am:

  1.  Not trying to start everything in January, which never works.
  2. Actually giving myself the time to focus on and create a new habit in a healthy, fun way.

So, if I am stretching out my habit-building to one big one every three months, guess what? That only leaves time for creating four new big habits in a year. Which means that my monster list needs to be prioritized and relieved of the stuff that might’ve been a good idea for someone else but won’t work for me.

Phew. I’m starting to not feel so crazy.


Continuing in this train of thought, approaching goals or tasks looks a little different than that. With task-oriented goals, I’m looking to achieve a certain thing and then cross it off the list. Setting a certain amount of goals each month to achieve, within that month, can also be tricky. The first thing you have to ask is, can this even get done in a month? Next question, should I try to do this in a month? A month really means only about 20 work days and if trying to get this done in a short amount of time means I’m going to work myself to death, maybe it needs to be a two or three-month goal with specific points reached after each month. That’s when the lists start and you set specific markers of progress so you know you’re on track to complete in the time you want.

See why this makes me crazy? I wasn’t even planning on writing all this.


The whole thing with goal-setting is not only can it actually be achieved but how will you know when it’s done or you’ve improved? So many people set New Year’s resolutions like  wanting to be more in the moment or more creative or more kind. Those are really great desires but it doesn’t make sense to call them goals. Because how do you know when you’ve gotten there? Or when you’ve improved at all?

For example, say the ultimate goal is to be more creative. That’s a great desire but it’s not a goal yet, you have to dig a little deeper. Ask yourself what kinds of tasks can I do to help me be more creative or what kind of habits can I instill to live a more creative life? What does a creative life even look like for me? What do I want out of it?  Some good actual goals might be stuff like:

  1. Sign up for a workshop.
  2. Learn a specific skill and make XYZ project.
  3. Buy and keep a sketchbook.

Those are real, achievable goals and habits you can create for yourself.

Thanks for sticking with me this long and I hope some of my musings are helpful for you as you think through 2017. Hopefully by approaching goal-setting in a more realistic, practical way, you will dream bigger and feel more confident in your ability to kick butt this year.

I’d love to hear how you handle your goals! Share your tips in the comments.




3 thoughts on “On Goals + Habits

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