Every year when December comes around, I start planning for my new year. I set aside time to pray about and make decisions about the coming year. Having a goal setting process keeps me focused and on track when I start setting goals.

I didn’t used to do this. I used to say something like, “this year I’m going to __________” and then just continue living my life. By mid February I had forgotten what I said nor was I making any effort towards making it happen.

I know I’m not the only one who has started a new year with good intentions and then gotten derailed. It’s very evident at the YMCA I go to. Between January and February it’s nearly impossible to find a treadmill to use, but come March it’s back to the regular attendees and the crowd has gone. This is not all bad. I love that people get motivated to make big changes in their life at the beginning of the new year. But you need a way to stay motivated and finish what you start.

We all want to make positive changes and the new year gives us the opportunity to “start fresh”. However without intentionally planning goals and action steps to achieving them, you don’t really stand a chance of meeting them.

goal setting process

The thing that always kept me from planning very specific goals was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish them. I didn’t want to say them out loud, or worse, tell anyone, and then completely fail. Can you relate to this?

What I know now is that failure is the only way to become better at anything. Failure will teach you more than success any day of the week.

You just have to be willing to sit with the failure for a minute and take away the lessons it provides.

If you’re on my email list or you’ve come around my site before you probably know that I am a huge advocate for setting monstrous goals for yourself. I believe you will achieve at the level you set for yourself. Setting the bar low puts a limit to what you are truly capable of. If you want to lose 10 pounds this year, then you can lose 10 pounds. If you want to lose 80 pounds this year, then you can lose 80 pounds. You can read more of my passionate rant about this topic in this post, “Why You Need Big Fat Goals and How to Reach Them”.

Over the last few years I developed a goal planning process that works wonders for me.

It helps me set the right goals and keeps me focused on achieving them. If you don’t have a goal setting process, steal mine. If you have your own process that works for you, I’d love to hear about it. Leave it in the comments below.

If you are reading this post during any other part of the year, don’t wait until the new year to jump in. You can set goals and a plan for yourself at any point during the year so keep reading.

goal setting process

My goal setting process

If at all possible, give yourself a morning, an afternoon, or even an entire day away to do this process. I know it can be hard with littles, but it makes a huge difference when you can have calm and clarity to think through your goals.

Step 1: Reflect on your past year.

Write down your successes and your failures and the lessons you learned from each. Don’t be ashamed in this process. Remember, failure is what creates growth so dig deep in the things that didn’t go as planned. Taking the time to reflect on the past year will give you clarity of where you hope to go in your new year.

Ask yourself these questions to get you started:

  • What did I do this year that I’m really proud of?
  • What was one thing that didn’t go well and what did I learn from it?

Step 2: write down the categories of your life that are most important.

For example, my categories are Faith, Family, Business, Health, and Relationships.

Set a timer for 5 minutes. Write down every single thing you can think of that would make this your best year. Do this 5 minute exercise for each of your categories.

It’s important that You don’t filter yourself here. Don’t keep from putting something down because the little voice in your head says, “that’s never going to happen”. Just get it all out. If you need more time, take more time. It’s important to get all your thoughts out on this step.

Step 3: Come up with 1-3 words that will define your year.

Seems silly right? I used to think so too. A friend of mine told me she did this and I thought it was a bit unnecessary. But then I tried it. And it completely changed the way I prioritized my goals. It also kept me focused throughout the year. It was like I had created a GPS for my decisions.

You may want to do a different set of words for work and Home. This year I’ve decided to have the same 3 words for both, but this is a personal decision and there is no right or wrong here. My three words this year are Joy, Cultivate, and Purpose.

Step 4: Once you have your words, use these words to state things you will and will not do.

This will help you stay focused throughout the year and keep your decisions aligned with your goals. Here’s an example of a few of my statements.

  • I will not take on anything that does not bring me and my family joy.
  • I will choose activities that cultivate the life we want to live.
  • I will be purposeful about my decisions and actions.

goals setting process

Step 5: Set your goals.

Set 1-3 big goals for each of your categories. Look at the lists you made in step 2 and create goals that encompass many of these ideas. Let yourself dream a little and set big goals. Believe that you have what it takes to achieve them.

Sometimes I get stumped as I try to think of my goals so I just start listing as many ideas as I can think of.

Nobody knows what the future holds so at this moment in time, you get to create it exactly the way you want it to be.

Close your eyes and envision what you will look like exactly one year from today doing this same goal setting process. Picture the things you will be writing down, what you will be reflecting on from the past year, where you live, etc. Picture yourself in the place you want to be one year from now. Then write down the goals that will get you there!

Make your goals specific and measurable so you know when you’ve accomplished them. Here’s a look at some of my goals for this coming year.


  • Read the entire Bible
  • Memorize 2 verses each month with my kids
  • Teach my kids about Jesus every single day


  • Decide on the town we want to raise our kids and settle there debt free.
  • Date night once per month
  • Play games together at least once per week


  • Add 300+ students to my photography courses
  • Start a Podcast
  • Create a membership group for Mom’s who want to start their own online business.


  • Reach out to my dearest friends at least once per month


  • Walk or run 30+minutes 300+ days
  • Drink 100oz of water everyday
  • Go to bed by 9pm

Step 6: Ask yourself these questions:

  • What changes will you have to make to make it happen?
  • What limiting beliefs do you have that will keep you from meeting this goal?

goals setting process

Step 7: Break them down

Our brain is only wired to think about 90 days ahead. It’s important to break your goals down into smaller chunks. Look at the goals you set for the year and break each one down into 4 quarterly goals. For example, if you want to lose 40 pounds, you may break your goal down to 10 pounds per quarter. You may also break it down into actions, such as first 90 days focus on eating better food, second 90 days add exercise to your daily routine, etc.

Step 8: Hold yourself accountable.

In order to make these goals a reality you will need to keep yourself accountable for reaching them. 3 things you need to do to ensure your own success are:

  • Write your goals down and put them somewhere you can see them every single day.
  • Find an accountability partner. Someone who knows your goals and will check in with you periodically to make sure you are on the right track. You need someone who can give you a little tough love if needed so choose wisely.
  • Set dates where you will check your own progress. Set them as a reminder in your calendar and make the time to look at each goal and where you’re at.

Keeping yourself accountable will be the most important piece of the puzzle so don’t skip this step.

Now it’s your turn!

Find a morning or a day where you can really focus on your goals for the next 12 months. Go through each step, reflecting as you go, and watch as your goals unfold.

Word of caution:

Most likely you’re going to want to write down tons of goals. Stick to one goal per quarter per category. If you have too much  to focus on it will be hard to accomplish anything.

The world needs you! It needs your special gifts and desires. Believe in the goals you set for yourself and go after it! YOU have what it takes!

I can’t wait to see what you accomplish over the next 12 months. Tell me in the comments what your first quarter goals are. I want to cheer you on!

goal setting process goal setting process

goals setting process