Author: Lara

*We are so grateful that ALL of our 2018 PowerSheets are headed to happy homes! Sign up to know when we restock our Six-Month Undated PowerSheets later this Spring!

If you are just joining us for this series, welcome! Here’s Part 1!

Want to listen to this post? I’ll happily read it to you!

She thought that being popular would bring contentment. She never felt like she was enough. She believed the success equation was: work 24/7 + more work. She chased bigger and faster and more more more. Her marriage began to crumble. Yet, she believed she couldn’t slow down. If she missed a minute on social media, she might miss something. She didn’t think she was doing anything wrong, just what she had to do to keep up. She chased an elusive standard of perfection and she MISSED HER LIFE.

She was me several years ago. I chased my tail until it all began to crash and burn.

I wrote my story in just a few words in my 2018 PowerSheets, right there in the middle…

If you have been feeling restless lately, wanting things to change, but believing that change is impossible, I know this for sure: change is possible. There is a way to move forward. Going from constantly chasing something I would never catch to living in grace didn’t happen overnight for me, but it did happen.

It happened little by little, step by intentional step. 

And the little-by-little and big leaps of faith along the way were worth it!


Hi, friends! Welcome back to Part 2 of 2018 Goal Setting. If you are new, I’m so glad you landed here. Hop on over to read Part 1 here to get started.

Let’s dig in!

I wrote the handwriting piece above (which has since been shared on the interwebs tens of millions of times—so crazy) not about skydiving, traveling to a foreign country, or anything you might typically see on a bucket list. I wrote this late one night in my kitchen, just after putting Grace to sleep when she was a baby, about wanting to finally read the Bible from start to finish. It felt like a daunting task, but I wanted to grow my faith. I was determined. This really mattered to me.

And when something really matters to you in the big picture, how you do it doesn’t matter as much as why you do it. 

My why drove me forward, especially during the many times I fell behind or wanted to jump ship (have you ever felt that way?). Little by little, over the course of a year and a half, I did end up reading the Bible—and it changed everything. The little-by-little added up!

This is how we celebrate little-by-little progress in our garden. When we see a new seed sprouting or for any occasion whatsoever, we throw petals in the air and say, “Celebration!!!”

Maybe you want to cultivate a stronger marriage, find confidence in your career path, or grow in community with others. Maybe you want to learn to use your finances well, live with less, or finally do that thing that’s been on your list forever. Whatever it is, let’s talk about it!

Let’s plant the first seed right here together!


STEP FOUR: As we start this journey together, what’s one thing you want to cultivate in the year ahead? No perfect or polished answers needed here! This is just to get you thinking as we start uncovering the good stuff. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Write it down, and I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments for accountability and to encourage others too. I’m going to leave my answer in the comments alongside you!

What I want to cultivate came to light when I did this page above in my PowerSheets: I want to cultivate space for new things to grow. More in the comments! 🙂


STEP FIVE: We talked about the good things from the year in Part 1. Now, let’s look at the hard things. What were the challenges you experienced in 2017? What areas of your life need to be tended, watered, or soaked in sunshine? Don’t just write or say, “Everything.” Get specific and list your greatest challenges—the places that feel overgrown with impossible weeds right now.

A few of my 2017 challenges:

And, yes, I grew too much in the garden this year! I thought I’d have time for it all, but the summer ended up being a busy one with releasing a book. Thankfully, gardens are forgiving and it was still magical despite a few overgrown things.

As you think back to the challenges of this year, love your future self well! Don’t let negative thoughts or memories hold you back from breaking through and making your challenges list.

If you are a believer like me, ask God to help you surrender the hard things, learn from them, and move forward in His timing. ‘I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus’ Philippians 313-14.

Write the facts and know that each thing you write down is an area of your life that could be made completely new.

Once you have your list of the challenges from 2017, name some of the lessons you learned from those challenges. Here are some my lessons from 2017 (Forgive my chicken scratch—I wrote this for myself, not thinking about sharing it and these are my honest messy thoughts!):

A note of encouragement: Perhaps you are still in the thick of a challenge right now and have no idea yet what it’s supposed to teach you. That’s okay! Wherever you are, let’s share the challenges and encourage each other.


STEP SIX: Who helped you cultivate what matters in 2017? Looking back at your list of good things from Part 1, and all that you’ve written so far in this series, who helped you to live on purpose this year? Who encouraged you or helped you grow? Download a free printable worksheet here and write the names of those you are grateful for and why. And then… do something about it! Thank them for the specific things they helped you with or inspired in you.

You may think they don’t need encouragement, or it won’t matter, but words have power.

Gift your people with those words!

You never know what good it might spark.

You can keep this simple and still make a huge impact: a text or an email can go a long way to change someone’s day—and change their life. I spent the morning sending emails to friends and colleagues who have meant a lot to me this year. Fly little emails, fly!

My dear friends and sisters from church, on the day that Cultivate launched, who have been huge blessings to me this year! I love you, Kristy and Ruth!

I am grateful to many. A few highlights from my PowerSheets:

There are so many more! Our church family, Walter our sweet cow-farmer mail carrier, my editor at Thomas Nelson who prayed me through finishing Cultivate, our neighbors, Heidi and Kayla at the Carolina Inn, my Faith Retreat sisters, our fellow carpool mamas, Lara from Everyday Graces and my friend Sunee for generously preparing me for the adventure of homeschool (I love you both so much!), all of the people I listed here, and if you’ve sent me an encouraging email this year, prayed, chatted with me here on the blog, or given me a hug—thank you. Your encouragement has genuinely made a difference!

Who are you grateful for this year?

Leave your answers in the comments, but most of all, send some love to the people on your list!

I am especially grateful for this guy! His prayerful support and love have grown my faith this year.

OPTIONAL* BONUS STEP: Get visual! Make a Pinterest board of images that will inspire a purposeful year. What do you want to grow? Leave a link to your board in the comments so we can follow each other’s boards.

Now, one word of caution. I rarely use Pinterest (like twice a year) because it can be the black hole of distraction and discontent. The goal isn’t to have a Pinterest-worthy year or life, so pick images that point you to what matters. To help you do this, we’re having a Pinterest Contest with an amazing prize: a seat to the Making Things Happen Conference! Get started here.

Here’s my board from last 2013 and from 2014, 2015, and 2016, 2017, and here’s where I’m pinning for 2018*If Pinterest distracts you, skip this step! Do whatever will keep you focused on your best year yet.

Your turn! Today’s Goal Uncovering Steps:

1. What’s the one thing you most want to cultivate in 2018?

2. What challenges did you experience in 2017? What lessons did you learn?

3. Who helped you cultivate what matters in 2017?

4. And our optional bonus step: get visual and make your 2018 vision board!

Okay, I’ll be back on Monday for Part 3! Monday’s post includes a powerful step that will help you simplify your year ahead, and I can’t wait.

Till then, Merry Christmas, my friends! My parents are coming tonight and I’m excited for some family time and having my mama in our kitchen.

Read some of my mom’s food columns here. 🙂

Need some extra motivation to dig in? Comment with your answers from each step as we go through this series to be entered to win the prizes below. I can’t wait to read your answers, and share mine with you too!

One person who comments with answers to every step in this series will win a bonus prize: one of everything from the Cultivate Shop! Yes!!! This includes 2018 PowerSheets, the Cultivate What Matters sticker book, books, journals, art prints and so much more!

A big thank you to everyone who entered! What a joy it was to hear your responses and get to chat with you in the comments! Congratulations to our winners below! If you’re a winner, fill out this form to collect your prize!

1. 10 sets of 2018 PowerSheets! — Gail boos, Sara Baker, Carrie Condra, Cydney Levin, Melissa Kelly, Cierra LaShay, Kara Wallitsch Tydlacka, Charis K, Staci Good Bedenbaugh, and Cara Gordon
2. A Fitbit Flex Amber Cavasoz
3. A gift card for a massage — Chris Koiro
4. The 2018 Floret wall calendar — Jen Harris
5. A 2018 Yearly prayer journal from Val Marie PaperHeather Chollar
6. Keepsake Kitchen Diary from Lily and Val — Zulema Uscanga
7. Farmgirl Flowers bouquet — Bianca Norman
8. Our popular PowerSheets Companion Bundle — Christy S
9. 1-year membership to Thrive MarketVanessa Wright
10. 2018 Simplified Planner — Sarah Gonzales
11. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! A free house cleaning! — Kara Earhart
12. 5 signed copies of Cultivate — Madelyn Smith, Emily Soroka, Julie Davis, Cortney P, and Shannon Hunsley
13. A seat at Financial Peace UniversityKady Curtis
14. 5 signed copies Make It Happen — Keatyn Bergsten, Emily Montgomery, Jenna King,  Samantha Hawthrone, and Kaitlyn Payne
15. Write the Word All Seasons Collection — Lacey Cabalas
16. A Meyer lemon tree – a family favorite around here! — Lindsey Abrego
17. A 6-month membership to Skillshare — Veronica Ilioi
18. A LegacyBox! (Amazing!) — Kerry Batty
19. One of everything from the Cultivate Shop! — Sarah Kemer

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends January 30th. Winners will be announced on January 31st here on the blog. Hard goods are for US entrants only. If you don’t claim your prize within 48 hours, another winner will be selected, so mark your planners and stay posted! : ) Also, this post contains some Amazon affiliates links. No extra cost to you and all proceeds are donated!

Read Part Three of my 2018 Goal-Setting Series!

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*We are so grateful that ALL of our 2018 PowerSheets are headed to happy homes! Sign up to know when we restock our Six-Month Undated PowerSheets later this Spring!

Welcome to my Seventh-Annual Make It Happen Goal Setting Series! I’m so grateful for this series, and for all of you who join each year. How has it been seven years, friends? I’m so pumped for this year!!!

Want to listen to this post instead of reading? Here you go!

Let’s get right to it: what brought you here?

Maybe you feel frustrated as you look back at 2017.

Perhaps you didn’t make progress on some goals, or forgot about them completely (You are not alone! I have done that in years past!).

Maybe traditional goal setting has failed you before and you feel defeated already thinking about 2018.

Maybe you stumbled on this post because you want change to have happened yesterday.

Well, I have good news.

Really good news!

After almost a decade of studying goal setting and what motivates people to change and follow-through on their goals, here’s what I know for sure:

What causes people to change is one pivotal moment. It’s the moment where you decide that the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

This moment might just be that moment for you.

Maybe your thoughts have been something like mine lately: I want my life (or an area of my life) to change/grow/be simplified. I don’t know how it will happen and the unknown is scary, but I KNOW I don’t want to stay the same any longer!

Friends, your restlessness is welcome here.

In fact, it’s a really good thing.

We’re gonna use our restlessness and frustration to propel us forward to CHANGE. Really good life-giving change!

If you’ve been craving something new, you are in the right place. And if you aren’t convinced yet that goals can be life-giving, you’re in the right place, too!

If you are new to this series, welcome—you’re in for a treat this year! Let me back up a bit and introduce myself, because we’re going to have some fun together over the next few days as we go through this 5-part series. I’m Lara. I’m a mom to three, a grateful wife, CEO of a growing company, and I love getting my hands dirty in my garden here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

I’ve written two books about goal setting and intentional living. (My book deal came from an editor at Thomas Nelson reading this annual series!) I’ve led a conference called Making Things Happen for 9 years. My nickname when I was a personal trainer in New York City was “Ms. Motivator.” But! This all makes me giggle a little bit because I haven’t always loved goal setting. In fact, the words “goal setting” used to give me the heebie-jeebies!

I have a lot of things to take care of in my life (like you), and I don’t have room for a whole lot more (I’m guessing that’s like you, too), and I get tense even thinking about the pressure to accomplish something beyond my current capacity (areyouwithme?).

I started seeing real results in my goals when I flipped the usual process on its head. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do together here.

This is goal setting for people who hate goal setting!

We don’t do traditional pressure-filled, do-it-all goal setting around here. We uncover intentional, less-is-more goals. I call these “cultivated goals.”

Cultivated goals are about growing what you’ve been given–what you already have: your relationships, your money, your possessions, your work, your children, your home, your health, and your time. A little intentional forethought goes a long way!

Over the last seven years that I’ve been writing this series, as my life has dramatically changed, so has this goal uncovering process. I’ve studied what makes people feel unmotivated, and I have listened to you. I’ve followed your stories and challenges and incredible successes over these years as we’ve done this together. Through it all, I’ve discovered some pretty amazing not-so-secret secrets to getting unstuck.

Uncovering cultivated goals is not about doing it all; it’s about doing what matters. Whether you’re a mom, a student, a business owner, in transition, in the wait—in any place where you are in life, we’re going to let go of guilt-filled, fleeting resolutions, and embrace a whole new way of doing this goal setting thing. For those of you like me who do not like traditional goal setting, you are in the right place.

Listen in as I tell you my story…

Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life from Lara Casey on Vimeo.

Consider the script officially flipped!

From here on out, when I mention “goals” or “goal setting,” know that I’m talking about cultivated goals.

Here’s what cultivated GOALS are all about:

Grow what matters
One step
At a time
Little by little your
Seeds will grow

The alternative to uncovering cultivated goals is going through the motions, not feeling confident that you’re on the right path, lacking motivation, and not taking care of what you’ve been given well. (Speaking from experience here.)

Cultivated goals–the kind we are going to uncover together–give you direction and motivation. You can’t simultaneously do it all and do life wellBut you can choose to cultivate what matters, right where you are.

Here’s what you can expect in this five-part series: Each day of the series, I’m going to walk through a mix of goal uncovering steps from my first book, Make it Happen (which you can sample here), insight from my new book, Cultivate, prompts from the 2018 PowerSheets, and I have some new ones that we’ve never done before!

The PowerSheets and my books have many more goal uncovering prompts than I’ve listed in this series. This is just a sampling.

A peek above at one of the new pages this year: the Break Your Identity Box page. And, yes, I love PostIts! 

A word of freedom here! Do you need the PowerSheets and books to have an intentional year? No. You don’t need them to live this life well. They are powerful tools if you choose to use them, but if you only do this blog series, and use scrap paper to write your answers, that’s great, too. 🙂 Use what you have! If you are someone who has been stuck in indecision lately or feeling fear about diving into new things, practice what I call “making a mess!” Use whatever you have available to write with, and on. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just dig in.

As we go through each step together, use the comment area here to leave your answers, or write them in your PowerSheets, a journal, or on scrap paper. Don’t just think your answers. Thinking them doesn’t count. Write them out and, if you want accountability, leave them boldly here in the comments. I want to cheer you on, and this year I’m going to leave some of my answers in the comments, too. Friends, help me out here and cheer each other on, too. You never know who how your words might change someone. If you need an extra kick in the pants to make it happen, I have a giveaway at the end that might encourage you!

Ready to dig in? Step 1, here we go!


STEP ONE: In order to leap into the new, we first must know where we are leaping from. I’m going to ask you the golden question: How are you? Really. How are you? Let’s look at each area of our lives and do a little check-in. Look at the categories below and write out how you are doing in each one:

– Health
– Friends
– Family (including your significant other, if applicable)
– Finances
– Spiritual + Personal Growth
– Work
– Recreation

Feel free to write in your own categories, too! Give each area of your life a rating between 1 and 10, along with a few thoughts on why you chose that number. 1 means you are not satisfied in this area and want to see radical change. 10 means you are happy as a bee on honeysuckle!

One of the new 2018 PowerSheets features: The Cultivated Life Evaluation. This is a simple check-in that helps you to know where you are and where you want to go in each key area of your life!

This is step one for a reason. “How are you?” seems like a simple question, but when answered from our heart of hearts, it can help set you on an entirely new path.

Knowing where you are now, mess and all, helps you to leap to where you’re going.

The soil you’re standing on right now is your growing ground.

How are you? What’s in that soil of yours right now?

Reply in the comments, or on paper right now. I’ll leave my answers in the comments too! And don’t get stuck in the negative soil. Include thoughts about what is good in each area! For instance, as for my feelings about finances: I’ve been challenged by contentment and emotional spending at times, but I have become skilled at managing money. It took ten years, but I now feel comfortable navigating Quickbooks, doing our business finances, and analyzing where we are. (A couple years ago I wouldn’t have been able to type that!) Allow yourself to write the things that may feel undone, imperfect, or hard, and write in some positive thoughts too—even if the positive feels tiny!

Now, a bonus challenge: let the dirt be dirt. Once you’ve written everything out, be still with your feelings for a moment—whatever they may be—without trying to change them or push them away immediately. Let the challenges and places you’d like to grow sink in a little. If you’re like me, I often want to fix my circumstances right away instead of letting myself feel anything at all. My instinct is to reach for a distraction when faced with something that feels hard. (Anyone tempted to go scroll Instagram right now?) But, that never brings me peace or clarity. So, let’s not do that. Maybe the soil of your life needs some fresh nutrients, or maybe there are some big rocks in the way of you planting new things. The only way you’ll know though, is to see what’s there first.


All those rocks and weeds?

They are pockets of purpose waiting to be transformed!


STEP TWO: Watch this video (or at least the first 30-ish seconds) that some of my closest friends and I made for you…

What have you been chasing recently, or in the last year? Do you feel like you are “chasing perfect” in some ways—attempting to measure up to an impossible standard? Write or type here what you have been chasing, and how that has been making you feel. Maybe you’ve been chasing success, significance, or approval. Maybe you’ve been trying to keep up, survive, or just get through. Whatever you’ve been chasing, name it boldly and know that you are not alone. To name your chase is to destroy it.


STEP THREE: In traditional goal setting, you focus on the future, and on achieving your goals as fast as humanly possible. That is a recipe for b.u.r.n.o.u.t. I’ve done it many times in the past, and it’s no bueno. But! Uncovering really good goals means learning from the past in order to cultivate what’s next. The past has a lot to teach us! Let’s take a look back at the last year.

What good things happened in 2017? What grew well? What are you grateful for from the last twelve months?

I know this can be a challenging step. We often don’t like counting our blessings because it may feel self-indulgent or like it won’t get us anywhere fast, or perhaps you are thinking that there were no good things that happened in 2017! It’s easy to look back at an entire year and see only the hard parts, like when something happens to you at the end of the day and you automatically call it a bad day, regardless of what happened the other twenty-three hours.

Let’s do a little digging! A few tips to unearth the good stuff:

– Talk to your significant other or a close friend about your year and ask him or her to reflect some of the highlights back to you. He or she may remember some that you have forgotten! This is also a great way to celebrate the good things of the past year with others. Make it your dinner conversation tonight.

– Take a look back at your calendar, blog posts, social media updates, or photos. Those might give you a clue into some of the good things you’ve forgotten.

– If you are a PowerSheets user, read through your 2017 PowerSheets!

–  Review your finances from the year. This is like reading a journal of places you went, and what some of your priorities were.

My Good Things: My word for 2017 was LIGHT, and even in the challenges, it was a year of God’s light changing me and, even in the hard things, a feeling of lightness after a heavy and hard 2016.

A little recap from the last seven years:

2011 – Our marriage is falling apart and then the impossible happens. My husband, Ari, becomes a believer and Grace is born.

2012 – We are parents and life is crazy. I go through post-partum depression and try to figure out how to be a mom and run a growing small business.

2013 – The Lara Casey Shop opens and we release the first version of the PowerSheets. Out little shop takes off faster than we expected. After reading this goal-setting series, a publisher offers me a book contract. I begin writing Make It Happen.

2014 – We try to have another baby and miscarry. Through the grief, I write and release Make it Happen. We start thinking and praying about adoption. The same night I finish our adoption paperwork, I feel a little off. I am pregnant with Josh!

2015 – I start writing Cultivate and Josh is born in August. We match with our birth mom and, with much prayer and open hearts, we say yes to two babies in the span of six months.

nancyray-sarahnewborn-1076Photo by Nancy Ray

2016 – We adopt Sarah and I finally finish writing Cultivate in the middle of the mess. 2016 was a challenging year (I wanted to quit my business), but, I learn that good things grow out of hard things. I let my hair down, we change the name of our company and I pass the torch for my role as Editor-in-Chief of Southern Weddings.

2017 – I finally release Cultivate after two years of writing and re-writing and I begin homeschooling Grace. Our company grows like wisteria in March (a lot!) and I spend the year living what I wrote in Cultivate: ‘Getting our hands dirty in the soil–hands and heart undistracted. Celebrating sprouting seeds, golden yellow weeds, and everything in between. Rejoicing in our weakness. And receiving God’s limitless grace during the many, many, many times we mess up.’

This year, I was so grateful to see all that we teach in action in my own life and goals! I set four goals for the year and made more progress in each than I ever thought possible. A year ago, I knew I’d be so grateful I started these goals, and little by little, they happened! Did I mess up every along the way? Yes! Did I have some challenges? Definitely. But, imperfect progress is still progress and when you embrace that fact, you are far less likely to completely jump ship. 🙂

My four 2017 goals:

Goal 1: Read the whole Bible again. Yes! Read all about this goal here. I am on track to finish the Chronological reading plan on December 31 and I’m probably gonna cry when I finish I’m so grateful for this! I’ve decided to celebrate by going back through all the highlights I’ve collected in my YouVersion Bible app all year and marking them in Grace’s journaling Bible with love notes to her. I’m so excited to do this!

Goal 2: Run, and finally get back into weight training. The former personal trainer in me was a little ashamed of this at first, but you guys, I have made progress! I haven’t had a gym membership since Grace was born, and I haven’t done real weight training in just as long. I used to love being in the gym and feeling strong. But, the logistics with kids and the gym just haven’t worked out. So, I made it work! Read more here.

Goal 3: Live a year of radical gratitude and praise. After a challenging 2016, this was something I needed to cultivate. As I wrote about in Cultivate, complaints are clues. They reveal to us places in our hearts where we don’t trust in God’s goodness or His power. While cultivating gratitude is a life-long pursuit, I am so grateful for how I dug into this goal this year! From praise dance parties to practicing praising God through really hard challenges, this was really good. You can read more about how I made progress in the monthly posts I’ll share in a minute…

Goal 4: Cultivate our life-giving home. This included starting homeschool with Grace this fall, living with less, living in a life-giving space, implementing a plan for the office to semi-transition out of our house, growing our marriage, and planting a family legacy within the seemingly-mundane everyday routines of life, and the bigger celebrations of life (holidays, traditions, milestones) too. Wow, I am in awe that so much of this happened! We started homeschool and we have been loving it. It was a big transition for my work schedule and it has caused me to have to say no a lot more, but it has been worth it. We also made some much-needed home repairs this year, and I created our Cultivated Calendar for 2018. The one thing that changed here was moving the office out of the house. Instead, we made the office better (reveal coming in a few weeks) and I’m so glad we made it work! P.S. My friend Sally wrote a beautiful book about cultivating a life-giving home that I highly recommend! Also, you can catch our live broadcast together here.

You can read all the details of my 2017 goal progress in my monthly updates:

December (this month isn’t over yet–I’m still making little-by-little progress!)

My list of good things from 2017 in my PowerSheets is above. *You’ll notice I have some things covered in my PowerSheets throughout this series. If I wrote about something that had to do with another person, for their privacy, I covered those names and items. Some highlights:

  • The progress I made on my four goals this year! 🙌
  • Through many challenges we’ve experienced together this year, our marriage grew! We are stronger and more joy-filled because of all we have been through.
  • I started homeschool with Grace.
  • Our business grew in a new life-giving direction. I was invited to join C12, we added several new team members, and we are excited about the future.
  • I finished writing my second book! This was a HUGE praise after two years of writing (and re-writing!).
  • There’s more, but I don’t want to do all the talking! I’m sharing just a few things on my list to get your mind turning. I would love to hear from you.

Name three lessons you learned from the good things. For example, in my life there were many times last year that good things happened when I let go of control—whether getting on my knees (literally) in prayer or in looking at how I could change instead of hoping others would change. The lesson for me was a big one: let go. Surrender. Humble yourself. That’s where change begins. I continued to learn that it’s okay to grow slow, and embracing change can be good.

Your turn! Today’s Goal Uncovering Steps:

1. How are you? How are you doing in each area of your life and which areas do you most want to improve?

2. What have you been chasing lately? How is that making you feel?

3. Write your list of good things and lessons you learned.

Then, share your answers here in the comments to encourage others. I can’t wait to personally cheer you on!

And remember this: There is no room for comparison in cultivating what matters. A page from my 2016 PowerSheets:

lara casey goal setting comparisson

Whether you had one good thing happen or twenty, celebrate the good stuff and let’s help each other do the same. Let’s turn comparison into compassion and cheering on.

Okay, that’s it for today and that’s plenty to work on. I’ll be back Friday with more goal uncovering goodness!

Take your time with this and remember, cultivating what matters is about progress, not perfection. This is not about writing the perfect list of perfect goals with a perfect pen. It’s about digging into the dirt, right where you are, to grow, tend, and harvest what you’ve been given. This process will have a big payoff, but you have to commit to working through it. Let your 2018 goals bake, like a pan of homemade hot cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. They wouldn’t be flaky and yummy zapped quickly in the microwave, would they? They’d end up as a big pile of mushy dough. I’m not going to hand you your 2018 goals; we’re going to do this right and bake them well together, little-by-little, with some bold leaps of faith along the way. Sound good? Awesome!

Need an extra kick in the pants? How about this for motivation? Welcome to the Ultimate New Year’s Giveaway. There are lots of prizes and fun ways to enter. Most of all, though, I hope you comment with your answers from each step as we go through this series. I can’t wait to read your answers, and share mine with you too! One person who comments with answers to every step in this series will win a bonus prize: one of everything from the Cultivate Shop! Yes!!! This includes 2018 PowerSheets, the Cultivate What Matters sticker book, books, journals, art prints and so much more!

A big thank you to everyone who entered! What a joy it was to hear your responses and get to chat with you in the comments! Congratulations to our winners below! If you’re a winner, fill out this form to collect your prize!

1. 10 sets of 2018 PowerSheets! — Gail boos, Sara Baker, Carrie Condra, Cydney Levin, Melissa Kelly, Cierra LaShay, Kara Wallitsch Tydlacka, Charis K, Staci Good Bedenbaugh, and Cara Gordon
2. A Fitbit Flex Amber Cavasoz
3. A gift card for a massage — Chris Koiro
4. The 2018 Floret wall calendar — Jen Harris
5. A 2018 Yearly prayer journal from Val Marie PaperHeather Chollar
6. Keepsake Kitchen Diary from Lily and Val — Zulema Uscanga
7. Farmgirl Flowers bouquet — Bianca Norman
8. Our popular PowerSheets Companion Bundle — Christy S
9. 1-year membership to Thrive MarketVanessa Wright
10. 2018 Simplified Planner — Sarah Gonzales
11. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! A free house cleaning! — Kara Earhart
12. 5 signed copies of Cultivate — Madelyn Smith, Emily Soroka, Julie Davis, Cortney P, and Shannon Hunsley
13. A seat at Financial Peace UniversityKady Curtis
14. 5 signed copies Make It Happen — Keatyn Bergsten, Emily Montgomery, Jenna King,  Samantha Hawthrone, and Kaitlyn Payne
15. Write the Word All Seasons Collection — Lacey Cabalas
16. A Meyer lemon tree – a family favorite around here! — Lindsey Abrego
17. A 6-month membership to Skillshare — Veronica Ilioi
18. A LegacyBox! (Amazing!) — Kerry Batty
19. One of everything from the Cultivate Shop! — Sarah Kemer

Why am I doing this? I want you—yes YOU—to get renewed, and to uncover a solid direction for the year ahead. Help me spread the word, and let’s get all our friends in on this! Here’s to a meaningful, intentional 2018—I am cheering you on friends.

Read Part Two of my 2018 Goal-Setting Series!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends January 30th. Winners will be announced on January 31st here on the blog. Hard goods are for US entrants only. If you don’t claim your prize within 48 hours, another winner will be selected, so mark your planners and stay posted! : ) Also, this post contains some Amazon affiliates links. No extra cost to you and all proceeds are donated!

Photos by Gina Zeidler

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What causes someone to set a goal and actually make it happen?

The pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change.


When I think back to the turning points in my life, that truth is clear as day:

When I struggled with anorexia and depression in college.

When my marriage was falling apart.

When I took the leap of faith to start Southern Weddings ten years ago.

In our season of having two babies in 6 months.

When I was facing fear in starting to homeschool Grace.

When I let go of my role as Editor-in-Chief of Southern Weddings this year.

At the start of this year when I wanted to read the Bible again.

You guys, my list is long.

In all of those things, there was first a moment of brutal clarity: Something needs to change!

Then, there was a moment of faith–believing in what I couldn’t yet see: If I were to take a leap of faith and step into this change, good things could come. But… I won’t know until I leap!

Many times, it was sharing my frustration where I was that sparked change and helped me see a different way forward. When I let someone else in, or let my true thoughts hit the paper, something magical happened: accountability.

Accountability means to count someone responsible, trustworthy, or true.

When you are accountable, it means you will follow through and do what you set out to do.

When someone holds you accountable, it means that person loves you enough to help you walk the walk. When you hold someone accountable it doesn’t make you their judge, but rather their loving advocate. You commit to helping them be their best. It means seeing the good in another person and being willing to cultivate it alongside them–which can be hard work at times! But, what a joy and a gift that is for another.

We each have unique gifts to use–good tools with which to grow good things. If our “irons” aren’t sharp, or they sit in a toolshed doing nothing at all, then nothing gets cultivated. Accountability helps us to bring our gifts out into the open and use them well: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 ESV).

A life of accountability is a life of humility. It’s hard to let people in and share our weaknesses, isn’t it? But, it’s so rewarding!

I’ve built accountability into my life in several ways this year, both through tools I’ve used and through relationships:

  • I’ve blogged my PowerSheets goals here for you each month, sharing my progress and challenges openly. Writing my goals down and tracking my progress keeps me accountable, but sharing it adds another level of commitment.
  • I joined a group of fellow CEO’s where we are accountable each month to the goals we set each time we meet. We even have a system where we pay $10 for every to-do we don’t complete! We pool that money together and donate it when a need arises.
  • And, among many other things, this post was inspired by the fact that I’m going through an Advent study with two sisters from church this month. It’s super simple. We do it each day and text each other our thoughts. This is the reason I have stuck with it consistently!

If you’re still not convinced, consider the alternative to a life accountable. Here’s what a lack of accountability can look like (and I have experienced each of these things before!):

  • We go through the motions in life without purpose or clarity on where we’re going. If we don’t share our goals with anyone, we don’t have to do anything about them. We can just stay the same, going in circles, lacking direction. “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra
  • We miss opportunities to love others and grow good things. When we lack accountability, we are more likely to waste time. We are more likely to shrink back.
  • We crave connection with others. When we lack accountability, we can often miss out on meaningful connection with others. We begin to feel distrust for others and for ourselves. “Anyone holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” – Thomas Paine
  • We don’t make progress. Nothing measured, nothing managed. “Accountability breeds response-ability.” – Stephen Covey
  • We hide our passions. This is a dangerous trap. You were created for a purpose and the world needs your gifts and talents, my friend. If no one knows about your goals, it can be pretty easy to let them fall to the wayside. Out of sight out of mind, right?
  • Our lives can become complicated and distracted. Accountability simplifies life and makes us more productive in the right things. Accountability helps to cut out the time and energy you spend on distractions.

Here are some ideas on how to be accountable, either by using a great tool or through relationships:

  • Write your goals down. Research shows that, as opposed to typing something on a device, writing your thoughts and goals down in your own (messy!) handwriting changes our brains. Hand-writing things flips a switch in our brain that begins solving problems and making decisions, making us more accountable for our actions.
  • Be the invitation. Start a 2018 PowerSheets Group in your area! Host a PowerSheets party using our free Groups Guide. These groups have been so successful for women all over the world. And most of the time, the group members didn’t know each other well when they started. That changes quickly when you start talking about what matters together! 🙂
  • Get a buddy. If you are a PowerSheets user, join our private Facebook group (Search “PowerSheets Group!”). There are tons of friends waiting for someone to say, “Does anyone need an accountability partner?”
  • Do goals with your team.
  • Have your PowerSheets Tending List out in front of you where you will see it most often.
  • Use your phone screensaver to your advantage and make it inspiring words, a photo of your Tending List, or a reminder to love others through accountability.
  • This is one of the most effective things you can do: write your goal action steps in your planner and on your wall calendar. There’s is power in repetition. It takes humans at least 7 times to hear something and remember it. Use the power of repetition and write your goals in more places than you think are necessary, making you more accountable to choose to act on those goals. You will be shocked at how well this works to steer your actions when you are tempted to distractions.

This Giveaway has now CLOSED! Congratulations to Erin F. for winning the Best Year with your Besties Giveaway!

To help you stay accountable in 2018, I am so excited to share an AMAZING GIVEAWAY with you! The two women who created these products have held me accountable in many ways over the years and I’ve been blessed by their products! (I am so excited for the pair who wins this!) We’re giving away not one, but TWO of each of the following for you and your “bestie” (or sister, co-worker, mom, neighbor, or classmate!):

Your turn! I’d love to hear: what are ways you have stayed accountable in your goals and in living your best life?

I’d love to hear your tips too!

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Maybe your thoughts have been similar to mine as December has begun: What does the year ahead hold? Have you caught yourself feeling doubtful, afraid, or unsure about 2018 already? Maybe you’ve felt a little overwhelmed about it, like you’ve failed before even starting.

My friend Lindsay said something last week about doing things for the good of her January self.

I really like that.

That’s what cultivating is all about: a little intentional forethought goes a long way!

Let’s do a little imagining together to kick the 2018 overwhelm to the curb, shall we?

Envision your January 2018 self.
How do you want to feel?
Where do you want your head and heart to be?

Dear All of Our January Selves,

We’re comin’ for ya!
We’re making intentional decisions for you now!
We’re thinking big picture to uncover some really good goals for you. Goals that make your heart sing. Goals that are about growing what matters. They might be challenging and hard work at times, but they will be WORTH IT!
Little by little, we’re taking steps forward for you.

January selves, you are gonna be great!

The year ahead may not be perfect, but it sure will be meaningful.

We’ve got you.
We love you.
We’re on it!


Our December 2017 Selves 😘

Starting Monday, I’m digging in for the good of my 2018 self (and everyone else!) as we kick off our annual PowerSheets Prep Week. I hope you will join me! We have a full week of goal inspiring tips, motivating prompts, and a free class on Thursday all about getting started with your PowerSheets (register here for free). I can’t wait to start my 2018 PowerSheets with you on Monday! If you haven’t ordered yet, you can still join us for the fun next week. We’re doing all the teaching early so you can do your PowerSheets prep anytime that’s best for you in December!

Here’s a look back at the progress I made on my November Goals and how I’m preparing for 2018:

We bought this 60-year-old piano on CraigsList a couple weeks ago, and the kids love it so much. It needs a tuning and some TLC, but it reminds me that things in life don’t need to be perfect to be meaningful!

November Monthly Goals:

– Prioritize with diligence. If everything is a priority, nothing is. I want to surrender the things that might be good, but might not be His priorities for me in this season–or at all. Read more about this in my November Goals post. // Yes! I learned a lot about prioritizing and seeking Him first in November. I am so grateful. It was hard and it was good. And part of this learning came in the form of an answered prayer today! Emily and I spent the morning creating a prayerful vision for the next 10 years in our company and I gained clarity on where I plan to let go of the vine. Prioritizing doesn’t mean doing more; it means doing the right things and surrendering the rest.
Cultivate my calendar.– I feel the urgency to do this task now! Grace’s 6th birthday and Thanksgiving are ahead. // Yes, I did this in the clutch! Yesterday I went to do my December PowerSheets and realized that, even though it was the last day of the month, there was still time to make some progress on my November goals! I spent 25 minutes doing the steps we outlined in our class (watch the class for free here) and it was SO HELPFUL. I now have preparation days on the calendar for every month in 2018 and I know what holidays and celebrations to prioritize. A little intentional forethought goes a long way!

Our annual church family group Thanksgiving was made extra special with my mom in town!

– #GetAfterGrateful project. – My project? Writing 30 Ebenezers–30 specific remembrances of God’s faithfulness in our family (see Chapter 10 of Cultivate). // Yes, I also did this in the clutch and I’m so glad I did! I used the notes app on my phone and voice dictation to capture 30 things that God has done in our lives and it helped me prioritize. With each one I added, I saw more and more clearly His goodness and ways I can let go and trust Him! So so so helpful!
– Write my (7th annual!) 2018 Goal Setting Series with fresh eyes. – This is the most popular series here on the blog each year, and my hope is that this month prepares me to write it with fresh eyes and rooted faith. Mark your planners for December 20th, the first day of the series! // We walked through each post as a team but I am waiting till next week–PowerSheets Prep Week–to start my own 2018 goals! This goal will continue in December.
– Be a light-filled mom from resting in you, Lord. – My PostIt Prayers will help with this one. // Yes, November brought a new calm and gentleness as I practiced this–and everyone was happier as a result! I resolved to stay calm in the face of chaos, to pray more in the middle of the mess, and to not get one more thing done in favor of just being with the kids.
– Less house, more home. – We had several major home repairs made in October: replaced a cracked and moldy shower (black mold all through the insulation in our bathroom), kitchen repairs and updates, walls that were cracked from our foundation settling, leaky sinks, broken doors (our front door wouldn’t close!)–so many things needed fixing and updating. Let me tell you though, once you start fixing things, your eyes start noticing more things to fix. I want my eyes fixed elsewhere, knowing I can’t take this house to Heaven with me! While there are still many things to put back together after our repairs, my focus is on cultivating our life-giving home. Less working on the house; more nurturing the souls in it. // Piggy-backing on the goal above, this was also good. I let go of the house organizing in favor of time with the people who live here. I did, however, buy some new pillows on Cyber Monday for our bedroom in colors that Ari loves.

We celebrated 10 years of Southern Weddings this month–what a joy to reflect on all the Lord has done in this decade!

November Weekly Goals:

– Homeschool with diligence–careful and persistent work and effort. // I don’t think I succeeded in diligence, but rather gentleness. Rather than having a perfect plan and checking things off a list, I focused on cultivating her heart this month and it has been so good. We still learned a lot and did our handwriting and math, etc., but we also read a lot of books together and let our imaginations grow!
– Continue reading and implementing Traction. // YES! We completed 80% of the Traction Vision Traction Organizer today and will finish it with the team next week. This book is the best! See that little girl helping my mom bake? She turned 6 in November! I have a SIX-YEAR-OLD!!!

November Daily Goals:

– Raw prayer. // Yes, there was lots of this. Several challenging experiences in November allowed me to pour my heart out to Him in prayer, and for that I’m grateful.
– Continue reading my chronological Bible reading plan for my Number 1 goal.// Yes, and I’m SO EXCITED that it’s December! I can’t believe I’m going to finish the Bible again soon! The little by little has added up and I’m excited to celebrate at the end!
– #RunLiftPraise // I haven’t been super consistent in doing weights, so I’m making myself a sticker chart : ) I’m going to let the kids give me a sticker each time I do it in December! What for? I don’t need a prize. I just think I need to be reminded and this will help–they will love giving me stickers!
– Eat green + clean. // Yes, I am grateful for consistency here (with some chips and salsa + cookies mixed in!). I have made a lot of chicken soup, hard boiled eggs, salad, and my mom cooked for us for a week which was amazing!

And now onto December!

December Monthly Goals:

– Give LIGHT in the (7th annual!) 2018 Goal Setting Series. I hope to give truth and light to many through this year’s series! Mark your planners for December 20th, the first day of the series here on the blog.

– Pray through Advent with my friends and sisters, Kristy and Ruth, using the All Good Things Co devotional. We’re texting every day about what we learn and I’m so excited about it!
— Pray out our VTO. (So grateful to have already made progress today!)
— Serve with clarity at our End-of-Year Team Summit next week. I can’t wait for all of us to be together to celebrate this year and do our PowerSheets for 2018!
— Celebrate the holidays in the true meaning of the season.
— Give on my birthday. I have this dream of spending myself on my birthday for the good of others in gratitude for His grace these last 38 years!
— Celebrate Ari in his 40th birthday. I hope to encourage his faith on this special birthday. I have some surprises up my sleeve : )
— Give sacrificially. Ari and I want to give like the selfless widow.

Emily and I spent this first morning of December here dreaming and praying about the future!

December Weekly Goals:
– Cultivate Grace’s heart in homeschool. This is such a great example of how goals grow and change! Last month, I started with a focus on diligence and it grew into something different as I listened and learned. Cultivating her heart means doing a lot of praying and listening.
– Continue reading and implementing Traction.

December Daily Goals:
– Pray it out.
– Continue reading my chronological Bible reading plan for my Number 1 goal.
– #RunLiftPraise with my new sticker chart from the kids!
– Eat green. I’m comin’ for ya, January Self! 😊

Your turn! Do you have goals for December? What are you cultivating in this new month? I’ll pick one of you to send a special surprise box of goodies to from the Cultivate What Matters shop. I love sending real mail, and I love hearing your thoughts!

Congrats to November’s winner, Samantha Stith!

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Have you seen the extra tag on all those items you are considering purchasing this year?

You may not have seen or noticed this tag before, but it’s there:

The Time Tag.

Everything we buy costs not only dollars but time.

The Time Tag illuminates how much time it will take to care for, manage, or get the most out of that item. And, with what I call cultivated purchases, how much time you will potentially get back!

Everything has a time tag.

Think about it.

That new sweater you have your eye on today?

It will cost you time in caring for it, giving it a place to live, and washing it to make it last.

The inspirational book you’ve been wanting to dig into?

It will take a few hours to read, but potentially another hour to implement what you learned to really get the most out of it.

People often talk about “investing” dollars into new purchases that they hope will have a return. But, what you may not have considered before is the investment of our time in those things to get the very most out of them.

I’ve kept a running list Of the things I have invested my money and my time into this year (both personally and in business) that paid off. Here’s my list with some notes on how I invested my time!

10 things I invested in personally that paid off:

1. Date nights. Ari and I wanted to have more date nights in 2017 than we had in 2016. (Our odds of succeeding were good with only 1 date night in 2016!) I mentioned this in a blog post last year and my friend Joselyn texted me immediately after seeing the post. Knowing all we had experienced in 2016, she insisted she babysit as her gift to us. This was a gift of time, and that first date night helped us see how important it is for our family for us to have Time to talk without multitasking for three kids. It spurred us on to invest our dollars and schedules into getting more of that time together. We now have a handful of babysitters we call for date nights that have helped us make this a priority. The double blessing is being able to bless friends and college students in our church with babysitting money too. And our dates are never fancy! We go somewhere inexpensive, and we usually end up going grocery shopping together that same night. It’s a joy to hold hands through the produce section and just be together.

2. Fitbit Charge 2. This is one of the best things we invested in as a family. It took a big commitment to change how we use our time throughout each day: either sedentarily or active. Both Ari and I have been significantly more active because of the FitBit’s hourly reminders to move. We have more than doubled our activity during the day (!!), and we feel more energetic. This has helped me take action on one of my PowerSheets goals: Worship the Lord as I strengthen the body He gave me so I can love others with joy and enthusiasm. The benefits I received from using my FitBits also helped start the fitness initiative for our team (see my standing desks and desk stepper here). I gifted everyone on the team a fitness tracker and together we studied how our activity relates to our productivity and overall job satisfaction. This has been huge for all of us! (Fitbits are on sale today for Black Friday!)

3.  Kids dental flossers. You might giggle at this, but stay with me here! Every time I went to the dentist, I felt the guilt creep up. No, I haven’t been flossing. Again. I know I know, Doc. I’ll try harder! This was such a simple change, but getting these flossers for the kids (no mess with wrapping the regular floss around my fingers and the kids pulling it allllll out of the container) ended up motivating me to make this a daily habit. And you get LOT of flossers (300!) for just $12. Why was this important to me and how did this make the list?? Because everyone in my family has had dental woes. Root canals. Gum grafting. You name it. I’m hoping to avoid all of that with a $12 yearly investment of money and a couple minutes a day! And the first time I went into the dentist after starting my new flossing habit, I felt so good confidently saying, “Yes! I floss and I love it!” 🙂

4.  PowerSheets – Without clarity on where to use my time well, I would surely waste it away in distractions! More than any other year, investing time in my PowerSheets (a mere 20 minutes to an hour a month!) was the number one thing that gave me my time back and helped me invest it in the right things. My PowerSheets have helped me prioritize, stay focused and not waste my time and life on distractions. We’re all so grateful for how the PowerSheets have helped us and you that we couldn’t help but DANCE! My friends, it is with great joy and many laughs that I officially unveil our very first music video!

The Cultivate Team Just Wants to Dance from Lara Casey on Vimeo.

5.  Yearly prayer journal. Filled with my monthly prayers, church notes, and things I’m grateful for, investing time in this journal has helped me cultivate more focused prayer. I bring it to church every Sunday and love looking back at all God has done this year! Studies have proven the power of writing things down in our own messy handwriting: it helps them sink into your brain and you start to change your behavior based on what you wrote. Much like writing down my goals each month in my PowerSheets, I have felt the effect of pen-to-paper heart and head change in using this prayer journal.

6.  The Echo, also known as “Alexa” in our house. This was a larger purchase for us (we bought it a year ago for $179 and they are significantly less today for Black Friday), but it has paid off in surprising ways. Ari’s dad is a composer and I spent most of my life in music and theatre. We use our Echo literally every day, specifically in the mornings, mostly to listen to music.

And we see it shaping our kids.

Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue. – Plato

Sarah, in particular, has been changed by the presence of music in our home. She is sensory-seeking and comes alive when there’s a beat or a melody. Her eyes light up and her body can’t help but move with joy!

This is most certainly a luxury and not a necessity, but having the ability to use this device hands-free has been one of the biggest benefits. I don’t have to have a phone in my hand. And I usually have one or two kids in my hands, so before this playing music didn’t happen as often!

We have family dance parties to worship music, play Italian favorites for pizza night, turn on composers we are studying in homeschool while the kids play, and, aside from music, I make full use of the shopping list and other features like listening to the Bible and Audible books while I cook or clean the kitchen. Grace loves asking Alexa to tell us jokes, too! There’s more time investment I hope to make here in the new year as I teach the kids different music styles and about music and culture. This excites me!

7.  The garden and my plants. We spend a lot of time out in the garden as a family, tending to the tomatoes, picking flowers, and getting our hands dirty. It’s not just a refreshing place for me to be tech-free and get some fresh air, but it has become the place where our kids’ imaginations grow and flourish. We added some fairy garden items to the garden this year and Grace’s imagination ran wild! Josh has loved picking tomatoes to snack on and Sarah can’t get enough of watching the butterflies and bees. The lessons we learn in the garden are endless and our time there is never wasted! Follow @GraciesGarden and get a copy of my new book, Cultivate, for more from the garden.

8. Amber-colored lightbulbs for better sleep. When my hormones started ch-ch-ch-changing this year (I’ll be 38 on December 27th!), my sleep quality began to suffer. I set out to do whatever I could naturally to help my body rest: lavender oil, no screen exposure at night, etc. But the thing that helped the most was changing our bedside lightbulbs to amber-colored bulbs. Fluorescent lights, laptops, and cellphone screens contain a high level of blue light that disrupts melatonin production and throws off our natural circadian rhythms—keeping us awake when we should be sleeping. Many sleep specialists suggest that this widespread exposure to blue light, long after the sun has set, is a major contributor to the modern epidemic of insomnia. However, the amber-spectrum light emitted by firelight and candlelight demonstrates no negative effect on melatonin production.SomniLight. I am sleeping much more soundly now, and noticed a marked difference on the few nights I had to be on my phone later than usual or look at a blue screen!

9. Changing how I dress and the way I think about it. I have been thinking about how to write about this for an entire year! I have wrestled with the tension of how clothes are an earthly thing, and how God certainly doesn’t need us to dress well to live intentionally. But, something happened this year with me and clothing that did help me live more intentionally. For my birthday last December, Ari gifted me a consultation with our close friend, Joslyn (yes, the same friend who gifted is a night of babysitting early this year!), who is a personal stylist. Let me tell you that nothing about this would have excited me (I have never been into clothes or fashion!) if it weren’t for the fact that this was with Joslyn and I know her heart. She has been a gift in our lives in many ways, specifically through our adoption process and after we brought Sarah home. She is one of the most faithful, selfless, God-led women I know. Before I did this consultation with her, I feared that personal styling was all about external looks… until she came over to my house.

God used Josyln to teach me how to live my everyday life with a new integrity–matching my outside to my inside. My outside before was like a protective covering, clinging to the past and to who I falsely believed I was. I was afraid to be myself. Afraid to show my curls. Afraid to move forward and step into the new person God had molded me to be after all of the change we went through in 2016. It was a year of heart change, as I wrote about in Cultivate.

Through the process of letting go of clothes that I didn’t need and kept me hiding in that protective shell, I experienced a shift.

There’s really so much more to write here, but I’ll keep it simple and tell you the practical stuff. We took everything out of my closet and Kondo’d it–examining how each item made me feel, how it practically helped me serve others, and why I was holding onto it. I had spent the previous few years not buying much new clothing at all thanks to the Contentment Challenge, but I still ended up giving away 2/3 of my clothes that day with Joslyn. It felt so good. Fewer choices. All things I felt content in. I felt free.

Joslyn helped me choose a few new staples from budget-friendly stores like Old Navy (50% off today), J Crew Factory (50-60% off today) and Target (most of which we got 40% off when the early spring sales started). She also showed me how to mix and match clothes for work, and she encouraged me to step it up–take some risks and wear things that make me feel like I’m ready for anything.

At our Fall Team Summit, in reflecting on the year so far, Emily said to me, “Your outside matches your inside and it’s really inspiring.” I’m so grateful. I feel like I am more respectful of my team and I’ve been able to step into more corporate settings with confidence. And it didn’t cost an arm and a leg–just a perspective shift, a lot of things given away to clear the clutter that was holding me back.

There you have it. I blogged about clothes! (And it will likely never happen again! Ha!) I still don’t love fashion, but I do love feeling content right where I am and having less choices to make each morning.

10. The YouVersion Bible app. This is where I invested the most consistent time this year as part of my number one goal (much in part to the PowerSheets motivating me to keep going!). The app is free, and it cost me 10-20 minutes each day. Every bit of that time has been fruitful! I often quote Karen Lamb in saying, “A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today.” I am grateful I started this goal almost a year ago–and I can’t wait to do it again in 2018!

Okay, let’s talk business! Here are the 10 things I invested in for our business that paid off:

1.  Joining C12. Will Ray (husband of my friend Nancy Ray) has been our business financial coach for several years now, helping me gain business financial literacy, and most of all, helping me do business with God’s wisdom. A year and half ago, he took a leap of faith out of business coaching and into leading a C12 group here in our local area. C12 is a group of Christian CEO’s (12 members per group) that meet together once a month to help grow each other’s businesses and faith. When Will invited me to come to a meeting to give it a try, I was honored to be asked and also intimidated! Most of the group has been in business far longer than me, and their businesses are large. And spending all day away from the kiddos once a month didn’t seem like it would work for my life season. How could I step away for an entire day? But, with the blessing of my team and Ari, I went once and never looked back. I come back refreshed and excited about not just work, but motherhood and homeschool and marriage, every time. It has been a powerful thing in my life to spend all day with a group of gentlemen who humbly love the Lord and lead their businesses from that same humility. I have often pinched myself in being at the table with them. I still feel like the smallest fish in the pond, but this group has blessed me deeply, and I’m grateful to have helped their businesses grow as well. The financial and time investment, including all the time I have spent implementing the many things I have learned through C12, has been exponentially valuable in our business and in the maturing of my faith.

2. Business coaching. I’m an Enneagram type 1 and, at heart, an emotional decision-maker and a sensitive soul! Having a sounding-board each week in making decisions has been so valuable for me (and in turn my team and husband and kiddos!). Diana helped me push through finishing Cultivate, take the leap into homeschool, implement what I’ve been learning this year through C12, and most of all she has always directed me to God’s wisdom. We talk on that level each week, we pray, and God is the one who does the heavy lifting!

3. Grammarly. You guys! Grammarly is the BEST. This yearly subscription (I paid $139.95 which comes to 11.66/month) has saved me and my team countless hours in copyediting! Using this tool in blog writing, email correspondence, product creation, and long-form writing has led me to invest time in learning to be a better writer. Becoming a more skilled writer has led me to become a better communicator, and that is a benefit that has no price tag! Well-written words can shape relationships, hearts, and entire cultures.

4. EOS principles. The thing that has had the most tactical impact on our business is implementing EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) principles this year. Encouraged by Will Ray, we began with changing our meeting structures in May and everything else followed… and I mean EVERYTHING! For a solid EOS primer, read Traction. You will be so glad you did!

5. PowerSheets – I know I have listed this twice, but for good reason. We have used PowerSheets as a team for the last three years and they have delivered. They have helped us uncover good goals, make action plans, and celebrate progress.

6. Asana is the project management system we use, and it’s safe to say it has more than doubled our productivity. We used to do everything in email and on paper lists. Projects would get forgotten about, tasks would fall through the cracks, and our inboxes were craycray. Asana brings it all in one hub, allowing our team to work together without the use of our inboxes for the most part. It does take an investment of time to learn to use it effectively, which we are constantly improving, but it’s worth the time invested. Simply put, we get more of the right things done. (Bonus: be sure to hunt for the Tab-B feature. You will thank me! Meow! ; ) )

7. The Making Things Happen Conference. I’ve led this conference for the last 9 years and I’ve also done the work right alongside the attendees every time. The tactical experience and clarity uncovered in this conference have been a fast-forward button on my personal and professional goals. Experiencing MTH is like doing PowerSheets in-person with a room full of passionate women who make what matters happen. It’s my favorite event of the year! Over half of the seats are gone for our spring conference. Get yours before our early-bird rate ends!

8. CAI. As a small business, I have been our finance, HR, and get-more-printer-paper departments! Until four weeks ago. CAI is a non-profit here in North Carolina that offers on-demand HR and legal services to its members at a fraction of the cost of a full-time HR expert. Our membership for a team of 9 is $900 for the year as compared to the $6K starting rate I was quoted for an individual HR consultant. Our membership has already paid for itself after one month! As part of our membership, we get access to 24/7 HR advising by phone or email (which we have already used four times!), legal support, employee handbook creation, and so much more. Thank you, CAI!

9. Zoom.We have four team members who work here in NC with me and five that work remotely from various other states. To stay connected each day, we had been using Google hangouts for video calls. But, the constant connection issues and dropped calls led us to seek a more reliable solution. Enter, Zoom! The old saying goes, “There are no deals.” Sometimes when you don’t pay for something (Google hangouts), you get what you pay for! Making the decision to pay a small monthly fee for Zoom has been a game-changer for our team. We connect more often and with zero tech troubles!

10. Steadfast bookkeeping. One of the biggest business woes I’ve experienced over the years is unreliable bookkeepers. My team knows. This is been the bane. of. my. business. existence. I like accuracy and dependability, and I finally found both plus a great client experience in Steadfast bookkeeping. Praise the Lord! Working with Stephanie and Sarah has been delightful! I can’t recommend them enough.

I’d love to hear! What did you invest your time or money in this year that paid off?

P.S. Our Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale is ON (our biggest sale of the year!), and so many intentional gifts are on sale!

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