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

If you are just joining us for this series, welcome! It’s never too late to begin. February 1 could be your January 1 if you like, so feel free to dig in anytime!

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2017 Goal Setting, Part 1: What Worked and Where to Start!
2017 Goal Setting, Part 2: What Didn’t Work + What I Learned
2017 Goal Setting, Part 3: Say Yes, Say No, Choose a Word

Welcome to Part 4!

Maybe you have ideas about what your goals might be this year (or maybe not yet and that’s okay too!)–and you are already overwhelmed and anxious about HOW to make them happen. You want all of your goals to have been tackled yesterday. Because here we are at the start of the year, and you have to do it all right away, right? False. I know the feeling though. Lean into that restlessness and let it unlock one of the greatest freedoms you’ll ever discover: the power of little by little.

Lara Casey garden My favorite flower to grow in my garden: zinnias!

We’re about to plant some good seeds as we uncover goals that have meaning. And then we’re going to take action on them. Making good things come to life requires physical action. And another action. And another. Over time, goals that were once leaps of faith you took on a blog post here, turn into new lives! The process of cultivating—breaking the soil, planting, tending, and waiting for the harvest—is where life happens. It’s where change and growth happen. The journey to making it happen is where the good stuff lives.

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I know you overachievers want to have done everything yesterday (me too), but I have also been reading every single comment on this series. Taking this step by step is helping many of you make remarkable discoveries! I’m so pumped by all the lightbulbs I see going off! You are starting to see clearly, and it’s happening little by little. Your goals may change half-way through the year, or you may make them happen faster than you think if you take it day by day by day. Little by little these beautiful zinnias in my garden grew this year from the tiniest seeds. Little by little babies grow. Can you imagine if you got pregnant and then the next day gave birth?? Oh my stars! You wouldn’t be ready. No time to prepare. No time to buy diapers, or mull over a name. or assemble the crib, or celebrate. You would have missed the time of preparation and ripening that happens over nine-ish months.

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It is the same with our goals. Friend, trust that your goals matter enough to make them happen well. They matter enough to take little steps forward every single day, and some big leaps long the way too. Your goals matter enough to tend to them like a garden.

Like I told you from the start of this process, traditional goal setting does not work for me. Swiftly-made resolutions get forgotten and then they linger and make you feel guilty for forgetting them. Anyone else ever experience this? Well, hopefully at this point you feel more equipped than when you started this process to write some down good goals. Goals that mean something.

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Let’s get messy and start to pick out some good seeds to plant this year! You ready for this? It’s going to feel possibly-scary the moment before you do it, but SO GOOD when you take a leap of faith and write what’s on your heart. You can do it!

Welcome to the final four–Four Goal Uncovering Tips: (I just got bonus points from my husband for making a basketball reference-ha!)

1. First, review everything again! Do not skip this step. Remember, this is goal uncovering. Uncover one more layer and get to the good stuff! Read through everything you’ve done so far. Read every word. Re-write or add to things once more if you need to. I added to my lists and re-wrote things after going through this process because I got more clarity. Cross stuff out, revise things, add to your lists of what did and didn’t work (I added a ton to mine!). Add more to your YES and NO lists. Refine your 2017 Pinterest board. Take pins out that don’t fit well. Use extra paper if you need to. Uncovering good goals is like a treasure hunt. Get messy and dig a little deeper before moving to the final exciting step…

2. Write out some goal ideas. Now, make a list of the first “goal ideas” that come to mind for this year. This is just a list of ideas! If you want to, take a big deep breath and put on a favorite inspirational song as you start writing these ideas. I’m also going to stop and pray before I write mine, and ask Ari to pray for me too. Your goal ideas don’t have to be perfectly written — just write what what’s on your mind. Feel free to share some of your goal ideas in the comments, too!

3. Check your goal ideas to make sure they are rooted in what matters. Now, let’s sift through the goal ideas and see if we can find any weeds. It’s easy to make goals that sound good, or goals that other people have that you think you should have, too, just to keep up. Don’t do that. The idea here is to SIMPLIFY your life, not to give yourself a new to-do list of random things that sound good. Be intentional about what you decide to spend your time on this year, with your own unique gifts and talents. How you spend your time is how you spend your life. Check each of your goal ideas to see if ti’s worth spending your time on.

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Do a GOAL CHECK and ask these essential questions:

– Will this goal help me to cultivate what matters?
– Will this goal help me get to where I want to be when I’m eighty years old?
– Does this goal also help other people?
– WHY do I want to make this goal happen? Am I desiring this goal for the right reasons, or am I striving for “perfect”—or whatever I’ve been chasing?

If the answer is NO to any of these questions, then it’s possible it’s not the best use of your precious time. Don’t run in circles with goals that don’t directly connect to what matters most. Focus on what really matters to you in the big picture. Cross goals out that don’t 100% fit. Be bold and take leaps of faith as you write.

If you are a believer like me, here are some additional questions I’m asking myself:

– Does this goal help draw me and others closer to God?
– Is this goal rooted in God’s truth? (Find scriptures to match!)
– Does this goal rely on my strength or God’s?
– Does this goal help me steward what I’ve been given well?

4. Write down your WHY with every goal. When I was a personal trainer in New York for many years, clients often would come to me with a number and say, “I want to lose 10 pounds.” I would ask them, “Why 10 pounds?” Usually, when we got down to it, it was just an arbitrary number, or a weight they were in college. There was no real heart connection to the goal of losing 10 pounds. But, when we dug deeper into why they became out of shape in the first place and what they wanted most in life, a picture of true fitness started to emerge. Instead of, “I want to lose 10 pounds because that’s what I weighed in college” (not very motivating and more self-defeating), we worked on goals like, “I want to be healthy and strong so that I can live long enough to walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to live a long, happy life so I can be a better husband and show my kids how to be joyful and healthy, too.” True story. That goal worked. That was motivating. Get real with why you want these things to happen and connect them to something that really matters to you. It will help you act on your goals instead of toss them aside.

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You never know how long you have left here on this earth to love others and use what you’ve been given to grow good things. Life is to short and too meaningful to coast through. The good you do today has the potential to change generations. That’s why uncovering good goals and having a clear focus is so important. Otherwise, you may spend your time lost in distractions. Lost in Instagram. Lost in the chase for perfect, or significance, or approval, or whatever it is that has been holding you back from really living. You may find yourself restless, knowing deep down that there’s more to this life. If that’s you right now, you are in the right place! I know that feeling well, and I don’t know about you, but I do not want to live my days by accident. I want to live on purpose, and use all the gifts I’ve been given to help others do the same! Join me.

Take a big breath in (really do it) and a big breath out. Think of where you want to be when you’re 80. What will be important to you then? Whatever it is, act like it today. Take some leaps of faith and write out goals that are potentially outside of your comfort zone. Good goals are worth the hard work it takes to plant them. Soak them in sunshine, water them little by little, and get ready for a flourishing garden full of blooms–and a harvest to share!

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I’m going to share my 2017 goals in the next post.

When you are ready, write your goal IDEAS here in the comments. If you aren’t sure of your goals yet, I want to hear from you right where you are. As you reviewed all you’ve written so far, what stands out to you? What themes are you seeing? Tell me in the comments and let’s encourage each other as our goals begin to take shape. SO much goodness to come when we actually write out our goals tomorrow (using a special method I’ll tell you about then!).

Comment with your answers from each step as we go through this series to be entered to win one of these inspiring prizes below. 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 2017 PowerSheets, the Cultivate What Matters sticker book, the Cultivate What Matters flair pens, books, journals, art prints and so much more!

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1. 10 sets of 2017 PowerSheets!
2. A Fitbit Flex
3. A gift card for a massage
4. The 2017 Floret wall calendar
5. A Fresh Start prayer journal from Val Marie Paper
6. Farmgirl Flowers bouquet
7. A (monogrammed!) Cultivate clipboard
8. Watercolor set from Artist’s Loft
9. 2017 Simplified Planner
10. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! Mrs. Meyers cleaning products + a free house cleaning!
11. Sweeter than Honey coloring book from Lindsay Letters
12. My favorite Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candle
13. Five copies of the Make It Happen book
14. A Write the Word journal (we’re sold out of all of them except peach!)
15. A Meyer lemon tree – a family favorite around here!

Enter below and be sure to leave your answers to each step as you go through the series with me!

Giveaway ends January 30th. Winners will be announced on January 31st here on the blog. Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. We can convert some of these to digital prizes for my international friends, though (gift cards instead of shipping the item). 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, but it helps us raise funds for Love One Another Project!

Ready for 2017 Goal Setting, Part 5? Here you go!

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

Welcome back for 2017 Goal Setting! Anyone else get the heebee-jeebees hearing the words “goal setting?” Then, you are in the right place, my friend. As we talked about in Part 1, we’re doing this differently. We’re sifting through all the noise and distractions, and we’re doing goal uncovering. We’re taking our time. We’re taking big leaps. We’re making what matters happen, little by little. If you are just joining us, you aren’t late to the party — there is nothing magical about January 1! Here are Part 1 and Part 2, for your reading pleasure. Enjoy and have fun working through each step!

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Welcome to part 3. We have lots of fun things to do today!

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STEP 7: This step is so important! Here’s where the magic starts to happen. Read over all you’ve written so far. Circle, mark, or sticker things that stand out to you. Look for common threads, or themes. Add to what you’ve written, if needed. Refine and get messy here! Dig through what you’ve written so far, and see if you can find any themes. I’d love to hear one of the things that stands out to you in what you’ve written so far. Let me know in the comments. There are no wrong answers here!

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An interesting thread I found as I sifted back through what I wrote: running. I do not run. I mean, I run after kids. But, I don’t run for exercise. Walking is more my speed. But, the times I race Grace down the driveway, or leap over a crack in the sidewalk with her on the way somewhere, or swoop the babies up in both arms and run to see our cow-farmer mailman, Walter, at the mailbox, something lights up in me. I don’t know what that’s about exactly yet, but it kept coming to mind.

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STEP 8: With everything you have written down thus far in mind, what are you going to need to say YES to more often in order to cultivate what matters in 2017, and what are you saying NO to? Saying no to one thing means you are saying yes to something better! Write your list of what you are saying YES to in 2017 and what you are saying NO to. There are no wrong answers here, friends. My answers are pictured below, and my lists are a huge mix of big-picture things (saying no to “non-essentials”) and specific everyday things (saying yes to “loving on each of our children in the individual ways they feel most loved”). Post yours here in the comments to inspire others, and keep yourself accountable!

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This was a very helpful step for me. You can see on my “no” list above that I came up with a little check-in to help me evaluate whether or not purchases, projects, or potential commitments on my calendar are worth saying yes to:

1. Have I prayed about it?
2. Does it honor or help other people draw closer to God?
3. Is it life-giving?

I’ve already used this check-in several times since writing this list, and it has been so helpful!! Feel free to snag this idea and make your own check-in too!

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STEP 9: Pick a word for 2017. When you look at all you’ve written so far, what word keeps popping up in your mind? What one word most resonates with you for the year ahead, pulling together all that you want to make happen? If you don’t know, here are a some tips to help you uncover your word. First, I like to make a list of a few possible words that resonate with me, even if I think they aren’t exactly right. Then, I get old school and get out the dictionary (well, Dictionary.com). Look at the definition of each word, it’s origin, and also look at synonyms and antonyms. You may be amazed at what you discover! And a note of freedom here: think about this as a word for the season ahead, not for all of time. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you have permission to change your mind later on! Rather than thinking of the whole year, I find so much freedom thinking of just the season ahead.

Once you have your word, write it here in the comments. (Give a virtual high five to those who might have the same word as you — we are bound to have some shared words!) Write that word in prominent places in your life, too. This will help you simplify your direction and focus. Put your word on a Post-It in your car. Put it on a note literally inside of your fridge (I have a Post-It in my fridge!). Make it your computer desktop. Write it anywhere and everywhere to remind yourself of where you are going!

2017-wordFeel free to use this graphic above to share your word—you never know how you might inspire others!

My word for 2017 is LIGHT. I didn’t expect this to be my word when I started my PowerSheets, but that’s the beauty of the process. As I uncovered more and more of what mattered (and what didn’t) with every page, the word light kept popping up. Light is what makes things grow well, illuminates the darkness, and leads us on the pathway home. I love this word, and there are so many beautiful scriptures about God’s light.

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Whew, this was fun! I love doing this work with you, and I’ll be back tomorrow for Part 4!

Comment with your answers from each step as we go through this series to enter to win one of the amazing 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 2017 PowerSheets, the Cultivate What Matters sticker book, the Cultivate What Matters flair pens, books, journals, art prints and so much more!

lara-casey-2017-goal-setting-giveaway

1. 10 sets of 2017 PowerSheets!
2. A Fitbit Flex
3. A gift card for a massage
4. The 2017 Floret wall calendar
5. A Fresh Start prayer journal from Val Marie Paper
6. Farmgirl Flowers bouquet
7. A (monogrammed!) Cultivate clipboard
8. Watercolor set from Artist’s Loft
9. 2017 Simplified Planner
10. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! Mrs. Meyers cleaning products + a free house cleaning!
11. Sweeter than Honey coloring book from Lindsay Letters
12. My favorite Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candle
13. Five copies of the Make It Happen book
14. A Write the Word journal (we’re sold out of all of them except peach!)
15. A Meyer lemon tree – a family favorite around here!

Enter below and be sure to leave your answers to each step as you go through the series with me!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends January 30th. Winners will be announced on January 31st here on the blog. Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. We can convert some of these to digital prizes for my international friends, though (gift cards instead of shipping the item). 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, but it helps us raise funds for Love One Another Project!

Ready for 2017 Goal Setting, Part 4? Here you go!

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

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.

If you have been feeling restless lately, so badly wanting things to change, but believing that it’s impossible, I know one thing for sure: there is a way out. 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!

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Hi, friends! Welcome back to Part 2 of 2017 Goal Setting. If you are new here, welcome! Hop on over to read Part 1 here to get started.

And thank you all for the birthday wishes.   I’m so grateful for another year of life, and that I get to spend my birthday each year here with you, planting good seeds for what’s ahead! Today is a good day!

Okay, let’s get to it.

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. 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.

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 steward your finances well, live with less, or finally do that thing that’s been on our list forever. Whatever it is, let’s talk about it! Let’s plan the first seed.

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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!

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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 2016? 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. I know you want to make this your most purposeful year yet, so don’t let negative self-talk paralyze you as you make this list. Write the facts and move forward. Each thing you write down is a potential area of your life that could be made completely new.

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Once you have your list of the challenges from 2016, name some of the lessons you learned from those challenges. Here are some my lessons from 2016…

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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. Leave your thoughts in the comments and help encourage others as well.

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STEP SIX: Who helped you cultivate what matters in 2016? 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 or inspired you? Download a free printable worksheet here. 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.

View More: http://robynvandykephotography.pass.us/sipnseePhoto by Robyn Van Dyke from baby Sarah’s Sip-n-See. I love these friends!

This year, more than ever, many friends made enormous sacrifices for our family. Here are just a few of the many.

– Every single person who was a part of our adoption—from our adoption consultants, to my friend Casey, and many more. Thank you to so many friends who prayed us through this! We kept a private blog throughout the process for family and close friends, which was one of the best things we did all year. It was a safe space for us to share what we were experiencing, and allowed friends to connect with us and pray specifically.

– When you’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to reach out and ask for help. Knowing this, lots of friends simply showed up. They showed up with food, extra hands, prayers, and encouragement. My friends Talia, Tori, and Bianca often took Grace for play dates with their girls, and this was huge. It was a hard transition for Grace with two babies added to the family so quickly (and two very tired parents all of a sudden). Our friends took her out for play dates, and this was so good for her little heart. I’m so grateful!

– Several generous friends gave us milk for Sarah. This was an enormous gift. I pumped for Sarah while I was still nursing Josh and made enough for a couple bottles a day, but it was undeniably hard. That is a story for a whole other post! These friends filled in the rest, and what a blessing. I’ll never forget this gift.

– As the transition eased and the hard season came to a close, I needed someone to help me sift through all that had happened, and to make some decisions about how I would spend my time moving forward. I began coaching with my friend Diana. Diana has helped me make God-led decisions in the wake of such rapid life change.

– One year ago, I prayed for a wise mentor to help me prepare for adoption, write my book well, and grow my faith. That was a tall order! But, God sure did answer. I still can’t believe how He orchestrated this. I was in an airport going through customs and I heard, “Lara!!” We had never met in person, but Renee spotted me and we exchanged emails. Months later (and I don’t even remember exactly how this happened but that’s God for you), Renee generously offered to drive three hours to my house to help me with my book outline and to encourage me as we prepared for adoption. I was blown away. She showed up with buckets of encouragement and wisdom for me… and it turns out it was her birthday! This generous and selfless gesture sprouted a friendship. I don’t know what I would have done without this lady in the hard seasons of this year. I love you, Renee!

– My team. My team! This has been quite the year for us. As I’ve mentioned, beginning of this year with all of our family transition was trying on our team. But through it all God was growing all of us. I am so grateful for these women.

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There are so many more! If you’ve sent me an encouraging email this year, prayed, given me a hug, or if you were the lady in the grocery check out line who told me I was doing a great job on my first outing with all three kids by myself (when two out of the three were crying, and I was feeling anything but confident in my ability to wrangle three littles at the grocery store at the time!)—thank you. Your encouragement has genuinely made a difference.

Who are you most grateful for this year? Leave your answers in the comments, but most of all, send some love to the people on your list!

OPTIONAL* BONUS STEP: Get visual! Great photographs and colors can make my heart sing. If you are like me, you will really love this step. Make a Pinterest board of images that will inspire a purposeful year. What do you want to grow? Title your board “Make it Happen in 2017″ so we can search for 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 discontentment. The goal isn’t to have a Pinterest-worthy year, so pick images that have deep heart, not just pretty things. Here’s my board from last 2013 and from 2014, 2015, and 2016. I’ll be pinning 2017 here. *I made this step optional for a reason! If Pinterest distracts you too much, skip this step! There are no rules here. Do whatever will help you to make what matters happen.

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

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 2017 PowerSheets, the Cultivate What Matters sticker book, the Cultivate What Matters flair pens, books, journals, art prints and so much more!

lara-casey-2017-goal-setting-giveaway

1. 10 sets of 2017 PowerSheets!
2. A Fitbit Flex
3. A gift card for a massage
4. The 2017 Floret wall calendar
5. A Fresh Start prayer journal from Val Marie Paper
6. Farmgirl Flowers bouquet
7. A (monogrammed!) Cultivate clipboard
8. Watercolor set from Artist’s Loft
9. 2017 Simplified Planner
10. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! Mrs. Meyers cleaning products + a free house cleaning!
11. Sweeter than Honey coloring book from Lindsay Letters
12. My favorite Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candle
13. Five copies of the Make It Happen book
14. A Write the Word journal (we’re sold out of all of them except peach!)
15. A Meyer lemon tree – a family favorite around here!

Enter below and be sure to leave your answers to each step as you go through the series with me!

Giveaway ends January 30th. Winners will be announced on January 31st here on the blog. Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. We can convert some of these to digital prizes for my international friends, though (gift cards instead of shipping the item). 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, but it helps us raise funds for Love One Another Project!

Ready for 2017 Goal Setting, Part 3? Here you go!

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Welcome to the Sixth-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 six years, friends? I’m so pumped for this year!!!

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

 

One year ago today, I shared some big news with you. We had just matched for our adoption, and had no idea what the year ahead would look like. I declared 2016 “The Year of Getting Messy”—embracing imperfect grace-filled progress—and that’s exactly what it was. 2016 was the hardest and very best year of our lives. (More on that shortly.)

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If you are new to this series, welcome—you’re in for a treat this year! I’m Lara. I’m a mom to three, a business owner, and I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. But, the most important thing you should know about me before we start this series is this: I don’t write about goal setting because I love goal setting. The words “goal setting” have often given 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?).

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

Good goals are about stewarding what you’ve been given well: 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!

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Over the last six years, as my life has dramatically changed, so has this goal uncovering process. I’ve studied what makes people feel unmotivated, and I’ve discovered some pretty amazing not-so-secret secrets to getting unstuck. Uncovering good 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 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!

From hereon out, when I mention “goals” or “goal setting,” know that I’m talking about good, grace-filled goals.

Here’s what good GOALS are all about:

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

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

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

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Here’s what you can expect in this five-part series: Each day, I’m going to walk through a mix of goal uncovering steps from my first book, Make it Happen (which you can sample here), the 2017 PowerSheets, and I have some new ones that we’ve never done before!

The PowerSheets* and my book have many more steps, and helpful prompts, than I’ve listed in this series. This is just a tiny sampling. Do you need the PowerSheets and book to have an intentional year? No. You don’t need any thing to live this life well. They are great 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.

*UPDATED: We sold out of all of the 2017 PowerSheets, and are blown away by the response this year! You can read more here. But! We just opened pre-orders for a small batch that will be in stock in the spring for the second half of the year. Order HERE!

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!

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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. 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!

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

Here’s a free printable 2017 Check-in Worksheet for you—yay!

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. It can change everything.

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, too! For instance, as for my feelings about finances: I’ve been challenged by contentment and emotional spending at times, but I have become more skilled at managing money. It took ten years, but I now feel comfortable navigating Quickbooks, doing our business bookkeeping, and analyzing where we are. (Never thought I would 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. But, that never brings me real lasting 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.

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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.

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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 2016? What grew well and produced fruit in your life? What are you grateful for from the last twelve months? What good things happened? I know this can be a challenging step for many. We 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! It’s easy to look back at an entire year and see only the yucky 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 wonderful 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. I made this 7-minute movie below of our adoption story and favorite memories from this year on my iPhone. It’s not perfect (every time I went to export it, it crashed), so I gave up and just let my phone do whatever it wanted with these photos and videos. Now I love that it isn’t the perfect video I had in my head—it reminds me that this year wasn’t perfect either, and it was still good! By the way, the clip where I say, “I just want to express to you how grateful I am…” was recorded the day of Sarah’s birth. Those were words her birth mom said to me, and I will never forget them.

2016: The Year Our Family and Hearts Grew from Lara Casey

– If you are a PowerSheets user, read through your 2016 PowerSheets! Knowing there would be a lot of major life change in 2016 with our adoption and writing a book, I keep my main goals simple: read the Bible, and pray. That was it! I knew that if I could focus on those two things, everything else would fall into place. And it did.

–  A great tip: review your finances from the year. This is like reading a journal of places you went, and what your priorities were.

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My Good Things: My list might look different from others, because for me, all the hard things this year ended up being the good things.

1. As you saw in my video, we adopted a newborn shortly after having a baby (they are six months apart). This was a huge blessing and, for so many reasons, it was also extremely difficult. I haven’t written about our adoption story, except in my upcoming book, because it was such a raw and refining time. Ari and I both experienced anxiety and hard emotions as we walked through this sleepless season. In that season, I felt like a horrible mother, an absent friend, and incapable of leading my team. I wanted to quit my business. I couldn’t rely on my own strength, and it was humbling. (I recently shared some of my story from the last year on the God Centered Mom podcast.) So how in the world did this end up as the number one thing on my good things list? Because this was ALL God’s plan. In what felt messy, He was at work. In the things that felt unexplainable to others, He knew. Good things grew out of what felt hard. Our faith grew. Our bond as a family grew. Our capacity to love each other grew. And so much control that we’d held so tightly to was released. This hard season ushered in massive heart change, and it was good. In coming undone, we came alive!

nancyray-sarahnewborn-1076Photo by Nancy Ray

2. I had a challenging time writing my second book, Cultivate, through that hard season. I was nursing Josh every hour at night, pumping milk for Sarah, trying to keep up with Grace and work, and just couldn’t find the words to inspire others in that season. I had started writing this book two years ago, and it was supposed to be released today actually. Little by little, through so much imperfect progress, I wrote, and rewrote (see here for that story), and just two weeks ago turned it all in! It is not at all the book I set out to write two years ago. I needed to live out this story in order to write the specific words that ended up on the page. I am SO grateful for this imperfect path. The new release date is June 27, 2017!

3. Through all of this big change in 2016, many things started to feel like they didn’t fit anymore. Namely: unknowingly hiding the way I was made and the name of our company. So, those things got re-done, undone, and changed. Like a sweater that fits just right, they feel so good now! Letting my hair down and changing our company name have been incredibly freeing.

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There is so much more, like the garden (oh it was good for my soul!), Amber and Jess joining our team, my mom visiting us a lot this year, so many generous friends who prayed us through our hard season, Ari and I actually having time together at night now (partly in thanks to our friend Irene and her gentle sleep coaching tips for Josh!), Josh in general, Grace coming out of this very hard family transition with renewed joy, and little Sarah is one of the greatest gifts we’ve ever been given. Getting to love her every day is just amazing! I no longer feel like a horrible mom, leader, or friend. And not because I got better at these things, but because hard seasons can make you rely on God’s strength more than your own.

Good things ahead (bonus if you want to include this!)Well, I have some news. I’ve cried a lot of tears writing this little paragraph, and it’s one I never thought I’d write. In all of the change this year, something else became clear that I’m very grateful for. As of today, I’ve passed the torch as Editor-in-Chief of Southern Weddings. When I started the magazine ten years ago, I never imagined it would grow to what it is today–and it has so much growing left to do! We are a very unique company, running two businesses under one roof, with one small-but-mighty team. Like I’ve learned in my garden, you can only grow so much with the space and time you’ve been given. I can’t lead the vision of two large brands at once and nurture a growing family. Many of you know this shift happened several years ago internally—I’ve been uninvolved in content creation for a while now. This year, however, it became clear that I needed to grow new leadership in our team to help both companies continue to grow well. I’ve been working alongside Kristin Winchester for five years, and her passion for the Southern Weddings mission made her a natural fit. She has already been wearing this hat well: cheering on our team, shepherding the big picture, and encouraging meaningful beginnings to married life. KNW, as we affectionately call her, is a pretty remarkable woman, and we are all SO excited for this new season! My title is now Founder and Grateful Wife, which fits me to a tee. Be sure to check back on Southern Weddings next week for more, and to hear about what’s ahead in 2017!

Other good things ahead: In light of what I’ve just shared, I’m excited to start homeschooling Grace in the fall (homeschooling moms, please share your wisdom with me!), release Cultivate in the summer, watch our kids grow (Josh starts preschool in the fall), continue to do the good work He has given me to do here, and Lord willing, go on more date nights with Ari!

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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, letting someone else lead, or letting myself make a mess. The lesson for me was a big one: let go. Surrender. Humble yourself. That’s where change begins. I also learned that it’s okay to grow slow, and it’s okay to be average.

Your turn! Write your own list of good things, and lessons you learned. Write your list in your PowerSheets if you have reached that section, or on whatever paper you have. Either way, I encourage you to share some of your 2016 good things and what you learned in the comments to encourage others!

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

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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.

lara_casey_isaacson_family_030Photo by Amy Rae. I love these monkeys.

Okay, that’s it for today and that’s plenty to work on. I’ll be back tomorrow 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 2017 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 2017 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!

2017 goals lara casey Can you smell those good goals starting to bake!? Yum! : ) 

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 2017 PowerSheets, the Cultivate What Matters sticker book, the Cultivate What Matters flair pens, books, journals, art prints and so much more!

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1. 10 sets of 2017 PowerSheets!
2. A Fitbit Flex
3. A gift card for a massage
4. The 2017 Floret wall calendar
5. A Fresh Start prayer journal from Val Marie Paper
6. Farmgirl Flowers bouquet
7. A (monogrammed!) Cultivate clipboard
8. Watercolor set from Artist’s Loft
9. 2017 Simplified Planner
10. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! Mrs. Meyers cleaning products + a free house cleaning!
11. Sweeter than Honey coloring book from Lindsay Letters
12. My favorite Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candle
13. Five copies of the Make It Happen book
14. A Write the Word journal (we’re sold out of all of them except peach!)
15. A Meyer lemon tree – a family favorite around here!

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 2017—I am cheering you on friends. ENTER BELOW, and be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There are 28 total prizes, which means 28 chances to win! Your odds are good : ) Giveaway ends January 30th. Winners will be announced on January 31st here on the blog. Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. We can convert some of these to digital prizes for my international friends, though (gift cards instead of shipping the item). 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, but it helps us raise funds for Love One Another Project!

Ready for 2017 Goal Setting, Part 2? Here you go!

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Well friends, this is our last Little by Little date together for the year. It has been a year of perfectly imperfect little-by-little progress, and I’m so grateful. I’ve enjoyed these Friday posts with you! You can view them all here.

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How are y’all? It has been a good week here. I spent the week writing my Goal Setting Series that starts on Monday, the kids were especially hilarious this week, and this morning we are picking up the RV (see my Instagram stories today for more!)! Since Christmas is this weekend, they wouldn’t let us pick it up any later than today. You guys. It’s large. 32 feet. We aren’t sure if it will clear the birch tree by our driveway, so we may have to park it at an RV friendly location (Walmart) till we leave next Tuesday.

Amber, who is a great friend and became my co-worker this year too (I am a lucky duck to work alongside her every day!), convinced me to do something extra fun on our RV adventure. On my birthday (next Tuesday), we’re going to be rolling down south from Chapel Hill to Pensacola, and I’ll be leaving boxes of PowerSheets and lots of goodies along the way. #PowerSheetsRoadTrip is on! Stay posted here for more on Tuesday, and for a peek into our holiday rig this morning!

Here are things to help you cultivate what matters, little by little, in the week ahead:

1. Try a social media free weekend. I’ve been doing this for six years now to be more present with my family, and I’ve never missed that time online. This is a great weekend to give it a whirl!

2. Dig into your PowerSheets to prepare for an intentional 2017. Order yours here if you haven’t already. (And join the private PowerSheets Facebook group!)

3. Join the list for monthly encouragement from me, and to be the first to know when my Goal Setting Series goes live on Monday! It will come right to your inbox.

4. Get inspired! I loved my interview with farmer-florist Erin Benzakein this week! I could have talked to her for hours. Thank you to the hundreds of friends who joined us.

5. Create a life-giving home. I just saw that my friend Sally’s book is almost 40% off today!

6. Get some good last-minute gift ideas. You’re welcome : )

7. Make it happen. If you haven’t read my first book, Make It Happen, now is a great time to begin. It was written for this season of reflecting and setting good goals. And I got an early present this morning in my inbox – my (second) book! As many of you dear friends know, it has been a long process full of imperfect progress. I finally turned in my finished manuscript a couple weeks ago, and my editor sent it back to me this morning with this generous encouragement: I know this was the most difficult and challenging book for you to live and to write but I truly believe that gold has come from the furnace. All praise to the Lord!

And three last pieces of encouragement for this special holiday we are celebrating this weekend…

8. Rest.

9. Rejoice.

10. A baby changed everything. 

Merry Christmas, friends! See you Monday for the 2017 Goal Setting Series!

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