Here we are—the first day of 2019.  A new year full of possibility is stretching out in front of us!

You may be telling yourself you’re behind or you need to accomplish it all now. Let me tell you, there is nothing magical about January 1st! But do you know what IS magical? Choosing to live what matters, little by little, over time. No perfect starts or perfect progress required. If you’re looking for clarity and a starting point, dig into Part 1 of the 2019 Goals Setting Series.

You’ll often hear us say around these parts “the past has a lot to teach us,” and in that spirit I’ve gathered up a few final lessons from 2018 for you—in the form of our top ten blog posts from the past year!

Here are your favorite posts this year from the blog:

  1. You have blown me away as you dig into your best goals in the 2019 Goals Setting Series! Get started with Part 1
  2. Gardening 101: The Story of an Unlikely Gardener 
  3. We saw that endings can be new beginnings when we let go of Southern Weddings
  4. 10 Tips for Starting Your 2018 Goals
  5. January Progress + February Goals from my PowerSheets
  6. Tips for Happy House Plants (I happen to have 28!)
  7. How to Get Unstuck with Your Goals 
  8. The Cultivate Your Life Podcast launched
  9. Behind the 2019 PowerSheets launch when Instagram shut us down and Oh Happy Day boxes were delivered in 65 countries
  10. And last, but certainly not least: The 2019 PowerSheets Goal Planner

Here are the top posts from the Cultivate Blog, too!

  1. Part 1 of PowerSheets Prep Week
  2. Your favorite PowerSheets Hacks
  3. How to Crush Comparison in Six Steps
  4. How to Make a Vision Board you’ll love
  5. 46 Things to do instead of scrolling social media
  6. The real cost of PowerSheets
  7. Why we love mini goals
  8. How to Celebrate New Year’s with Intention
  9. Using PowerSheets and your day planner together
  10. How to Make a Tending List

And now, a look back at 2018 from all of us at Cultivate What Matters. We are so grateful for this year with you!

WHOA that’s a lot of stickers! 🙂 And THAT is the number of emails we sent to subscribers this year! I also can’t believe this team launched 20 new products. In the midst of this, I led our 54th and 55th Making Things Happen Conference (join us this spring!), developed a free homeschool planner, and launched a new podcast (still pinching myself that we ranked in the top #15 podcasts last week!). These things seemed impossibly big on January 1st, but little by little, good things grow!

2018 has been a good year. Now, don’t let that statement fool you. “Good” didn’t mean easy. It was good because God is good because He was strong when we were not. It was good because He led us in challenges.

This was the year we lived out our word for 2018—“rise.” This was also the year we let go of Southern Weddings. It was the year we experienced pruning and refining in so many ways.

And from this vantage point, we know for sure that every challenge was a gift. Pruning is what makes a tree more fruitful, after all. My wish is the same for you—fruitful change that creates a ripple effect in the way you spend your time, your money, and your life.

Happy New Year, friends! If you haven’t already, buy your 2019 PowerSheets® Intentional Goal Planner NOW. We’re seeing lives changed as women all over the world use the right tool to make things happen. Join us!

The best is yet to come,

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Hi, friends! Welcome to Part 1 of the 2019 Goal Setting Series! If you’re new, I’m so glad you landed here. Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 are also live!

Note: We are so grateful that ALL of our 2019 One-year PowerSheets are SOLD OUT. But, good news! You can get started at any time with Six-Month Undated PowerSheets (available NOW), which include the same Prep Work as the One-Year Goal Planners! New to the party? Head to the Cultivate Shop or say hello – we’re so glad you’re here!

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

You came here for a reason. What is it that brought you here?

Maybe you’re feeling frustrated as you look back at 2018.

You didn’t make as much progress as you hoped on some of your goals—or you forgot about them completely.

Perhaps goal setting has failed you before and you feel defeated already thinking about the new year. You’re considering going “goal-less!”

Perhaps you stumbled on this post and it intrigued you because you want change in your life and it feels really far away. You need a way to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

Or maybe this year has been great—you made progress on the right goals and you want to keep it going for 2019!

No matter what led you here, you are in the right place.

Your imperfection, your past failures, your heartache, and your triumphs are all welcome here. In fact, they might be the very things that propel you forward on a fresh new path.


Welcome to the Eighth-Annual Intentional Goal Setting Series. We’re eight years strong, friends! Many of you have been doing this process alongside me since year 1 (your goal updates each year blow me away) and I’m so pumped for this year!

If you’ve tried goal setting before and burned yourself out—or didn’t follow through—you’re right where you’re supposed to be.

If you aren’t convinced yet that setting goals could be life-giving for you this year—no perfection required—you’re in the right place, too.

Whatever it is for you, I just want to reassure you that you are here for a reason and you’re about to make it happen. If you are new to this series, a big welcome from all of us—you’re in for a treat this year!

Whether you’re a mom, a student, a business owner, an empty nester, in a season of transition, or a season of starting fresh—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.

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, I’ve led a conference called Making Things Happen for 9 years, and I was once a personal trainer, a wedding planner, and the Editor-in-Chief of a wedding magazine.

I am the creator of the best-selling PowerSheets® Goal Planner and I don’t love goal setting. No, that’s not a typo. I do not like traditional goal setting. The words “goal setting” give me the heebie-jeebies!

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

Goal setting. No thank you.

If you are feeling this right this second, we are going to be fast friends. You’ve found your people! 🙂

I set out to uncover a process that works for the rest of us. I flipped the usual process on its head and guess what: I started seeing real results with zero pressure. I discovered that I didn’t need to make perfect progress to see results, and it’s SO FREEING. I’m going to guide you through my exact process in this series.

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!

Consider the script officially flipped!

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

Over the last eight 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 us feel unmotivated, what causes us to follow-through, 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 “secrets” to doing this life with intention.

What causes people to change starts with one pivotal moment. It’s the moment when you decide that the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. It’s the moment you decide you are tired of doing the same things you’ve always done and getting the same results you’ve always gotten.

This might just be that moment for you.

Now, you could just stop here and quit before even trying. You could do that and I won’t judge you! 🙂 I’ve given up on a whole lot of things in my life right at the starting line. But, here’s where that might leave you (like it did for me): going through the motions, not feeling confident that you’re on the right path, getting distracted, lacking motivation, not taking care of what you’ve been given, and generally wasting your time.

Or you could end 2019 knowing you lived your best year—no perfection required. Cultivated goals—the kind we are going to uncover together—give you direction and motivation. And it all starts with one small step. (I’ll tell you that one step shortly!)

My 2019 Goal Ideas page from my PowerSheets Goal Planner.

Here’s what you can expect in this five-part series: Each day, I’ll walk you through a mix of goal-uncovering steps from my first book, Make it Happen (which you can sample here); insight from my second book, Cultivate; key questions from a decade of leading the Making Things Happen Conference, prompts from the 2019 PowerSheets®; and a few surprises!

The PowerSheets and my books have many more goal-uncovering insights and guided worksheets than I’ll include in this series. They make it easy to take action on your goals throughout the year instead of just setting them once (and then forgetting about them!). NOW is the perfect time to get your 2019 PowerSheets if you haven’t already—the order deadline for domestic New Year’s delivery is TODAY. Use the code BESTYEAR2019 for 15% off your entire order! (Yes, it even works on our already-discounted Make It Happen Bundle!) Our fulfillment team ships quickly, and you should have yours in time to work through this series with us—hooray!


1. Instead of just thinking your answers, write them down. This is so simple and impactful! As we go through each goal uncovering step together, use the comments section 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 I’m going to leave my answers in the comments, too!

2. Cheer her on! You know how it feels when someone encourages you? Yes—amazing! Let’s do that for each other throughout this series. You never know how your words might change someone’s life forever.

3. No matter what you use to set your goals, USE IT. If you tend to buy journals or planners and they sit on a shelf for all of time (been there!), let’s turn that habit around starting now. Practice what I call “making a mess.” You aren’t gonna let the need for perfect handwriting or perfect answers or perfect timing keep you from uncovering your best goals, are you? Didn’t think so. (I love you!!!) Use whatever you have to write with, and on. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just dig in. If you need an extra kick in the pants to make it happen, I have a giveaway at the end that might encourage you to get to it!

Ready to dig in?

(Yesssss!!! I’m so pumped for you!)

Step 1, here we go!

Do you know the reason you burned out and gave up on some of your goals (or all of them) somewhere around mid-January or February? Let me guess. You added things to your already-full plate without subtracting a few things first. That’s like planting new seeds in a garden that’s already packed full.

To grow new things, you first have to take a look at what’s already there. Then, you can either keep growing those things, or clear them out and make room for new ones. Let’s do that together right now, taking a look at how we are doing today so we can avoid burnout—and finally follow-through on the things that matter to us. This will feel so good!

Old you: growing allthethings at once. The result: nothing grows well. You do a lot of things mediocrely.

Cultivated you: growing the right things, one step at a time. Doing a few things well and loving it!

STEP ONE: (Remember the one step I told you about earlier? This is it and it might surprise you!) How are you? Really. How are you? Look at the 7 categories below and write a few thoughts about 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 the area and want to see radical change. 10 means you are happy as a bee on honeysuckle!

This is step one for a reason. “How are you?” seems like a simple question, but when answered from your 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 growing well—or not so well—in your life? Reply in the comments, or on paper. I’ll leave my answers in the comments, too!

Maybe you’re thinking, ‘Oh, Lara, every category is terrible for me!’ Guess what? You might think I’ve lost my marbles, but I think that’s GREAT! It means you have more opportunity for great change ahead than others. That’s exciting! So, call each category what it is—I’m cheering you on as you get honest write it out—and let’s count those challenges as the crazy amazing opportunities they are.

Especially if you gave low ratings to some areas, 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. I have felt especially frustrated this year by working hard to keep our finances in order and out-of-the-blue things have happened that knocked us off course. But! The positive it that over the last year, despite it being imperfect, I’ve become more skilled at managing money. (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 before, and it’s a dead end. 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 2018? 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 2018! 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. (A tip: try going quarter by quarter – it might help to jog some memories!)

— 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 2018 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 2018 was LIGHTSPACE (I made it up—it just fit!). What that looked like this year: making room for the things that mattered, even when it was hard. And a lot of it was hard. But out of hard things come good things, and pruning is what makes our lives more fruitful!

This was the year…

– We let go of Southern Weddings after a decade of making a magazine that changed the world.
– Grace learned how to read, climb trees and we did some knife skills training in the kitchen—she’s a pro!
– We grew a giant pumpkin.
– Josh learned to use the potty—praise the Lord, we’re so close to being out of diapers.
– Sarah grew leaps and bounds. Through therapy and God’s goodness this year, her sensory challenges have turned into beautiful opportunities.
– Our peach tree grew 100 peaches!
– We fell in love with the mountains and I discovered a new passion for hiking.
– We celebrated 12 years of marriage—a significant anniversary for us. We’ve now been married more years together than apart. Read Make it Happen or listen to episode 1 of my upcoming podcast and this fact will come to life for you!
– Speaking of the above, I felt the fear and started a podcast anyway. (Launching December 27th!)
– We marveled at the 55th Making Things Happen Conference experience. It was so good—this coming year will be our 10th year!
– I learned to trust God more than ever.
– I am on track to finish the Bible by December 31—my number 1 goal for this year!
– We got into a homeschool rhythm using the cultivated homeschool planner.
– I invested in 20 things that paid off.
– And most notably, my husband Ari started rapping.

I set six 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 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 imperfect progress added up big time, and yours will too!

A peek at the little by little progress I made each month: February / March
April / May / June / July / AugustSeptemberOctober / November  (and December isn’t over yet!)

Now, 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.

Your turn! Here are today’s 3 goal-uncovering steps for you:

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: we’re tossing comparison out the window and doing the most radical thing we can do: walking our own unique paths (and cheering other women on as they do the same)!

A page from my 2016 PowerSheets:

lara casey goal setting comparisson

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 2019 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 2019 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 some extra motivation? The Ultimate New Year’s Giveaway is on! (Amazing! Can I win??) I hope this gives you a little extra encouragement to share your answers as we go through this series. I can’t wait to read your thoughts and hear your aha! moments. One person who comments with answers to every step in this series will win a bonus prize: one of everything from the Cultivate What Matters® Shop! Yes!!! This includes 2019 PowerSheets, the new Celebrations Binder, a Goal-Setting Sticker Book, your choice of Make it Happen zipper pouch, my books, and so much more! There are 35 prizes, so that means 35 of you are going to win one of these prizes—it could be YOU. (Including international friends!)

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 within 48 hours or a new winner will be selected!

— 10 sets of 2019 PowerSheets to help 10 of you cultivate your BEST year yet! —Mary Conti, Emily Yost, Amy Wing, Jen Martinez, Brittany Garrett, Chelsea Pirtle, Mariah Meade, Kimberly Boyd, Tonya Kappes, Amber Corey
— A Goal Guide Bundle to help you dig deeper on your specific goals. — Jaimie Tollers
— Five signed copies of Cultivate. —Lisa McMahon, Patrice Pierce Thornton, Steph Conklin, Bonnie Johnson, Kristin Vlasak,
— Five signed copies of Make It Happen. —Michele Lanning, Mariela Capellan, Amy Bain, Stephanie Canete, Amanda Applegate,
— One Write the Word All Seasons Collection to help you cultivate fresh faith all year long. —Becki Sue
— A gift card (YES!) for a massage to kick off your year refreshed! —Ashley Bossong
— A Balanced Life membership – get moving and motivated with a year of at-home pilates! —Heather Renee
— A Floret Flowers puzzle (it’s double-sided and so much fun!) —Leah Meadows
—A Revelation Wellness membership with a ‘Wellness Kickoff Package” to cultivate your health in the New Year. —Elizabeth Hiney
— One Artifact Uprising album to document the people and experiences that matters most to you. —Natalie Gessell
— An Emily Ley Simplified Planner to keep your schedule organized in the new year. —Amanda Burley
— Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course—a life-changing experience to help you pursue financial freedom. —Cindy Booth Carlson
— One Val Marie Paper Yearly Prayer Journal. I’ll be using one this year, too! —Michelle McQueen
— A Hello Fresh boxto keep you fueled with good food. —Kate Mariani
— One Art Bar canvas (up to $150 value) to brighten your walls. —Gina Abatiello
— A Fitbit to help you celebrate your literal steps forward. —Evangelina Cantu
— An Amazon Alexa to keep you dancing. —Rachel Whorley

And the bonus prize for one of you who comments on all 5 posts in this series: ONE OF EVERYTHING Bundle from the Cultivate Shop! —Katie Ledvina

Why am I doing this? I want you—yes YOU—to know what I know now on the other side of burned out and overwhelmed: there’s a different way to do this—a way that works. Step by step, you are going to feel ready, renewed, and clear about your year ahead. I’m so excited for you!

SHARE THIS SERIES WITH YOUR PEOPLE. Don’t keep all this goodness to yourself! I’d be so grateful if you spread the word about this free series. Email this kick-off post to your friends, tweet it, ‘gram it (here are lots of sharable graphics for you to make it easy!), text it—sing it to the rooftops! Let’s get all our friends in on this so they can feel as refreshed and clear about 2019 as we will. Here’s to our best year yet togetherstarting now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends January 30th. Winners will be announced on February 1st 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! 🙂 This post contains affiliate links.

P.S. A year from now, you’ll be so grateful you started today! Buy your PowerSheets NOW!

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It’s about that time of year — the time when we all start to make decisions about what “program” we’re going to invest in next year. What goal setting system, what nutrition plan, what Bible reading plan, what journal, what skincare regimen, what podcast? Where will we spend our time, our money, our energy? Where will we invest our attention and our trust?

In 12+ years of business (and 38+ years of life!) I’ve tried a LOT of things that made a LOT of promises. Few are worth sharing. But the ones that are – oh, friends! I could talk your ear off about each one of them! 

Last year, I shared 20 things that made a difference in my life and our business (and I still stand by all of them—go read the list if you haven’t yet!). I’m back with another 20, and I’m equally as excited about each of these investments. Here’s this year’s list, with some notes on how I invested my time. No matter where you are in life or business, I hope you find something that will help you cultivate what matters!

20 Things I Invested in that Paid Off

10 things I invested in personally that paid off:

1. The garden. The lessons we learn in the garden are endless and our time there is never wasted! This year, we were overjoyed to finally grow a pumpkin. Do you know how many years we tried to grow a giant pumpkin—or any pumpkin at all for that matter? Seven. Seven years, people! Year one: squirrels. Year two: yep, Nutty the Squirrel does it again. Year three: our baby pumpkin was run over by a car. Year four: too much rain. Year five: too much heat. Year six: I just don’t even know. Year seven: We switched seed varieties, and I got some advice from a wise farmer friend.

Over these seven years of waiting and patience and waiting some more, the Lord was teaching us a beautiful lesson: all things (and life change) come in His perfect timing. We didn’t grow a giant pumpkin overnight—it grew us over the last seven years. Rita came right on time. (I even took her to Making Things Happen!)

2. My homeschool planner + (Pam Barnhill’s Autopilot courseMoving into our second year of homeschooling, I have learned a few things, but I’m still—and likely always will be—a student, too. Taking the time to develop The Cultivated Homeschool Planner helped me get organized and focus on what matters most in our time together. It’s a simple system that helps me keep sight of our big picture goals while getting the day-to-day learning done, too. It’s a free download — I hope you find it helpful! 

3. Cultivating my calendar. A little forethought goes a long way. You’ve heard it here before and you’ll hear it again 🙂 Investing just a little bit of preparation time each month to mark occasions big and small helped me shepherd the hearts in my care well (and helped me save money, since I wasn’t rushing out to the store last minute or rush shipping gifts!). I have loved using our new Celebrations Binder to keep all my plans in one place – a simple system for keeping it all together!

4. Morning time. We do “morning time” in our family: gathering the kids together at the table each morning to grow our faith and family bond. My first action step: gathering a few boxes. I made a box for each kiddo and filled each with a Write the Word for Kids journal, craft supplies, and a few books. And…

5. A kid-friendly place to gather. I bought these wipeable indestructible chairs to replace the not-so-kid-friendly upholstered ones from IKEA that were falling apart anyway. (Bonus: they came fully assembled!) Then, I bought this plastic table cover to protect our table from art supplies and the general wear-and-tear of morning time. I gathered all the kiddos at the table with some snacks (a tip I learned from my friend, Sally Clarkson—snacks make new things more appealing!), I prayed for us, and I read them a book while they colored. That was it. It lasted for 15 minutes and it. was. awesome.


6. Prioritizing with my PowerSheets – Investing time in my PowerSheets (a mere 18 minutes a month!) was the number one thing that gave me my time back and helped me invest it in the right places. My PowerSheets have helped me prioritize this year—including making some major decisions—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!

7. Books on Audible. We did a few drives to the mountains this year (I fell in love with hiking!). How did we keep the kids entertained during all the driving? We listened to books! We finished the entire Little House series this year, the Winnie-the-Pooh series, Aesop’s Fables, and a collection of Peter Rabbit stories. I’ve also enjoyed Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and I’m really looking forward to listening to God and Money in 2019!

8. A mini trampoline for the kids. Three active kiddos can easily equal chaos. I loved having this option to let them bounce off some steam whenever needed—and yes, it lives in our living room!

9. Blogging about my goal progress here—and the challenges along the way! Our monthly coffee dates here on the blog have been some of my favorite times. Looking back on these updates makes me so grateful—we lived so much life together this year, friends! I love you!!! Monthly updates: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November!

10. The YouVersion Bible appYes, this was on my list last year, but it is holding its place as one of my BEST investments! 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 I spent about 10 minutes reading each morning. 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 2019! P.S. You guys. I am SO excited to have worked with YouVersion to create a reading plan about God + Goal Setting that is now live (and free for anyone)! Ahhh!!

Okay, let’s talk business! For the record, everything on my list from 2018 is still going strong. I can’t recommend these things enough! Here are 10 things I invested in for our business in 2018 that paid off:

1. Crucial Conversations training. This could go in either the business or personal sections, because it’s impacted all aspects of my life! Kaylee, Emily, and I attended a two-day workshop this spring, then came back and taught the curriculum to the rest of our team. Gaining new tools to have effective conversations that resolve conflict in a healthy way has been so fruitful. If you can’t attend a training, I recommend the book!

2. The StoryBrand framework. We worked with a StoryBrand consultant as we developed our website refresh and then went through Donald Miller’s StoryBrand class as a team this fall. As an Enneagram 1, I do well with frameworks, and I’ve loved learning how to serve people well by becoming a more effective writer! The book is also great!

3. A fresh perspective. How’s this for simple?! A few weeks ago, I rotated my desk 90 degrees, so I faced the door instead of the wall while sitting down. Now, I can move about more easily, greet incoming team members, and I have better natural light, too! Sometimes we get so stuck in the way we’ve always done things that it’s hard to see another way, but all it took to make this improvement was a minute of stepping back and considering the possibilities — and then a little effort pushing! (Ha!)

4. A fractional CFO. Though PowerSheets have helped me reframe my thinking on the subject of money (“I am learning to be more skilled with numbers” versus “I’m not a numbers person”), the fact remains that my expertise does not lie in financial spreadsheets or sales projections. As our cyclical online retail business has grown more complex, I’ve found great comfort in having a trained guide to help us make decisions. Enter Stephanie! I love that she specifically works with purpose-driven organizations (mostly non-profits), so we are kindred spirits!

5. Encouraging Ari’s newfound talents. We consider all of our gents honorary members of the Cultivate team, and they play the key role of supporting each of us throughout the year! This year, though, Ari took a more active role in the business – in the form of customized Cultivate raps! I’ve loved watching him flex his creative muscles. Also, there’s that time we gave Ari and a friend a box of Cultivate What Matters products. This is what happened. 

6. Boostopia. Many of you know that one of our core values is the Power of One. This means that we care deeply about every conversation we have with you, and are fanatical about our customer service — or “customer delight,” as we call it 🙂 Boostopia is a support platform that gives us better analytics and insight into the work we do in our customer service inbox. They’re based in Durham, and we were connected to them because the founder goes to Kaylee’s church – such a small world!

7. 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. If you haven’t gotten your PowerSheets yet, a great option is the Make It Happen bundle, which includes three of our most helpful products!

8. AllBirds sneakers. Ari and I are both happily on the AllBirds train (branch?). I wrote about my wardrobe switch-up in last year’s list, but I’ve loved having these go-to sneakers that look polished but allow me to move and stand at my desk in comfort (especially important for our wellness sprint weeks – see below!). We both have the Wool Runners!

9. Quarterly wellness sprints. Last year I shared the difference wearing a Fitbit has made in my life, and that we invested in a tracker for each member of our team. This year we stepped it up a notch and hosted quarterly wellness sprints – four weeks throughout the year where we compete to see who can get the most steps over seven days, with a prize for the winner! We’ve all noticed we feel more productive and happier these weeks, which is a win-win!

10. Reducing waste. This was an investment of time more than anything – working with the team to identify and then take action on waste in our business, so we are freed up to do the most important work!  We used this worksheet to brainstorm (the waste definitions are here), and also loved watching this video on the Lean desk! 

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

Affiliate links are used in this post.  

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Happy November, friends! What a wonderful month this is here in Chapel Hill!

The leaves have turned the colors of a blazing sunset. The air smells of fireplace coziness. Our pansies are planted for the winter. And my focus has turned to preparing well for meaningful experiences ahead and the new year. Keeping a gentle eye on the number of days remaining in 2018 (59 as of writing this to you) has motivated me to get the right things done. A lot can happen in fifty-nine days, and a little intentional forethought goes a long way!

October was a month I’ll never forget. It was a month of learning to trust. We took a family trip to the farm a few days before the 2019 PowerSheets launch, which normally would have felt like terrible timing, but it was just right. I ended up getting an out-of-nowhere fever that had me in bed for most of our trip, but in retrospect I know it was a gift. The Lord knew I needed rest and to tangibly feel His power being made perfect in my weakness. Surrender is a sweet thing (Dear self, remember this always!). October, you were good for our souls!

My October Monthly Goals Progress:

— Throw off everything that hinders me and aim my arrows at doing life the way He wants me to. / This looked like trusting in His power over my own. There were significant walls placed in front of us in October with work and family, and He broke down every one in His perfect timing and unexpected ways. I am still a little speechless about it all!
— Enter into the most wonderful season of service and joy with our team and the good work He has blessed us with! / The 2019 PowerSheets are here and we have had a lot of fun as a team, feeling fired up about our work and mission! It has been a joy to serve you and so many women over the last two weeks.
— Share why I have the hope I have. / I loved this goal! Yes, I was thankful to share on several occasions.
— Bring the life of God to our children, which starts with us flourishing in faith. / Sally Clarkson shared something this week that stuck with me: “Little girls need to see big faith.” The little girls and boy in this house got to see that this month, and I hope those seeds take root. They saw and heard us pray through hard things, rejoice and praise in good things, and ask for forgiveness when we messed up. It was a good month of growing in faith for all of us.
— Get into a rhythm with homeschool. / Yes! Aside from a couple of missed days from sicknesses, we made good progress this month. I am SO grateful for this. The Cultivated Homeschool Planner has been a game changer for me.

Fun at Vollmer Farm with the kiddos!

October Weekly Goals:

— Take care of our temples of the Holy Spirit. Ari expressed wanting to grow in balance and wellness, and I want to teach our kiddos healthy habits too. We’ve already started cooking lessons with the kiddos, including knife skills for Grace so she can prepare fruits and vegetables in the kitchen. Here’s a great video we watched to learn the basics! / Yes! Progress here on all fronts. Little by little steps add up!
— Pray for a *few* friends. / I was not as diligent about this as I had envisioned I would be. I prayed for friends, but I think I would have done this more if I would have had my PowerSheets by my bed on the weekends to simply remember. Good lesson learned so I can adjust for future progress—and no goal guilt needed. : ) When you don’t make progress on a goal as you’d like, simply examine why and redirect for next time!
— All of them. / Yes! (Read my October goals post for more about this goal.) This was lived out on several occasions, namely our trip to the Farm! Even though I was sick for most of it, we really had a wonderful time making memories together. I hope to do this every year in October if the Lord allows us to. It was magical and simple retreat for us all. (Look up Vollmer Farm on AirBnB!)
— Believing a miracle happened in our lives and acting like it! Ari and I are not the same people we were several years ago. The heart and life change we’ve experienced is significant, but this fact is easy to forget in day-to-day life. I do not want to forget this. A miracle happened in our lives and remembering this spurs me forward to share the hope we have. His grace is a real thing and it changes everything! / Yes! Even something as simple as looking at old photographs together leaves us in awe of how much we have changed in the last 12+ years. Because of this, we have greater faith that more transformation can happen—in our lives and yours too!

They all LOVED the corn pit!

October Daily Goals:

— Bathe in the Word. I’m continuing my number one goal with this daily Bible reading using the Blue Letter Bible Chronological reading plan on YouVersion. / Yes! We’re so close to finishing the Bible! Yahoo!!!
— Seek Him in all things instead of doing them my way or without asking Him first. / This will always be a practice to keep, but I was especially grateful for the reminder to focus on this in October.
— Praise + joy! Working out with praise on my lips and joy in my soul! / Yes! There was a LOT of praise in October! I’ve already ramped up the working out part this month though—I slowed down a bit being sick.
— Speak restorative words. / Yes, and I found that the most restorative words are, as always, His. Several times I shared a scripture with someone and simply let it be—without adding any of my words too. The Word is powerful on its own!

Now to November! 

November Monthly Goals:

— God + goals – study it, live it, give it! This is my top priority for November. Oh, this goal has me so fired up, friends! More to come on this one!
— Retreat to pray. In order to do anything well this month, I know it will take time in prayer to listen. He turns worries into worship!
— Prayer-led podcast recording. I lost my voice for a good part of October, but I’m feeling better now and ready to record. The podcast will launch in December!

I asked Grace if she would like to write the encouraging words in my PowerSheets this month and this is what she wrote: “1 thing is good and that is God.” No better reminder! 🙂 

Weekly Goals:

— Make decisions from my identity. For example, I want to be a woman who has a life-giving home and a flourishing homeschool. So, what kind of decisions would I make as a person who wants those things? It’s a simple mind-shift that has changed several of my decisions this week.
— Gentleness and wonder with the kids. This includes a flourishing homeschool and intentionally planning simple experiences (like crunching in the fall leaves!) and holiday celebrations that leave them in awe of Him. I don’t have to manufacture or plan anything elaborate. I simply lead them to where they might experience wonder and let go!

Daily Goals:

— Chronological Bible. I’m continuing my number one goal with this daily Bible reading using the Blue Letter Bible Chronological reading plan on YouVersion.
— Workout + worship. Now that the weather is turning colder, we have not been able to walk as much outside in the mornings. It’s tricky sometimes to workout at home with three kiddos, but when I turn it into a praise party, we all get into it! (I may need to make a new workout playlist to accompany this goal—any suggestions?)

The pansies are in and the garden feels magical again—and it smells like a slice of Heaven!

Verses I’m loving for November:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

My help doesn’t come from things or accolades or being organized or money or anything you can see with your eyes—it comes from the God who made the stars. He’s ready to help you make what matters happen this month, too!

Your turn! What are your goals for November? 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 October’s winner, Lindsay!

P.S. Do you know those hurried days between Christmas and New Years when everyone scrambles to set goals? We don’t do that around here! Instead of microwaving your goals like the rest of the world, let’s slow cook them. Join me December 3-7 for PowerSheets Prep Week! I’ll walk you step-by-step through the PowerSheets Prep Work and Goal Action Plan pages to prepare well for 2019. I even have a brand-new five-part video series that will debut that week, just for you. Get your PowerSheets ordered now so you get them in plenty of time, and mark your calendar for a week of preparing well with us!

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Friends, this is a big month! The 2019 PowerSheets collection launches in 20 days (yahoo!!), we have two new websites coming, my podcast launches, etc., etc. Those things reflect months of prayer and hard work, but they are not the reason this is a big month.

This month is big because I’m seeing small things that have added up to the big things.

A lot of life feels like it happens to us, doesn’t it? There is little we can do about many of our circumstances in various seasons of life. But. But! Sometimes the small decisions that we can make are the ones that count the most. Are you ready for this? Did you know we make an average of 35,000 decisions a day? Those decisions, big and small, all have arrows attached to them, pointing us in one direction or another.

Photo by the amazing and wonderful Gina Z!

This month, I’m choosing to throw off everything that hinders me, and I’m aiming my decision arrows at doing life the way He wants me to. It has been the small things—little daily decisions made over time—that are adding up to the big things. With small but intentional decisions in our family routines, fueling the bodies and souls in this home, where I’m spending my time (and where I’m not, like social media for the most part), and the way I do everyday life with the Lord, I’m seeing fruit.

These changes and decisions haven’t come overnight, though; fruitful things often start long before the month we’re in—perhaps even years ago.

Take Big Rita, for instance. We let Big Rita, our giant pumpkin, loose from her vine a few days ago. Do you know how many years we tried to grow a giant pumpkin—or any pumpkin at all for that matter? Seven. Seven years, people! Year one: squirrels. Year two: yep, Nutty the Squirrel does it again. Year three: our baby pumpkin was run over by a car. Year four: too much rain. Year five: too much heat. Year six: I just don’t even know. Year seven: We switched seed varieties, and I got some advice from a wise farmer friend. Over these seven years of waiting and patience and waiting some more, the Lord was teaching us a beautiful lesson: all things (and life change) come in His perfect timing. We didn’t grow a giant pumpkin overnight—it grew us over the last seven years. She came right on time. (I even took her to MTH!)

Here’s a look back at September and what’s ahead this month…

Harvesting our purple potatoes was like a treasure hunt!

Between unexpectedly traveling home to Gulf Breeze, going under contract on our new space (totally unexpected—totally God—and too long of a story for this little blog post!), and officially starting the new homeschool year, September was full and good. There was a lot of praying and seeking Him.

My September Monthly Goals Progress:

— Seek Him. / Yes. As mentioned above. Having the Bible open all the time has helped me do this more than ever.
— Begin our cultivated homeschool year. / Yes! I also released my free downloadable Cultivated Homeschool Planner.
— Record the podcast. / Progress here! The intro has been recorded, podcast cover art has been designed, a name has been chosen, episode topics outlined, an editor has been hired, and now all I have to do is record content starting this week.
Prepare well for the 2019 PowerSheets launch. / In progress! We released the new covers yesterday!
— Love Josh + Sarah and my parents well on our trip to Florida. / We canceled this trip last-minute with hurricane Florence headed our way, then re-booked it last-minute again to escape the storm with the kids. It was a needed and refreshing trip!

Watching the sunrise on the beach with my buddies. : ) 

— Celebrate Rosh Hashana. / Yes! Apples and honey all around!
— Have a surrendered quarterly sabbath. / Yes! Out of all the action steps I took from the Cultivated Calendar teachings, this is the one I’m most grateful for. Last fall, I looked ahead at my 2018 calendar and went ahead and blocked off 3 days once a quarter to take off. Instead of letting my calendar dictate my life, I made the intentional decision to block off these days ahead of time. This has been helpful!
— Savor September. / Yes, and I am so grateful for my PowerSheets for reminding me of this goal. I had several moments with the kids that are etched in my brain now from stopping to savor them and give thanks to the God who make them happen.

— Prayerfully lead the 54th Making Things Happen Conference/ This was the highlight of my year. I have yet to post about it because it’s hard to put a life-changing experience into adequate words. It was incredible. All praise to Him! I love these ladies above! Photo by the delightful Rachel Coffey.

September Weekly Goals:

— Praise! / Yes! My weekly goal was simply to praise Him. In song, dancing around with the kiddos, on hikes, in conversation, in art, in words, in prayer—in as many ways as I could muster!

September Daily Goals:

— Chronological Bible. / I finished the Old Testament!!! My heart did cartwheels finishing Malachi and I actually felt sad about it. Then, I remembered I can read it again next year! I’m continuing my number one goal with this daily Bible reading using the Blue Letter Bible Chronological reading plan on Youversion.
— Strength + Joy / Progress was made here despite a neck injury that has been a little tricky. This is my goal to strength train. I do abs and some free weights here at home with the kiddos!

Now to October! 

October Monthly Goals:

— Throw off everything that hinders me and aim my arrows at doing life the way He wants me to. I’ll report back next month on what exactly this looked like for me! I want to walk the walk before I talk about it.
— Enter into the most wonderful season of service and joy with our team and the good work He has blessed us with!
— Share why I have the hope I have.
— Bring the life of God to our children, which starts with us flourishing in faith.
— Get into a rhythm with homeschool. The Cultivated Homeschool Planner has been a game changer for me. We have our plans, now it’s time to get into a consistent rhythm, try them out, and adjust as needed. So far, so great!

My quarterly PowerSheets goal refresh was right on time this week!

October Weekly Goals:

— Take care of our temples of the Holy Spirit. Ari expressed wanting to grow in balance and wellness, and I want to teach our kiddos healthy habits too—all with the aim of honoring the Lord and loving others well. We’ve already started cooking lessons with the kiddos, including knife skills for Grace so she can prepare fruits and vegetables in the kitchen. Here’s a great video we watched to learn the basics!
— Pray for a *few* friends. As I was praying and asking God what He wanted me to work on this month, He kept nudging me to be in deeper prayer for just a few close friends instead of praying lightly for a lot of friends. I will pray for whomever He tells me to, but I also love this challenge to pour my heart out for friends in need more than usual this month.
— All of them. I encourage you to word goals however they make the most sense to you—don’t worry about making them clear to everyone else. Case in point: this goal! “All of them” for me means a deeper commitment to cultivating the hearts in this home more than ever—and to celebrate the fruit we are already seeing.
— Believing a miracle happened in our lives and acting like it! Let me just go ahead and get this goal in motion right here and now. Friends, Ari and I are not the same people we were several years ago. The heart and life change we’ve experienced is significant, but this fact is easy to forget in day-to-day life. I do not want to forget this. A miracle happened in our lives and remembering this spurs me forward to share the hope we have. His grace is a real thing and it changes everything!

October Daily Goals:

— Bathe in the Word. I’m continuing my number one goal with this daily Bible reading using the Blue Letter Bible Chronological reading plan on YouVersion.
— Seek Him in all things instead of doing them my way or without asking Him first.
— Praise + joy! Working out with praise on my lips and joy in my soul!
— Speak restorative words. The idea of speaking restorative words came from a marriage class that Ari and I have been going through with our church. I want to practice this with everyone I meet! The words we share have the potential to change lives. 🙂

I love October!

Verses I’m loving for October:

Hebrews 12:1-3 has my heart right now, specifically the words “throw off everything that hinders.”

And this one… ‘Agree with God and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from His mouth, and lay up His words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored: If you remove wickedness far from your tent and assign your nuggets to the dust, your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines, then the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you. Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty and will lift up your face to God. You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows. What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways’ (Job 22:21-29).

My little buddy learning rock, paper, scissors from one of our good friends at a wedding we had the joy of attending last week! These little moments in life are the best!

Your turn! What are your goals for October? 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 September’s winner, Meghann! Bonus giveaway: Take a guess at how much Big Rita weighs and whoever gets the closest will win some of our new shop products that launch on October 24th!

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