Feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed in this second week of the year? This post is just for you! I’m finding so much freedom in breaking lots of “rules” this week, growing slow, and taking January to test the waters with my goals. Who made up the rule that we have to make perfect progress on our goals right from January 1st? Who says you can’t try different ways to cultivate your goals—or quit things that aren’t working? Who told us we have to follow a plan that fits in a box? Here’s the truth: there are a million ways to grow a garden, and everyone’s soil is completely unique! In the same way, how you cultivate your goals will be unique too.
But, if something isn’t working, or you aren’t feeling motivated with your goals, try one of these three things:
1. Push through and give it a fighting chance. I’m gonna pull some North Carolina history out on you: the Wright Brothers. They changed history through their persistence in failure. It takes time to move from what feels like hard work (which most things feel like when you are just starting them), to feeling like you’re in a groove.
2. Consider that your goal might need some changing. Is your goal rooted in what really matters? If not, it might be the reason you aren’t motivated! Don’t know for sure? Use these questions to help you.
3. Redirect! If an action step, routine, system, or something you are doing to cultivate your goals truly isn’t helping you, it might be an indication that you need to redirect! Try something else. It’s okay to jump ship on things that simply aren’t working.
(More in my weekly Facebook live here – mark your planner for next week’s at noon EST!)
Here are ten more things to motivate you for the week ahead, helping you make little-by-little progress on what matters!
1. Make things happen. I’m putting this as number 1 because it’s big news for us around here! I’ve done the Making Things Happen conference 51 times over the last NINE YEARS (that blows me away). This experience continues to change as I do, and it just keeps getting better! So, here’s the news. We have done it twice-yearly here in Chapel Hill, NC, for the last few years, but 2017 is different. We decided yesterday that, for many reasons (including out 10th anniversary issue coming out that same month, 2018 PowerSheets launching, and me starting to homeschool Grace in the fall) we’re only doing it once in 2017–this March! It’s coming up fast, and I would love to have you there. If you’ve done the PowerSheets, or enjoyed the goal setting series, or my book, you will love “MTH,” as we call it! Spend two days with me and some seriously inspiring ladies, uncovering good goals, and making a solid action plan. This conference is unlike any other, which is probably why it’s been around for so long! It’s truly for anyone—mom, student, business owner, have goals, or have no idea what your goals are—who wants to take life to the next level. Have a leap of faith you’re considering? MTH is for you. The early-bird rate ends in a couple weeks (over $1000 off), and we do have payment plans available if you need one. This is your year!
2. Become a goal digger. This play on words always makes me giggle. When I was little, we often visited Las Vegas, but don’t get any casino pictures in your head—there was none of that. My dad’s parent’s lived there in the desert. We’d go to an old Western town when we visited, and they let you pan for gold. I loved exploring and sifting through the rocks with my little brother! But, I digress… this podcast is not about Western adventures, but about “Goal Setting for People Who Hate Goal Setting.” I hope it encourages you! Listen in.
3. Know that good things come from hard things. I shared some of our adoption story, and more about the hard season of wanting to quit my business, on the God Centered Mom podcast.
4. Kill comparison, and make real progress. So, this is a funny story. A loooong time ago, I bought a stuffed chicken (not the stuffed-with-spinach edible variety) for Grace from Sevenly.org. I was intrigued by the mission of this company, and one of it’s co-founders, Dale Partridge, was only 25 years old when they launched! He went on to great successes, including writing one of our favorite business books, People Over Profit. I was so grateful to chat with Dale last week on the StartupCamp podcast about how to kill comparison and make real progress.
5. Don’t wait. After selling out two weeks ago, and getting a flood of emails and requests, we opened pre-orders on Wednesday for a small batch of six-month undated PowerSheets. But, don’t wait till you get your set to dig into good goals! Start small or start big; just make sure you start somewhere. Good goals aren’t about having the right planner, or pens, or kicking off on January 1st. Good goals are about stewarding what you’ve been given well, and you don’t need any thing (or perfect timing) to do that! Yes, we want you to get your PowerSheets if you choose, but more importantly, we don’t want you to waste away these first six months by waiting! Today, tomorrow, or even February 1st could be your January 1st.
6. Tend it to grow it. Here are my January goals above. This page was blank until a couple days ago, and for me, it was perfect timing! Like I said earlier, who made the rule that you have to follow a schedule to make what matters happen, or start right on the first day of the month? With all the loose ends that needed tying, and changes around here, I intentionally waited to set my January goals till now. I’m so grateful I did! One of the cornerstones of the PowerSheets is the monthly Tending List that allows you to break down your bigger goals. These are well-thought-out seeds I’m planting, and tending, little-by-little as I start this new year. (Apparently I love our new sticker book a whole lot!) Several people have asked me what “Cultivated Calendar” means. I have a post in the works about setting up an intentional yearly calendar. More to come!
7. Join me live on the 25th. I’ll be joining a great group of ladies for the Creative Hub Conference, and kicking this virtual conference off on January 25th at 5pm EST. (My dear friend Carrie was super kind to allow me to speak at 5 so I could still put the kids to bed!) This live online workshop goes from January 25-27th, with 14 other great speakers. If you want to learn more about goal setting, business strategies, blogging, and so much more than be sure to sign up.
8. Eat healthy in 2017. Here’s some serious advice about eating healthy from my favorite school principal, Gerry Brooks. And if you need some exercise motivation too, I’ve got you covered. You’re welcome. ; )
9. Tell me your story. One of my four goals is to live a year of radical gratitude and praise. The act of expressing gratitude invites contentment to take root. You guys. These stories you shared with me this week about what you are grateful for are so inspiring and motivating! Wow!
Your turn! What motivates you? Do you have a goal you’re stuck on? Did one of these tips give you a boost? I’d love to hear from you!
P.S. Texas friends, this is for you! I’ll be on Beacon Radio tomorrow (Saturday) between noon CST and 1pm! Listen in on KSLR.com (AM630 in South Texas). I loved chatting with host Steve Teel, and I especially love that the reason he reached out to me is that his young daughter uses PowerSheets! (Hi, Samantha!)
Want to listen to this post instead of read? Here you go!
Welcome to the final post in my sixth-annual Goal Setting Series! Each year, I am left in awe of the leaps of faith you take as we go through this process together, and this year tops them all. I am reading every comment and am so excited for your year ahead. You are doing the hard work, making a mess, and making meaningful progress! You are on fire! For me personally, this has been (I can’t believe I’m saying this about goal setting) delightful! I’m so grateful for how this process has been refined over the last six years. What a joy to do this work alongside you! If you are just joining, it’s never too late to begin and you aren’t “behind” one bit. Now is the best time to get started.
Okay, now let’s do some dreaming together! Imagine it: the end of 2017. The weather gets colder, December 2017 rolls around, and you start looking back at the year you’ve just lived. What would it take for you to look back and know that you cultivated what mattered? What will you wish you had started today? Fill in the blanks below (get your free printable here!):
Knowing where you want to be at the end of 2017, what do you need to cultivate today? Literally today. My friend Lysa says that every decision we make has an arrow attached to it, pointing us in one direction or another. Your decision arrows have the power to fly through all the distractions and fear and hit the target, OR they can float around and miss it completely. However many hours or minutes are left as you read this (even if you are reading this in bed), how can you shoot one of your decision arrows in the right direction?
I want my decision arrows aimed right at the target. That’s what being intentional is all about.
I made some decisions, aiming my arrows at the target, as I finished my 2017 PowerSheets and this goal uncovering process. The goals I’m about to share with you may seem simple, but they are boldest scariest goals I’ve ever written. I have great hope in these goals, knowing that God can change everything on my path. And you know what? His plans have always been better than mine. I’m up for it.
I’m willing to sit in the restlessness and tend to these goals little by little to get to the end of this year knowing I stewarded what I’ve been given well—not perfectly, but well. Making decisions with focused arrows attached to them will be worth it. The tending and watering, waiting, getting messy, and awkward growing stages in between will be worth it!
I’m all in.
Maybe you are feeling the same hesitation-scary-I’mALLin feeling with me right this second! Maybe it makes you feel a little uneasy, like you’re stepping into the unknown. Let’s step forward together, believing in what we can’t yet see. I’m choosing faith over my fear and I invite you to take the leap with me. Let’s take some steps forward and, little by little, the fear part will dry up. We’re not going to fertilize the fear this year, friend! Are you with me?
Let’s decide to take action on goals that cut through all the things to get to the things that matter.
If you feel hesitant to set goals, remember this my dear, passionate, capable, inspiring friends: you were created to grow and change. We are always “in progress.” Your goals may do the same! As you grow, your goals may shift. As you go through different seasons, your priorities may change. As you learn new lessons, and take on new life responsibilities, your capacity to do different things may change. So, as you write out your goals, remember that you don’t have to set them for the calendar year. Set them for just this season ahead, and refresh your goals every few months. This is why I put a Goal Refresh in the PowerSheets for every season. We were created for seasons. This gives me so much freedom in knowing that these don’t have to be forever, and I hope it encourages you too!
Ahhhh!!! I’m so ready!
Write out your goals using these helpful prompts. I call this the Cultivate What Matters Method. Here are some tips for each prompt help you:
– Goal: Your words don’t have to be perfect. Just write the goal in whatever words you have! We’re just WRITING here, not doing anything about it yet. So, be brave and get the words out! – Why?Remember by training clients who came to me with arbitrary goals? We aren’t doing that. Write out why you want to cultivate your goal, and connect it to something that really means something to you. – The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others:How will this goal change you and others? Think of the biggest possibilities here—the most profound positive impact this goal could have. Even if your goal feels “small,” write out the big possibilities! This can be a huge motivating factor when you define the possibilities. – How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: Imagine it. You made progress, finished your goal, or made it to a milestone. How will that feel? Remember: focus on progress, not perfection! – Starting steps:I used to write out “action steps,” but after listening to thousands of women tell me how stuck they felt in starting things that mattered to them, I realized that the most important steps were the first ones. So, write out some very small starting steps. You’ll see my examples below! – How I will know I accomplished or made progress on this goal:Most of my goals don’t have an “end” date, but it’s important to be able to measure your progress somehow. How will you know you made progress on this goal? Write out some ideas. – Encouraging words:Give yourself a strong pep talk, encouraging words, or a Bible verse to go with each goal. – How I will celebrate at the end of 2017:Writing this out helped me so much this year! One of my 2016 goals was to pray. A lot. Without ceasing. And the way I envisioned celebrating at the end of 2016 was to, “paint my answered prayers on Christmas Day on a big canvas for our living room with Grace. I already have the canvas. I’m teary-eyed thinking about this!” Well, at Grace’s request, we started early in the fall. And we didn’t use paints, we used pressed flowers. Here’s what we created!
Photo by my dear friend Gina Zeidler
We pressed flowers from our garden and special milestones all year—in cookbooks, Bibles, and anything that had pages! Then, we used some Mod Podge and sealed these onto the canvas. It is so special! Better than we could have imagined. This reminds us of God’s faithfulness and so many answered prayers through each season of this year. I love it so much.
Okay, let’s write out some 2017 goals! Are you ready?
Here are my 2017 Goals for this year of LIGHT (and I can’t wait to hear yours too!):
You’ll see here that some of my prompts are still undone and in-progress. If you don’t have an answer yet, that’s okay! But, don’t get stuck because of fear of your plans or answers not being perfect. For me, some of these things I genuinely don’t know yet, and I’ll wait on God to tell me!
Goal 1: Read the whole Bible again. Like I told you in Part 3, I did this once before, over the course of a year and a half. I didn’t use a fancy reading plan, I just looked at the number of pages in each book of the Bible, and divided them over the course of a year. I put the names of each book I was supposed to read during each particular week on my iCal calendar, and that’s how I stayed on track. It took me longer than I thought, but it was worth it! Every bit of my reading was worth it.
Why? I want to grow my faith by going straight to the source—getting to know more about God Himself. I want to know more of the big picture of His story. I want my mind to be filled with light and truth, so I can live it.
The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others: When I am filled with truth, I am also filled with PEACE. I don’t worry as much or feel fear about my circumstances. This helps everyone around me (my family, team, friends) to feel steadfast calm too. I’ll know more of God’s wisdom to be able to walk in the light. As my faith grows, I’ll be able to share the fruit of my faith with my children and others. There are endless positive effects this goal could have!
How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: Lord willing, peaceful, more assured, and more mature in my faith.
Starting steps: 1. Open the Bible and look at the lengths of each book again. 2. Open my iCal and plot out what I could realistically read each week. 3. Pray about having the diligence to complete my reading each week, not for the sake of completing it, but to grow closer to God.
How I will know I accomplished or made progress on this goal: I will, Lord willing, see the fruit of this goal in my life, and in turn in the lives of others.
Encouraging words: Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105 ESV
How I will celebrate at the end of 2017: I may not finish this by the end of this calendar year, but I will celebrate my progress by… I’m not sure! Anyone have ideas?
Goal 2: Run, and finally get back into weight training. The former personal trainer in me was a little ashamed of this at first, but as I was writing this I got excited—because I know how quickly strength can be gained! I haven’t had a gym membership since Grace was born, and I haven’t done real weight training in just as long. I used to love being in the gym, and feeling strong. But, the logistics with kids and the gym just haven’t worked out. More on how I’m going to make this work in a minute. This is a goal I didn’t want to write on the blog, because it means y’all are going to keep me accountable, and this one is tricky. But my why is worth taking this leap…
Why? So many reasons! I will live longer, healthier, and more at peace. When I am strong, I’m able to be active with my kids. When my body is healthy and strong, my mind feels the same. Also, I am nearing 40 and feeling my body changing. It’s time to steward well what the Lord has given me.
The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others: I may have more energy, better focus, and more endurance to love on the people around me well. That’s exciting!
How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: SO grateful I leaned into the tension I felt in finally starting this goal, and excited for another year ahead of little-by-little progress.
Starting steps: Since getting to a gym isn’t in the cards with all these kiddos in the mornings, I’m committing to doing this at home with some free weights. My first action step is to ask you for suggestions on other at-home training gear (preferably that doesn’t take up much space!). My second action step is to open my iCal, and write in a gentle plan to ease into weight training again, focusing on large muscle groups and core strength. I’m going to write out a new plan each six weeks based on where I am.
How I will know I accomplished or made progress on this goal: I will break this goal down in my monthly PowerSheets pages so that I have measurable milestones to hit, enabling me to track my progress here. Overall though, I will know I made progress by my physical strength and endurance growing over time, and the fruit of my hard work coming out in my interactions with my family.
Encouraging words: (A pep talk to myself!) You did this many times before, Lara! Your body can easily adapt. With His strength, you can gain strength!
How I will celebrate at the end of 2017: The first thing that comes to mind is going on a celebratory family run with the kids in the jogging stroller. I would love ideas here too!
Goal 3: Live a year of radical gratitude and praise. I will keep this plain and simple: I have been doing a lot of complaining lately. Something I realized when writing my upcoming book, Cultivate, is that complaints are clues. They reveal to us places in our hearts where we don’t trust in God’s goodness, or His power. This hit me hard, and it has made me want to do something rather big about it.
Why? To grow my faith like never before! And because when I complain, I’m teaching Grace and our children that God isn’t good or faithful. Ugh. Words have power. I want to use my words well, to grow good things!
The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others: Lord willing, my heart will change as I choose words that are life-giving. I’ll teach my children so much in this. And in the times I mess up, I’ll get to show them what grace looks like.
How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: So good. I know I’ve said the same thing for all of my goals so far, but this will be incredibly satisfying to see God’s word at work in my heart!
Starting steps: One of my monthly goals for January is to memorize scripture about speaking life-giving words, where good words come from, and about gratitude and contentment. Breaking this down, here are my starting steps: 1. Open up BibleGateway.com and look up scriptures. 2. Copy and paste them into a Word doc. 3. Print two copies – one for my desk, and one for the refrigerator where I will see it often. 4. Put a date on my calendar to have a scripture recital party : ) I’ll give the paper to Ari and Grace, and they can tell me if I memorized them correctly. I’ll leave it up to them on how we’ll celebrate if I do!
How I will know I accomplished or made progress on this goal: I hope and pray I’ll see a wave of gratitude and contentment sweep through our whole house! I hope to see the fruit of this goal in the words we all use with each other. The possibilities are so exciting to me!
Encouraging words: Well, these are more convicting words, but they do encourage me to take action on this goal. This scripture (“do everything without grumbling'”), this one (“out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”), and this one too (bridle your tongue)!
How I will celebrate at the end of 2017: This is where I want to do something big—something radical to make this year different from any other.I want to celebrate God’s faithfulness each month, and also at the end of the year. I’m still praying on this and will come back and update you when my plan is formed!
*This goal is a great example of how this goal uncovering process simplifies life! As I looked through all my goal ideas, I realized many of my smaller goals were a part of a bigger picture. Too often, we focus narrowly on tasks, projects, or reaching milestones and forget why we are doing them in the first place. We lose motivation this way! So, here’s an example of how to group several things together under one big picture that motivates you! I’ll be breaking this goal down into monthly goals, weekly goals, and daily goals throughout the year in my PowerSheets.
Goal 4: Cultivate our life-giving home. This includes homeschooling Grace in the fall, living with less, living in a life-giving space, implementing a plan for the office to semi-transition out of our house, growing our marriage, and planting a family legacy within the seemingly-mundane everyday routines of life, and the bigger celebrations of life (holidays, traditions, milestones) too. P.S. My friend Sally wrote a beautiful book about cultivating a life-giving home that I highly recommend! Also, you can catch our live broadcast together here.
Why? Our home is the center of where our children’s hearts are shaped. I want this to be a home that allows them to see God at work—in the small and in the big things.
The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others: Cultivating our life-giving home will hopefully be a blessing not just to our family, but to many others!
How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: We will feel more family unity, and will have cultivated a strong family narrative of faithfulness, love, and joy. This will feel Tony-the-Tiger grrrrrrrreat!
Starting steps: 1. I brought my Life Handbook with me on this trip and I can’t wait to write out our family traditions in it! So, step number one is to open my Life Handbook after the kids go to sleep tonight, and write in just one page. Start small with these starting steps friends! 2. Open my iCal and put a homeschool start date on the calendar! Ahh!! 3. Pray about our office space. (Prayer is an action step!) 4. Put “preparation days” on my iCal for holidays and celebrations. There’s much more here, but I’ll be working it out in my PowerSheets, one step at a time!
How I will know I accomplished or made progress on this goal: This is multi-faceted. I will have a plan in place for homeschooling Grace by the spring and a space to do it in. We’ll have gone on more date nights together (we went on two this year with all of our family transitions, so anything more will be a huge win!). I will do more intentional preparation for holidays and celebrations, allowing us to have meaningful remembrances of God’s faithfulness.
Encouraging words: “All people need a place where their roots can grow deep and they always feel like they belong and have a loving refuge. And all people need a place that gives wings to their dreams, nurturing possibilities of who they might become.” – Sally Clarkson
How I will celebrate at the end of 2017: We’ll have a special, simple meal at the end of 2017, and talk about all we are grateful for from the year—all that God grew in our lives and in our home.
There you have it! My four goals as I begin this new year. I just let out a sign of relief. How these goals will play out over the next weeks will be more specific as I do my monthly PowerSheets pages, but I am so grateful for this process and clarity! I know where I’m going.
Love this series? Please share it with friends!
Whether you came up with two goals or twenty, I hope you feel more focused on what matters most having done each step alongside me! I am excited to check in with you here on the blog throughout the year to see how you are doing and encourage you. Tell me in the comments: what are your 2017 goals?
Lastly, thank you! Thank you for joining me on this journey. I am going to be reading every blog comment here and cheering you on. Taking this little by little has been worth it and I am praying you find the same is true for you. Choose to focus on progress—little by little progress—not perfection. Your seemingly small steps forward today will add up, and a year from now, you will be so grateful you started today! Get messy and make it happen, friend!
Happy New Year from us today!
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 in this series—I can’t wait to hear your answers! 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!
Enter below and be sure to leave your answers to each step as you go through the series with me!
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.)
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!
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
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 well. But you can choose to cultivate what matters, right where you are.
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!
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!
– Family (including your significant other, if applicable)
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.
STEP TWO: Watch this video (or at least the first 30-ish seconds) that some of my closest friends and I made for you…
What have you been chasing recently, or in the last year? Do you feel like you are “chasing perfect” in some ways—attempting to measure up to an impossible standard? Write or type here what you have been chasing, and how that has been making you feel. Maybe you’ve been chasing success, significance, or approval. Maybe you’ve been trying to keep up, survive, or just get through. Whatever you’ve been chasing, name it boldly and know that you are not alone. To name your chase is to destroy it.
STEP THREE: In traditional goal setting, you focus on the future, and on achieving your goals as fast as humanly possible. That is a recipe for b.u.r.n.o.u.t. I’ve done it many times in the past, and it’s no bueno. But! Uncovering really good goals means learning from the past in order to cultivate what’s next. The past has a lot to teach us! Let’s take a look back at the last year.
What good things happened in 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.
– 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.
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!
Photo 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.
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!
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:
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.
Photo 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!
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!
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!
Pssst! Head to this post to find out if you’re a lucky winner!
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!
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. 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. It didn’t happen overnight or without buckets of painful decisions and facing my mess in the mirror and then… having it ALL covered in grace.
Hi, friends! Welcome back to Part 2 of 2015 Goal Setting. If you are new, be sure to read Part 1 here to get started. Today we are going to step into the imperfect to cultivate what matters together. Ready?
STEP FOUR: If you stopped chasing “perfect”—or whatever you’ve been chasing that is wearing you out— how would your life change? What does your perfectly imperfect “Messy 2016” look like? And… what if you stepped into this year armed with buckets of grace?
Grace upon grace.
As my friend Emily says, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perection.” What would that look and feel like for you? Would it be scary at first? Freeing? Both?
My Messy 2016 is about letting go of control. It will look like more listening because I won’t be so rushed–and I won’t be rushing everyone else. (A tip: Write “will” instead of “would” as you share your answers. This will help you commit to making it happen!) I will be able to hear and see more of the blessings right in front of me. Like right now. Ari and I have been up since 3am with two sick littles, which is why this post is so late getting up. But we are choosing to rejoice in the mess anyway! They may have thrown up all over the bed (and us), but they are still loving each other right now.
My Messy 2016 looks like a family of six because I count our expectant mama as part of our forever family too. Having a child with a different skin color than us may bring questions from strangers and friends… but so many opportunities to share the gospel and His love story in this little one’s life. We are so grateful! My Messy 2016 looks like passionately loving my husband and encouraging him in his faith. It looks like praying a lot. On my knees. In the kitchen. In my office. In the car and the shower and on the floor of my closet. (Watch this movie, by the way. It changed our marriage and faith in the span of an hour. And use code MOVIE75OFF for 75% off your rental from now till Monday!) My Messy 2016 looks like stepping away from a growing business more to sow love into my family. It looks like homeschool prep, playing outside, nursing two littles round the clock, not sleeping a whole lot, giving a whole lot more, saying no, and letting go of the need to have a plan all the time. It looks like simple faith and being small (I love my friend Val’s post today.) It looks like less stuff so I have less to clean up in our house. It looks unrushed and undistracted and gloriously full of life.
“Because a messy house is better than a messy heart. And my heart was messy. Mucked up with distractions and misplaced priorities. I retreated to the back porch to be with Jesus. I let the breeze touch my skin. Let His Word fill up the rooms in my mind. Prayer pierced through my preoccupation with self and soon praise poured from my lips. And the miraculous thing? Time expanded. There was time to do the one thing needed and time to do most of the rest. And in the end, the undone stuff didn’t matter. There’s nothing wrong with a clean house—shiny sinks and sparkling toilets can speak love and hospitality when prepared unto God. But if I’m choosing between the state of my home and the state of my heart, I know the better choice.” These words from the Naptime Diaries Make Room devotional by Becky Keife have been ringing in my heart since early December.
My Messy 2016 is about giving up my PRIDE. So much pride. I like to fix things and keep things in order because I fear not being enough–or that things will fall apart. And when it comes down to it, that means I’m not trusting God. Wow, it’s freeing to do this goal uncovering work with you! The simple act of writing my honest thoughts helps me to see clearly, and I hope it does for you too. When I grasp the reins of control tightly, I edge out intentional, messy, purpose-filled, awe-filled living.
Do you know how you grow big fluffy beautiful peonies in your yard? You break through the soil, place the bulb in the ground with some nutrients, get your hands dirty as you cover it up, and besides watering in the hot months, you let go. You wait. You trust that God will provide sun and water and that the earthworms will aerate the soil.
You take a leap of faith. And you let God do His thing.
You trust that when the plant loses its greenery in winter, it will bloom again at just the right time. After winter always comes spring. I can’t force a peony to bloom in the winter when it’s dormant. The bulb needs to rest and transform and store up energy for spring. And when that bulb finally sprouts again and the booms unfurl, you get to drink in the ruffled petals and marvel at what making a mess and trusting can do!
Where do you need to let go in life and trust? What does your Messy 2016 look like? What if you coupled breaking new ground to plant good seeds AND letting go? Because, we can’t do it all and we don’t have to. We just have to plant good seeds, tend them well, and trust—as hard as it is! But, trying with all your soul, might, and strength to trust is worth it. It’s worth that moment when you surrender the reins and watch God cover your entire life in grace upon grace.
There is that popular phrase, “She believed she could, so she did.” I know a deeper truth. A freeing truth.
She believed she couldn’t, so He did.
Cultivating what matters means letting go, surrendering, trusting when everything feels impossible, and knowing that you don’t have to make it all happen. God wants to do extraordinary things through our surrendered hearts and hands.
Now, on to the next step! Every garden I’ve ever tended has had weeds. It’s not that I’ve planted them—they simply come compliments of the dirt. Appearing in different shapes and sizes, they will choke out what’s supposed to be growing if left unattended. So it’s important to address them. In the same way, to make things happen we must deal with the resident issues.
STEP FIVE: What hasn’t been working in 2015? What hindered you from living on purpose? 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 you could surrender to make completely new.
Comparison. I used to get very discouraged when I looked at other wedding magazines. I didn’t have their budgets or their stylists or their prop houses. When reading other people’s blogs, I would get depressed by comparing my writing, organizing, or business acumen to theirs. I would see happy couples, and though my marriage was improving greatly at the time, I resented all the mess my husband and I had to wade through. Other people were reading large portions of the Bible while I had a hard time reading two paragraphs of an e-mail without getting distracted. Other people were better, faster, smarter, and more successful, and their lives seemed perfect. Ugh! I wanted to be like them. Well, until God shed some light on this for me—a giant million-watt spotlight. Comparison is coveting. And I can see why God felt that strongly about it and forbade it in the Ten Commandments. Comparison makes me ungrateful, which is ignoring God’s gifts to me. When I want what everyone else has, I am blinded to the blessings right in front of me. Comparison isn’t only the thief of joy; it’s the thief of everything. If you are comparing your business, work, kids, marriage, finances, spiritual maturity, smarts, or __ [insert whatever it is for you]__ to those of any other human being on this earth, you will continue to chase your tail, and you will miss your life. I chased “big” and “more, more, more” and “the best” and “more followers” and—you get the picture—for way too long. Until all those things I had worked so hard to build by comparing myself to others started to crumble. Living on purpose turns comparison and coveting into compassion and cheering on. When you are living on purpose, it doesn’t matter what someone else’s journey looks like. All that matters is that you are going to the same place for eternity. You want to help other people get there. So why not be happy for people when they find success or joy or when something comes easier to them than it does to you? If God is glorified, the success is yours, too, my friend. We are all in this together.
Worry. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want. Seriously, God taught me a thing or two about this in 2015. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Luke 12:25. When you look back at the things you worried about this year, did the worry help you, or anyone around you? Me either.
Waiting for so long to deal with unresolved feelings or hard things. When you realize how broken you’ve been, and how much grace has lavished on your imperfections, you start to overflow with a desire to give that same grace to others. If I have been forgiven of so much junk, how could I hold forgiveness from another human being? In my maternity leave with Joshua, I did a lot of praying and read a lot of scripture in the sleepless nights. In all my reading and praying, I felt a strong pull to reach out to those I didn’t have the closest relationships with, and to reach out to new friends too! It was incredibly fruitful. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph 4:32
Once you have your list of what didn’t work in 2015, name three lessons you learned and an idea for what to do about it. For example, if you found yourself lost in worry a lot, perhaps the lesson is to cultivate trust more, little by little, and have a list of encouraging scriptures handy—on your desk, on your bathroom mirror, or by your bed—for times you feel worry coming on.
What about you? What challenges did you face this year and what did you learn from them? Perhaps you are still in the thick of some challenges and have no idea yet what they are supposed to teach you. That’s okay! Wherever you are, let’s share the hard things and encourage each other in them. Leave your thoughts in the comments and help encourage others as well.
STEP SIX: Who helped you cultivate what matters in 2015? Looking back at your list of what worked in 2015, 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 your own free printable and make your list here!
I don’t have a printer here at my parents house, so I had to type on mine. This is just one page of many for me!
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! Some examples from my list:
Gina. Gina and I have been friends for six years and I count her as my most prayerful friend. She has prayed fervently for my marriage, health, focus, family, adoption, and every aspect of my life! In that, I’ve been blessed by her genuine prayers, but also by her example as a prayerful faithful friend. She is also one of the only people who can get a genuine smile out of Ari on camera : )
Rhiannon. She loves our family generously and has become one of my closest friends. We pray, laugh, love, wipe runny noses, and change lots of diapers together. And we make each other tea on the many days that we just can’t do it all. Rhiannon, I praise Him for you every day!
Marcia and Talia. These two wise women are in our church family group, and have become dear friends and mentors to me. What’s unique about these women is that they fiercely pursue my faith. What does that mean? When Ari and I have a challenge in our marriage and I ask them to pray, they pray… and they call, they come over, they don’t let me get away with “I’m fine.”
Jess Connolly. Jess is a wise woman and has encouraged my faith greatly this year. I love reading her truthful words each day, and I am grateful to have her as a friend. Sometimes I wish I could show up at her door just to give her a bear hug and say, “Thank you for speaking truth today.”
Nicole. She wants to know the real answer when she asks how I’m doing each morning. She is a really good listener, and even though I have overloaded her with my big crazy ideas more than once this year, she has continued to pour out grace and joy. I’ve learned from her calm, positive, innovative, giving, and passionate spirit this year. I am so grateful to do my days with you, N!
I loved hearing all the things many of you did to encourage someone else in Part 1! I’d love to hear from you here too. How are you saying thank you to the people who have helped you to cultivate what matters?
OPTIONAL* BONUS STEP: Get visual! Let’s call this “2016 garden planning!” As a creative, visual person, imagery really lights my heart on fire more than anything. Great photographs and colors can make my heart sing and help me clarify my vision. 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 2016″ 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 and 2015. I’ll be pinning images for 2016 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 on Friday for Part 3. Friday’s post will be a single powerful step, and I can’t wait!
Need an extra kick in the pants? 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. One person who comments with answers to every step in this series will win a bonus prize: A (spiral bound) One-Year PowerSheets Workbook. Yep! I have two left in the office, and one of you is getting one! I’m determined to motive you to dig in with me on these powerful steps : )
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 13th. Winners will be announced on January 15th here on the blog. Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. Lots of digital prize options though for my international friends! 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!
Hi and welcome to the fifth annual Make It Happen Goal Setting series! This year is going to be a little different. And we are on the way to see my parents in Florida for the week as I type this, so forgive any typos!
First though, some news : )
After two years of praying, we have been chosen for our adoption. Lord willing, we will be welcoming our littlest girl in late February or early March (due March 6th). We are feeling all the feelings: excited, scared, nervous, and in awe of God’s plans. We are still in shock and don’t totally know how to feel yet, but every time Ari and I look at each other with the look of, How in the world are we going to take care of two babies and a busy Grace!?, we remind each other that it’s not about us. Never in a million years would we have envisioned adopting, or even having kids together, when we first met ten years ago. God had far better plans than us. He will equip us–and part of that might be breaking us along the way in order to build us back up again. Where we can’t, He can. Thank you to the countless friends who have been praying through our journey. We ask for your continued prayers as we prepare our hearts and home, prayers for our expectant mother, and for the little one growing inside of her. Thank you in advance for praying alongside us!
I lack a worthy transition here, but it still feels right in step. I’ve declared 2016, The Year of Getting Messy — embracing imperfect grace-filled progress. Why?Every time I have found myself chasing “perfect,” I’ve felt anxiety creep up. When I fear not being enough, I strive and try to control things, and it gets me nowhere. The chase for perfect—trying to rise to an unattainable standard—has been known to wake me up at 3am. It makes me a distracted mom, wife, and friend, because my head is somewhere else. I lose patience. I rush around trying to do it all. Everyone around me feels rushed too. I start to expect bad things to happen because life feels cattywompus and out of my control. I lose hours and days of my life to worry. I don’t use my days well. I wind up exhausted. When I find myself chasing perfect, I forget this truth: my worth doesn’t depend on someone else’s approval, or my own abilities, or an anything you can see with your eyes. Are you with me?
You can’t simultaneously do it all and do life well.
Let that sprout in your heart for a minute. You cannot do it all and do life well.
But you can choose to cultivate what matters. And that means letting go and making a mess at times.
Gardening without getting your hands dirty is like trying to run with your running shoes sitting pretty in your closet. I’ve tried this, stepping out into the tomato vines in white pants, thinking I’ll just pick a few fire-red fruits, prune a couple rogue vines, and walk away dirt-less. Doesn’t happen. No matter how hard I try. And you know what? I end up missing the JOY of what the garden calls me to: being fully present right where I am. Hands, heart, mind, feet — all of me present and grateful. Content in the mess. There is freedom in the imperfect, friend. I can’t hold my iPhone and plant seeds at the same time. Watering my zinnias doesn’t happen if I’ve got my head somewhere else. I end up watering the car or the pavement, wasting life-giving nutrients. Keeping my pants clean isn’t possible when pruning ‘matoes (as we call them). Have you seen the jungle of our yellow pear vines? They were over twenty feet tall this year! The garden begs for my full attention, and when I give it, the garden grows.
Planting seeds is risky. It’s putting our whole trust in something bigger than us. It’s letting go. I know that, to plant these seeds, I first have to stop and break through the ground. I have to get my hands dirty in the soil — and that takes two undistracted hands.
Getting messy—embracing imperfect progress and taking physical steps forward even though it’s risky and scary and unknown—that’s where the good stuff happens.
And that’s where we are starting this year. Together, we’re going to break through the hard ground of winter to plant good seeds. We’re going to step into the imperfect and have some fun! This is Grace-Filled Goal Setting, with open hands. Let’s invite in the mess and unearth the good stuff. Ready to choose purpose over perfect? Me too!
Here’s what you can expect in this series: I’m going to walk through a small sampling of the steps from my book and the PowerSheets, and some extras we’ve never done before!
If you are using the PowerSheets: Everything you need is in there! You’ll see some steps from the PowerSheets here in my blog series, but you have lots of extra steps too : ) UPDATED: If you missed out on the SOLD OUT PowerSheets, we just opened pre-orders for our next shipment! Get yours here.
If you are reading my book: It was written for this season of goal setting. Get messy and write all over your paperback copy. This book was designed to be an action book, not just a reading book. Section Four is the Action Guide that walks through faith-based goal setting steps. You can order a copy here in paperback, e-book, Kindle, or audiobook. If you are blogging your Make it Happen journey, you can get lots of free downloadable graphics to use here.
Speaking of downloads, I asked my publisher if I could give you a free download of the first part of my book to encourage you in your goals this year, and they said yes! Thank you, team Thomas Nelson! Download it HERE. Enjoy : )
If you are using both the Make It Happen book + PowerSheets together: I designed them to work together. This is the best combo. When you get to Section Four of the book, work through the PowerSheets along with that section. Up to you, though! You can do this however you like.
Do you need either of these to have an intentional year? No, but my prayer is that these tools help you. If you do this blog series and only have scrap paper handy to write your answers, that’s great too : ) It’s not about the perfect stuff, it’s about how you USE what you have.
Take action.This is the key to this series. As we go through each step together, use the comment area here to leave your answers or write them in your PowerSheets or a journal. But, don’t just think them. 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! And if you need an extra kick in the pants to make it happen, I have a giveaway at the end that might encourage you : )
STEP ONE: What have you been chasing? 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 TWO: How are you? Vulnerability is where change begins. In order to leap into the new, we first must know where we are leaping from. The golden question: How are you? Allow yourself to be vulnerable and write or say the things that feel sticky. Your worries today can directly affect what you write next, so don’t shove them under the table. Acknowledge them. Reply in the comments, or on paper right now.
And don’t get stuck in the negative soil. Have grace with yourself and think about what you’re grateful for in each category along with the challenges! Include thoughts about what is good in each area, too! For instance, as for my feelings about money: I have become more skilled at managing money, but I’ve been challenged by contentment and emotional spending.
Here are some prompts to help you (and a free printable here!):
Be still with your feelings—whatever they may be—without trying to change them or push them away immediately. Let’s get to know the ground you’ll be planting in. Maybe it needs some new soil or fresh nutrients. Whatever it is, evaluate where you are first in order to know how to leap to what’s next!
STEP THREE: What worked in 2015? Now let’s take a look back at the last year. 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:
1. 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. (I made some free Celebration Meal printables for you in cool colors here or warm colors here!)
2. Take a look back at your calendar, blog posts (if you blog), social media updates, or photos. Those might give you a clue into some of the highlights you’ve forgotten.
3. As you reflect on the good things this past year, say thank you to those people who were a part of them. Whether through texts, e-mails, phone calls, or physical letters, make gratitude happen! If you want a special gratitude letter to send to the people you love, print one out here.
Here is my own list from my PowerSheets, and a few extras I uncovered going through my calendar and talking to Ari : )
– This was my first year with a new name, and I am so grateful to be Mrs. Isaacson!
– I began the year pregnant with Joshua and we became active in our adoption process.
– I can’t believe it’s been a year since I released Make it Happen. I wasn’t prepared for the post-book PR push, but I learned a lot and am grateful for it.
– We decided to partner with Love One Another Project. We love you, Carol and Brian!
– The Office Reno happened!
– In January, we began interviewing for a new team member. More on how that turned out at the end of this list, because it took up till last Friday!
– Ari and I did an eight-week Marriage Dynamics class through our church, and it was awesome.
– We released a new shop website and brand in February!
– IF local was life-changing.
– Our local community of friends was incredible this year. So many new relationships cultivated through our family group, “Tuesday” group, mamas group (I love you Alison, Kayte, Emily, Andrea, Bryce, Lauren, Natalie, Janel, Marie, and Andrea!), Ladies Bible Bunch and lots more.
– The garden. I don’t have words. I planned to do more flowers this year, knowing I wouldn’t be able to prune tomatoes and care for as many veggies with a new baby this year. It was glorious. The bees and butterflies and goldfinches were magical!
– The Making Things Happen Conference. I can’t even call it a conference anymore. It’s an experience, and this year—both in the spring and fall—it was life-changing.
– We led our annual Passover dinner together, which has been such a joy the last few years. I love seeing Ari teach and I double love how much Grace loves Passover!
– I did a Skype call with Anne Austin and her girl scout troupe. It was my favorite “speaking” I’ve done all year. Anne, you are a gift and I hope Grace grows up to be as joy-filled and focused on the Lord as you are!
– Blogging my goals and PowerSheets progress definitely worked. It kept me accountable! Goal progress: March, April, May, June, July, August.
– This was a milestone year for me with Southern Weddings. There was no way around this, but I had a baby right as our busiest season with magazine prep began. I’ve done layout for each issue and image selection every year… except this one. I had to let go, trust, and I prayed for my team. God listened and they created what I think is our best issue yet! I hadn’t even seen a proof until the week before we went to press. Nicole knocked it out of the park with design, Emily and Lisa created some of the most meaningful content I’ve ever seen or read, and Marissa and Kristin brought the issue to life with our best sponsor pages ever. It’s just so good and I am so grateful!
– In the summer, I got a call from Lysa TerKeurst that changed everything. She brought her team over to my house and we learned and shared and a friendship sprouted. Lysa is someone I greatly admire for her business acumen and deep love for God. That first meeting with her team changed the way we do business, and it encouraged me to keep going with my writing. Thank you, Lysa!
– Our second-annual Team Retreat was powerful
– I could write an entire blog post about this, but Lisa’s wedding was a highlight of my year.
– And then Em told us she was pregnant during a staff meeting. I am pretty sure I threw my phone across the room (accidentally!) in joy! She is going to be such a great mom.
– We took a family trip to Jamaica and I read Interrupted. Both of these things changed us. See here.
– In the way back from Jamaica, God had a little surprise. Right as we got through US customs, I heard, “Lara!!!” Low and behold, there was Renee Swope. This was such a God thing. I had just told Ari that I wished I had a mentor and someone to encourage me in my writing. He brought me Renee. We have become dear friends and she has most definitely encouraged me. I love you friend!
– Fruitful Summer! It. Was. Awesome. I enjoyed creating and living this summer series about relationships so much. You can download the entire 100+ page magazine after signing up for my newsletter in the sidebar of this blog : )
– Nicole and I spent countless hours redesigning, testing, and dreaming about the 2016 PowerSheets. This was the first year we incorporated color, offered a bound version, offered full year versions, added stickers, and I rewrote and changed literally every page to make it even more fun and meaningful. We had no idea we would sell out so fast. We couldn’t order more in time for the new year, so if you missed out this year, do this series and grab a copy of my book. And be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter so you are the first to know when the 2017 PowerSheets are available in the fall! UPDATED: If you missed out on the SOLD OUT PowerSheets, we just opened pre-orders for our next shipment! Get yours here.
– I spoke at the Influence Network’s Creative Women’s Summit. This was humbling. I was nervous to speak alongside Lysa and Jess who are seasoned and gifted speakers. I sat on a stool on stage with my notes and Joshua in my belly and did my best, but I left feeling like speaking just wasn’t my thing. I felt doubt and lack and I had to let go and sit in those feelings of inadequacy. I was reminded once again of Moses. Moses is my homeboy. He felt inadequate and told God he couldn’t speak to Pharaoh. I feel you Moses! But, God helped him and history changed because of it. God used an imperfect man to lead an entire people to freedom. I’m no Moses, but we serve the same God who makes the impossible possible. That speaking experience reminded me that it’s not about my ability; it’s about His power.
– I really enjoyed the consulting and coaching I did this year. I got to know some incredible women, and saw their businesses and lives soar!
– Come summer, we were still deep in the interview process. We had gone through over 300 resumes and done over 30 interviews by that point. But, we still hadn’t found the right match. So we started over and reposted the job description with new details! I prayed and prayed and prayed some more that God would bring the right person to us. His answer was completely unexpected! More in a bit…
– Blueberry picking in, Grace’s love of swimming, being out in the garden, hosting house church in July, new friends, time with friends on my couch talking about life and praying together, and summer BBQ’s including a memorable team dinner — all worked. I love summer in Chapel Hill!
– I haven’t shared this yet, but it’s worth noting. TLC was interested in doing a TV show about our little office. The production company was lovely and kind and it seemed like a wonderful and meaningful fit, but we decided to say no and stay small. I am grateful for that decision. Our lives and lifestyles might have changed in a way that would alter the sweetness of our company culture, and we didn’t want that to happen. : )
– After years of this season being bananas in my house with boxes and people helping us pack orders, something had to change. Last Christmas, my parents came to visit and we couldn’t get to the dining room table for all the boxes. We spent months searching for a solution that would still allow us to have a personal connection with our customers. We found a great fulfillment team right down the road! The shop moved out of my house and we can still bring handwritten notes to them to include in orders when needed. There are still links to work out, but I am so grateful to not have constant shipping madness here!
– I had Joshua : ) That worked. He is wonderful. Read his name story here, birth story here, and thoughts on life after baby here.
– I had to stop eating soy, dairy, and eggs for his sensitive little body, which has been a pretty challenging life change at times. I basically eat chicken for four of my 6-8 little meals a day (I’ve long been a frequent eater!). But, it has made me eat a lot more whole foods and I discovered Vega. I. Love. Vega.
– I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and got rid of 1/3 of our stuff and most of the clothes in my closet!
– I prayed and prayed about what to do with Grace’s preschool this year. We didn’t have a great experience last year, so it was a risk to keep going and try a new class and new teachers. I prayed for months and God gave me His answer at the very last minute, two weeks before school started. And Gracie loves her new class AND we looooooove her new teachers. They are stellar! Yay God and yay for preschool!
– We celebrated a wonderful issue launch, new product launch, and a powerful MTH all in the span of two weeks.
– I’m excited to share this one. After almost a year of praying and 500+ resumes and leaps of faith and endless hours of conversation as a team, we invited two lovely women to join our team last week, and they have accepted! More to come on these dynamic women (two familiar faces to some of you!) and this whole process in the weeks to come. I’m bursting at the seams with praise for God! It is a pretty crazy and unmistakably God story how this all happened!
– Letting friends into our home and hearts worked. Last night we had our friends Jonathan and Talia over for my birthday. We talked about our kids and marriages and how we can all be better in the new year. It was so life-giving. I am grateful for new friends and vulnerable conversation. Thank you, Lord!
Good things ahead (bonus if you want to include this!):
– After writing this series to you, I’m literally shutting off my email for two months to write book 2. I’m excited and know these two months will be worth it!
– Our new team coming together after this year of prayer and waiting on His perfect plan to unfold. The good we will be able to do for others (like you!) excites me.
– Our adoption. I anticipate some of you will have questions about how you can help us. Pray! We ask that instead of any physical gifts that you pray for us and encourage us in the Word. That is the best gift we could get. Specifically, the prayers I listed in the beginning of this post, and pray for my intense time of writing ahead. My deadline for my manuscript is March 1, but we may have a new baby before then, so I have a lot ahead of me. Pray that my inbox stays empty and my heart stays full of Him as I write. I will have to ignore most text messages too and that will be hard for me as I love connecting with others. Please pray for my focus. Pray for Ari and Grace as we all prepare our hearts and our home for this little girl. Pray that each step would glorify Him. Thank you for these gifts!
– Ari and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage shortly after welcoming this little girl into our lives. We had planned to have a big celebration, but we are putting it on hold now. We will likely have a newborn!
– This year ahead, I’ll be releasing my second book, couples PowerSheets (yay!), and praying about homeschooling Grace for kindergarten in 2017.
– And God could change ALL of this! But, as I’ve learned, His plans are always better than mine!
Once you have your list of what worked, name three lessons you learned from what worked. For example, in my life there were many times last year that great things happened when I let go of control—whether getting on my knees (literally) to surrender in prayer to God, 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.
Your turn!Write your own list of good things. What are you most grateful for from 2015? Write it in your PowerSheets if you have reached that section, or write it in a journal. Either way, I encourage you to share some of your 2015 gratitude in the comments to encourage others! And remember this: There is no room for comparison in making what matters happen. 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 : )
OK, that’s it for today and that’s plenty to work on. I’ll be back Wednesday with more! Take your time with this and remember PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. This is not about writing the perfect list with a perfect pen. It’s just about honesty about where you are so you can get to what’s next. This is a process that will have a big payoff, but you have to commit to working through it. Be still and let your 2016 goals bake, like a pan of homemade hot cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. They wouldn’t be so flaky and yummy zapped quickly in the microwave, would they? They’d end up a big pile of mushy dough. I’m not going to hand you your 2016 goals; we’re going to do this right and bake them well together. Sound good? Awesome! Get to it!
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: A (spiral bound) One-Year PowerSheets Workbook. Yep! I have two left in the office, and one of you is getting one! I’m determined to motive you to dig in with me on these powerful steps : )
Why am I doing this? I know God put me here on this earth for many reasons, and He has made it clear that one of those reasons it to motivate people to take action on what matters most. I want you — yes YOU — to make what matters happen in your life. So, help me spread the word and let’s get all our friends in on this for accountability! Making things happen is always better when shared. Here’s to a meaningful, purpose-filled 2016 — I am cheering you on friends!
There are 41 prizes, which means 41 chances to win! Your odds are good : ) Giveaway ends January 13th. Winners will be announced on January 15th here on the blog. Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. Lots of digital prize options though for my international friends! 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!