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Last week, I completed my review of 2021! To make a long story short, it was an amazing year! I achieved or made significant progress on all of my goals. Looking back, I accomplished more than I expected to. There were also so many wonderful and unexpected things that came up along the way.
While there were certainly challenges (being hospitalized for GI issues and getting into the scooter accident…ouch!) and things I want to adjust for 2022, I am so full of joy and pride for how the year played out.
You might be wondering so many things right now, like:
- What were your goals?
- What does your process to review your goals look like?
- How did you set goals in the first place?
- What do you do to actually follow through on your goals?
I used to really struggle with goal-setting and annual planning. I’d do it for work (mostly focused on achieving the next promotion and raise), but I neglected the other areas of my life.
In 2018, I finally got off autopilot and things started to shift. Taking time off from work and eventually going back to work part-time provided me with the time and space to figure out what I truly wanted.
Over the last few years, I’ve figured out how to create an action plan that guides me throughout the year. Instead of pulling the action plan out of thin air, I walk through a process to reflect on the previous year, articulate what I learned, and clarify my vision for the future. Then, I translate it into an action plan.
As I share my goal-setting process with you, I want to be clear. Goal-setting structures and accountability are valuable, but they must also be accompanied by mindset shifts that will help us achieve our goals.
Mindset shifts serve as a foundation to help us set and achieve our goals. Without these mindset shifts, the best goal-setting process in the world won’t be effective.
I like to think about this as analogous to a house. The mindset shifts are the foundation. The way that we see the world, how we view our goals and our ability to achieve them can serve as a firm foundation for us.
Then, having a solid goal-setting process serves as the posts, beams, and columns that provide the structural integrity of the house. The goals make sure we have a structure to our lives. It’s up to us to make sure that we don’t let any part of the house get too heavy for the beams to hold.
Finally, the process of carrying out our goals day-to-day is everything in between – the drywall, the insulation, the roof, etc. After we set goals, we need to create plans, check in on our progress, build habits, and create accountability structures.
Without the foundation, the structure doesn’t stand. Without the structure, the drywall and roof wouldn’t stay up. All these things build on each other.
If you haven’t read the post yet about mindset shifts to help you reach your goals, I recommend going back to read that one first. If any of these statements feel true for you, I especially encourage you to go back and read the post.
- Do you feel exhausted? Like you don’t have the time and energy to think about what you want in life let alone set and follow through with goals?
- Are you scared of setting goals because that means you could fail?
- Do you feel like you aren’t happy with your current life, but you feel like you should be?
Now, let me be clear. Mindset shifts don’t happen all at once. We can start with a baseline level foundation with our mindset and then continue to cultivate these mindset shifts along the way. To continue with the analogy, maybe we realize there is a crack in the foundation, and we end up repairing it down the road. Or, a more apt analogy could be to “build a plane while flying it” or “repair a submarine while 500 feet below sea level.”
We can work on our mindset and our goals simultaneously. Without focusing on overcoming our mental barriers, goal-setting and follow-through will be a lot harder. If we focus on both, it can become a virtuous cycle.
Before I get into the goal-setting process, I’d love to share the goals that I (mostly) smashed in 2021!
Hitting My Goal-Setting Stride
Within the last few years (and particularly in 2021), I felt like I hit my stride. Since 2018, I’ve focused a lot of energy on mindset shifts, setting big goals, and building accountability structures.
When I finally figured out how to bring all 3 things together, magic happened. I accomplished (or made significant progress) almost all my goals in 2021.
Here are the goals I created this year! I decided to share them all with you so that you can see the kinds of goals that I created and my evaluation of whether I accomplished them.
Goal #1: Grow the Blog and Business
This is the first year where the blog and business are my “main gig.” I don’t like saying I’m a full-time entrepreneur, because I don’t work full-time hours! On average, I work about 25 hours each week which aligns with my desire to have a full life focused on holistic well-being.
Here were the action steps I took in 2021 to accomplish this goal and my assessment of each of them.
|Continue to release weekly content on the blog||Success: This year, I missed only 1 week of posting, and it was only after being in the hospital for GI issues. Besides this, I’m on track to release 51 posts (including 17 Slow FI interviews)! We also won the award for having the Personal Finance Blog of the Year! ? ?|
|Launch new coaching groups 3x/year||Success: I launched a variety of programs this year (Design a Life You Love, Lifestyle Design Masterminds, and a new Clarify and Create Retreat to walk people through the process outlined in this post!). Over the course of the year, I had 31 participants across the 3 programs!|
|Run shorter course programs 3x/year||Success: This year I ran my 10-Day Intentional Living Challenge 2 times (January and August). I also created a new course on Overcoming Your Scarcity Mindset with my friend (and fellow blogger and coach), Mel from Modest Millionaires.|
|Transition my 10-Day Intentional Living Challenge into an Online Course that can be done on demand||Success: After running the challenge live twice, I made it into a self-paced online course that people can do on their own time. Click here if you are interested in learning more about this course.|
|Do a monthly reflection on how the business feels and if there’s anything I want to adapt.||Success: I do a monthly review of all of my goals, and I made it a point to reflect on how things were feeling. In Quarter 4 after completing the online course, I was feeling a bit depleted. Because of this, I took off every other Thursday in Q4 to support my well-being.|
Overall Assessment: I made solid progress on this goal. I’ve built a passion-based business that I love! In 2021, the net revenue from the business (after expenses and taxes) could cover about 75% of our regular expenses (not including van-build-related purchases)! This is tremendous progress and means that we’re getting closer and closer to making our ideal life a reality.
My main critique is that I focused a lot on projects and new programs this year. That took time away from engaging with the FI community on social media (and in real-life), which I want to do more of in 2022.
Goal #2: Establish a Set of “Joy Habits” that Support a Thriving Life
This goal was my effort to focus on my overall wellness. This goal focuses on wellness as a way to help me build a joyful and thriving life. I often used to see wellness-related goals as punishment, so I wanted to underscore the positive nature of these habits.
Here are the actions I took in 2021 associated with this goal.
|Walk my dog every weekday and do a walking meditation.||Success: This is something I did on the vast majority of days this past year. It’s become such a habit that even when my dog was at grooming, I still went outside and did my walking meditation (using the Headspace app).|
|Do yoga or another form of exercise 3x/week||Needs Improvement: There were times throughout the year that I did this consistently. After I was hospitalized in the spring for GI issues, this fell off for a while. Then, after I started doing physical therapy again this fall, I’ve prioritized doing the daily PT “exercises.” While these are helpful (and take quite a long time), I don’t count them as exercise because they don’t elevate my heart rate.|
|Journal 3x/week||Success: I created a morning ritual this year where I journal every weekday morning. When I’m eating my breakfast, I journal briefly about how I’m feeling (emotionally and physically), and then I plan my day.|
|Continue to declutter my home (monthly)||Partially Met: While I did not end up doing this on a monthly basis, I did end up decluttering over 300 items this year. I didn’t get into as good of a routine as I would have liked to with this though.|
|Read Atomic Habits||Success: I wanted to learn more about habit formation to help me with my “Joy Habits.” I successfully read the book, and earlier this year, I wrote a review on the blog.|
|Sleep 8 hours/night consistently||Success: Being an entrepreneur has been great for my sleep! I no longer set an alarm and wake up naturally when my body has rested long enough. While it happens periodically, not getting 8 hours of sleep is the exception.|
|No Coffee||Success: I accidentally forgot to ask for decaf one day at a coffee shop, but besides that, I’ve had only decaf coffee this year. It’s been great for my energy levels.|
|Have One Work-Free (Shouldless) Day each week||Success: I did this consistently all year. In Q4, I also adopted shouldless days on Thursdays every other week.|
Overall Assessment: I made solid progress on this goal. Focusing on habit creation and adding one new habit at a time was extremely helpful. While I’m not always as consistent as I’d like to be with everything, I know that each time I start again helps me to build a thriving life.
Goal #3: Alleviate Physical Pain
As some of you may already know, I’ve dealt with chronic physical pain for many years. In 2017, I pinched a nerve in my foot. While it’s dramatically improved because of the steps I took this year, I still struggle with mobility issues. I can now walk about 2 miles at a time without pain. But, I still cannot run, jump, lift heavy items, or walk longer than 2 miles without pain.
On top of this, I’ve dealt with TMJ and migraines for the last 10 to 15 years of my life. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I’ve realized that there are actually things I can do about this!
Finally, 2021 through a wrench in things when I was hospitalized in the spring with GI issues. They originally thought it was appendicitis and sent me to the emergency room. After not being able to figure out what was causing pain, they admitted me, did more tests, and finally sent me home with directions to go see my primary care. Because this was quite painful and inhibiting my daily life, I added addressing this under my goal to alleviate physical pain.
|Figure out what I could do to address/heal my foot pain||Good Progress: Early this year, a good friend introduced me to a new method for reducing pain in the body that was focused on body alignment. I read a book about it called Pain Free and did the exercises on a daily basis. This fall, I started seeing a physical therapist who is an expert in this method, and I’m starting to see significant changes (such as now being able to walk 2 miles at a time without pain). |
I also returned to the surgeon who performed my original foot survey in 2018 (that clearly didn’t work). He gave me a cortisone injection that helped a little bit. We also created an action plan. If the new physical therapy didn’t work, we could consider doing another surgery in early 2022.
|Address TMJ and migraines with continued acupuncture||Success: Acupuncture helps my migraines and TMJ quite a bit. This became very apparent when I was unable to go for the first few months of the pandemic. In 2021, I invested in going to acupuncture every 3-4 weeks.|
|Figure out GI issues and how to feel good||Good Progress: At first, I had no idea what to do about this, especially since I couldn’t get an appointment with a GI specialist until 3 months after my hospitalization. |
Once I started reaching out to my network (particularly within the FI community), I met another blogger (Diandra from That Science Couple) who was getting her PhD in nutrition. I worked with her as a beta client for her nutrition coaching business.
This was so helpful. By doing a daily food diary and symptom tracker, we identified foods that trigger symptoms, so I could remove these from my diet. I also learned a lot about how nutrition can support my overall health and energy. Through coaching, I’m implemented specific things that helped me to reduce my cholesterol, lessen the frequency and severity of migraines, and support healthy GI functioning. I’m learning to “eat for health” as a positive step rather than forcing myself to “eat healthy” as a punishment.
After many months (and many different tests), I finally have a diagnosis and am determining the best course of treatment. Hopefully, this will be a lot better in 2022.
Overall Assessment: I made significant progress toward my goal of alleviating pain. While I’m not yet pain-free (and may never fully be), I’ve taken so many steps that have reduced the frequency and severity of the pain that I’ve experienced. This will continue to be a focus on 2022.
Goal #4: Cultivate My “Wellness Community”
When I became a “full-time” entrepreneur, one of my biggest worries was that I’d feel isolated. To keep this from happening, I committed to focusing on building up a community of support of other entrepreneurs.
|Weekly lunch with my accountability partner||Success: My accountability partner also transitioned out of traditional work this year, so we were able to support and challenge each other in our first year after the transition. We have a standing lunch date on Fridays that we sometimes move to another day if we need to.|
|Join or start a mastermind group with other entrepreneurs/coaches||Success: I toyed with the idea of creating my own mastermind group but had a bit of a challenge finding people at the same level who were able to commit to meeting every other week. Instead, I decided to join Online Impact (an incredible membership community for creators and online business owners). Through Online Impact, I had the opportunity to join membership calls, attend workshops, ask ALL of my questions on the online forum, and join a mastermind with 5 other awesome coaches and course creators. Can you tell how highly I recommend OI? If you are a creator or online business owner, I’d encourage you to check it out. This is THE thing that kept me grounded and inspired in my first year as a “full-time” entrepreneur.|
|Meet other entrepreneurs through virtual coffee dates||Success: Throughout the year, I’ve set up virtual coffee dates with other writers, podcasters, course creators, and coaches. It’s been a lot of fun to get to know my peers in this community! I’ve also taken steps to set up regular touchpoints with people I felt like I really connected with. I now have a monthly coffee date with an awesome course creator and a quarterly coffee date with a writer/podcaster.|
|Continue going to therapy/mental health counseling||Success: Every transition is hard, even when it’s a good transition. Because of this, I kept seeing my therapist weekly for the first few months of the year (even though I felt good). Now, I’m seeing her every other week. I truly appreciate having this regular touchpoint to discuss what’s going well, what I’m struggling with, and anything else that comes up. She helps hold me accountable to ensure I’m taking care of myself.|
Overall Assessment: I made significant progress in building up my “wellness community” this year. To be honest, I feel a lot less isolated than when I worked in HR within an organization. I collaborate with other entrepreneurs regularly and connect with others for mutual support through accountability partnership, masterminds, the Online Impact membership community, and virtual (and sometimes in-person) coffee dates! I definitely want to continue this for 2022!
Goal #5: Have a Ton of FUN!
I used to think that all goal setting should be very serious. In reality, a huge part of the reason why I’m pursuing FI in the first place is so that I can have more joy and fun in my life. Of course, I want to be setting goals related to this!
There’s also been a lot of research about how doing activities that we would consider play helps us recover more quickly. This can allow us to better achieve our other goals. However, I’m not saying that the only purpose of fun should be so that we can achieve other goals. Fun can (and should) be an end unto itself.
|Take a campervan adventure around New England||Success: We rented a campervan through Outdoorsy and spent 10 days exploring Maine and New Hampshire. Besides enjoying the outdoors, we also were treating this trip as an experiment to answer this question, “Did we want to buy our own campervan in 2023 or 2024?” We had so much fun on the trip that we decided to not wait. Within 2 months from returning from the trip, we decided to buy our own van and convert it. We ordered a van (that should arrive this month), designed the layout and chose a van builder to contract with!|
|Play Legacy Games||Success: I love legacy games. These are games where the story unfolds as you plan through the game and take different actions. For my birthday, I received the final “season” of Pandemic Legacy that we played through over the course of a month. We also played a lot of a game called Gloomhaven and completed the expansion to it (Jaws of the Lion) during our 10-day van adventure!|
|Pick up Camera||Success: I learned how to do long-exposure shots this year! I particularly wanted to experiment with waterfall photography (and capturing the movement of water in the photo). I went on a solo hike this spring to a local waterfall to practice. Then, I continued to practice on the trip. See the photo below!|
|Read books for fun||Success: I read a lot of books for fun this year. One recent noteworthy accomplishment is that I re-read the first two books in the Skyward series. Then, I discovered that there were two “spin-off” books, so I read those too. I did this all before book 3 came out, and I can’t wait for the 3rd spin-off book to come out at the end of December. I’ve already pre-ordered it.|
|Local Adventures||Success: I love to travel and explore, and I know that it doesn’t need to be limited to faraway places. I can do this in my own backyard. This spring, we took a long weekend trip to Vermont. We went tent camping on Cape Cod and in the Berkshires (western Massachusetts). We also went on a few hikes and spent time regularly in our local arboretum.|
Overall Assessment: I met my goal of having a ton of fun this year! We had no idea we were going to love the van trip so much that we’d decide to buy our own campervan this soon! So, it’s also been so much fun to work through that. We’ve watched a million youtube van tours to help us decide what we want in our van. Now that we’ve decided on the layout and products we want, we’ve started dedicating time to watching YouTube videos about people who are living #vanlife.
How I Created and Achieved My Goals for 2021
In this post, I’m going to walk you through the process that I used to set and achieve my goals in 2021. My goal-setting process includes the following steps:
- Evaluating your life and your trajectory
- Articulating what you really want in life
- Prioritizing focus areas and setting goals
- Mapping out the steps and determining a timeline
- Building a community of support and ongoing accountability structures
To be clear, I don’t necessarily recommend that you take my exact process and implement it for 2022. Everything I did in 2021 was built on years of mindset shifts and deep reflection on what I really wanted out of life.
If you are recovering from burnout or struggling to figure out what you want, this is the type of comprehensive process you could work towards. It’s okay if it doesn’t look exactly like this.
In 2022, you might decide to focus on recovering from burnout. Setting boundaries, rediscovering joy, and making mindset shifts will help you figure out what you want and work toward it.
In 2019, as I was recovering from burnout, my only goal for the year was simply to “be kind to myself.” That’s what I needed that year to get me to where I am now.
As I share my full process (as it’s evolved thus far), I’d encourage you to think about what would be helpful for you. Then, leave what’s not helpful.
Step 1 – Start Where You Are
Where you are can tell you a lot about where you want to go. This is why the first step I always take is to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working in 6 areas of my life:
- Mental and physical well-being
Once I do this, I will rank on a scale of 1-10 my level of satisfaction in each area. This can help me understand the areas that I want to prioritize and pay attention to.
When we understand what is working in our lives, it can help us to understand what kind of things we want to do more of. It could also help indicate a direction we might want to explore. This same reflection can also help us minimize what isn’t working.
I do this reflection 3-4 times/year. It’s great to do on a particular cadence (quarterly) or whenever something in your life feels out of alignment.
Step 2 – Articulate What You Want
Articulating what we want is an iterative process. The key question to ask yourself at this stage is, “If I were to rate every area a 10/10, what would that look and feel like for me?”
Ultimately, it’s important to articulate what you want in all 6 core areas of life. Yet, if you are new to this kind of practice, you can choose 2-3 areas to focus on first.
If you can’t immediately come up with an answer, that’s okay. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and start writing. Write about how you want to feel in this area of your life.
When you start to do this, you are likely to encounter resistance. Your mind might tell you to do anything but this. Maybe you’ll get the sudden urge to clean your whole house, start training for a 5k, or simply scroll social media. Pay attention to this resistance. It usually means you are getting close to something valuable.
It’s also important to note that what you want will continue to evolve over time. We’ll continue to learn more about what we want and get more specific as we test out new things.
Here’s an example of what I want related to work has evolved in just one year.
In 2020, I wanted to do work I enjoyed that made a difference in the world. I also wanted it to provide me with the flexibility I desired. I realized that this was likely leading me toward entrepreneurship.
I know this is very general, and that’s okay.
After a year of testing things out and working toward becoming an entrepreneur, what I want became a lot more specific.
In 2021, I wanted to generate enough income with my passion-based, location-independent business that my husband can quit his job. I want my work to bring me joy and support the life I want to live.
After another year of experimentation and action, that vision is becoming even more specific.
If you want to jumpstart the process of figuring out what you want, there are so many additional resources available. I’ve written about how to identify the elements of your ideal life and I run group coaching programs devoted to exactly this concept.
Step 3 – Prioritize and Set Goals
Based on steps 1 and 2, you can determine which of the 6 areas you want to focus on in 2022. Even if you created an ideal vision in all 6 areas, you will want to determine if there are a few areas for the year that you want to prioritize.
For example, I feel very solid about my finances. So, I didn’t feel like I needed to create a specific goal in those areas for 2021.
You might decide you want to deprioritize an area that’s going very well for you. It’s also possible that you’ll decide you want to enhance that area. It’s completely up to you.
Once you’ve prioritized the areas, determine goals that could help you work toward that vision. I’d encourage you to look at two types of goals:
- Short-term goals: What action steps could you take to make this area 20-30% better now?
- Long-term goals: What actions can I take this year to work toward my long-term vision?
If you are struggling to create a long-term vision, I’d encourage you to start with short-term goals. When you take steps to start improving your life, you will start to see what you want a lot more clearly.
If you aren’t yet sure what you want, one goal for the year could be to figure it out!
Step 4 – Map Out Action Steps Into a Timeline
At this point, you’ll review your goals for 2021 and begin to think about the actions that you will need to take to achieve those goals. When I do this, I think about two different types of actions:
- Habits – These are things that I will do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to support my goals.
- Project-based Steps – There are things that I’ll likely do one time to complete a project.
After I map out the habits and projects that will be required to achieve my goals, I then map them onto a timeline. I break the year into four quarters, and I map out what I’d like to accomplish in each quarter.
It’s important to be realistic with our time. Don’t try to cram everything into Q1 or you will burn out. Remember that our goals are meant to make us feel good. They aren’t a punishment. Space them out in a way that will feel good. You can wait to get started on something until Q3 or Q4.
This is also the point where you might realize that you’ve bitten off a little bit more than you can chew. I have shiny object syndrome and always want to try new things, so sometimes I need to pare down my list to something that’s a bit more realistic. When I do that, I don’t completely get rid of the idea. I add it to a “wishlist.” If I find myself with extra time, I’ll go to my wishlist. Or, I’ll take a look at my wishlist when I’m planning for the following year.
Ongoing – Create Structures for Individual Accountability and Group Support
It’s important to create structures to help you stay on track. It’s also important to build a community that can encourage and support you. If you build a community of people with similar goals, they will help you get unstuck when you aren’t sure how to move forward.
I use two structures to support my goals throughout the year. Each quarter, I plan for 3 months ahead. I go back to my annual goals to see what I said I wanted to do in the next 3 months. Then, I reflect on how the year has gone so far, and if I want to adjust anything about the goals or timeline. After that, I map out what I’ll do on a weekly basis for the quarter.
Then, each Monday morning, I look back at the quarterly plan and map out my goals for the week. In the weekly plan, I include my daily, weekly, and monthly habits. Then I add action steps that help me work toward my project-based goals.
If you’d like to try out this structure for your own quarterly or weekly planning, you can download them here.
If you don’t already have a community of people who can help you succeed, I encourage you to start building that community immediately. One of my clients calls this group of people her “wellness community.” I love this term. Her wellness community includes her therapist, participants and leaders of programs she’s a part of, and others with similar goals.
Over the past year, one of my goals was to build up my wellness community. My wellness community currently includes my therapist, my accountability partner, my mastermind group, the Online Impact community, and various entrepreneurs I’ve become friends with over the last year through virtual coffee dates!
If you want to build up your own “wellness” community, I’d encourage you to check out this blog post!
This is a lot. Where should I start?
I agree. This is a lot! I want to remind you of what I shared at the very beginning of this post. This process is a result of 3 years of intentional mindset and lifestyle shifts. This did not happen overnight.
It’s okay if it feels like a lot. You aren’t going to do it all at once. You can take one step at a time.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Start with how you feel. Do you have “overflow” (i.e. energy and time) to put toward your goals? If you are feeling burned out or too exhausted, I’d start there first. What can you eliminate to make your life more manageable? How can you add joy to your daily life?
- Read about the mindset shifts that can help you achieve your goals and decide which you want to focus on in the coming year.
- Start with step 1 and reflect on what’s working and what isn’t working in your life. Fill out the form below to receive a free reflection worksheet.
- Join my 10 Day Intentional Living Challenge. The challenge will focus on building the right mindset to achieve your goals. It’ll also take you through step 1 and part of step 2 of this process. Not only will you determine the shifts you want to make, but you’ll also be held accountable to start taking action immediately.
In 2022, I hope you will gain a clearer vision of who you are and what you really want your life to look like. I also hope that you can build a community that will help you dream big and get unstuck when you face challenges.
This is an awesome post! I can tell you put a lot of thought into it. Thank you for reminding me that goals can be iterative, and that not all goals and processes look the same! Well done
Thank you for the reminder to set some personal 2021 goals. I am all about making goals but it is very hard to set meaningful ones. I like your idea of using a step-wise process to develop goals to guide your daily life and the importance of having some accountability partner to hold you to your goals.
You did a lot this year. Congratulations! It’s such a nice feeling to be able to reflect and see what you have accomplished in the past year. I
I will be using these steps to develop my goals for 2021. Thank you!
I’m so glad that this post resonated with you. I wish you all the best as you set your 2021 goals.
Having joy habits isn’t really something I thought about. Definitely something I feel like I should incorporate more into my life. For the past few years, I’ve been just using the Atomic Habits trick to generate new habits in order to hit my goals, which is:
1. Trigger myself with some item or thing so I am reminded I should start doing the work or whatever habit I need to do.
2. Do the work / habit.
3. Reward myself for the habit.
Also, starting out with very lightweight habits (i.e. if I wanted to start exercising 1 hour/day instead of starting out at 1 hour, I’d give myself to start out at 1 min/day and then increase it by a minute or 10% each week, for example) has really helped my ability to retain habits long-term.
Was wondering if you had resources on where to find entrepreneurs for virtual coffee dates?
Yes – I use the atomic habits framework too. It’s been super helpful. For the virtual coffee dates, I’ve done them with people I’ve gotten to know through social media, conferences, and membership programs/courses I’m a part of. That’s probably your first good step is to connect with people on a similar journey and then deeper relationships by connecting 1:1.