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21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Discipline Requires Goal-Setting

Missed the first posts in this series? Read them here.

To intentionally cultivate discipline in your life, you must have goals. Not just dreams, not just lofty ambitions, but specific, realistic, achievable goals. If you don’t know where you’re aiming, you’ll lack direction and purpose.

Put Your Goals on Paper

I love how Dave Ramsey encourages people to put their financial goals “on paper, on purpose”. When you write down your goals, instead of just keeping them floating around in your brain, it puts more weight to them. Plus, if you write your goals down, you’re able to track your progress and be encouraged at the momentum you’re gaining in the right direction.

There are some very helpful goal-setting worksheets available from Project Management Skills and from Cigna Behavioral Health. However, please don’t be overwhelmed by these more in-depth worksheets. A simple sticky-note taped to your mirror or refrigerator will work just as well. The objective is not to have a fancy paper filled out, but to actually follow through with your goals.

Take Small Bites

Once you’ve written down the goal or two you are focusing on implementing in your life, develop an incremental plan of action for accomplishing that goal. Some goals lend themselves more to babysteps than others. For instance, if you want to lose five pounds in six weeks, you can create a six-week plan to achieve this goal that could look something like this:

Week 1: Track your calorie intake through SparkPeople. Exercise for 2 hours total.

Week 2: Find an accountability partner. Continue to track calorie intake, adjust if needed. Exercise for 2.5 hours total.

Week 3: Check-in with accountability partner. Continue to track calorie intake, adjust if needed. Exercise for 3 hours total. Drink more water.

Week 4: Check-in with accountability partner. Continue to track calorie intake, adjust if needed. Exercise for 3 hours total. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water daily. Cut out fast food, sugar, or soda pop.

Week 5: Maintain all habits from previous weeks, re-evaluate anything that isn’t working.

Week 6: Reward yourself for losing five pounds and developing some good habits that will hopefully stick around for a long time.

Now, I’m not saying that the above plan is guaranteed to make you lose five pounds in six weeks, but it gives you an idea of how to take a bigger goal and break it down into smaller pieces. Instead of being overwhelmed by looking at the big picture, think what small steps you can slowly take to get where you want to go. Map them out and then follow them!

Review & Tweak As Needed

Post your goal(s) in a conspicuous place and review them often. I’d suggest reviewing them at least daily, if not more often. Remind yourself of where you’re headed and how you’re planning to get there.

If you are struggling and feeling overwhelmed in the goal(s) you have set for yourself, step back and re-evaluate. Do you need to give yourself more time? Do you need tweak your goal(s) a little to be more realistic?

Practical Application

1) Write down your current habit/goal and put it in a conspicuous location.

2) If you’ve chosen a larger goal, break it down into bite-sized pieces and create a plan of action for the next few weeks or months.

3) Set up a weekly “appointment” with yourself to review and re-evaluate your goal(s) and how things are going.

How are you doing on your current habit? So far, I’ve stuck with my resolve to get up before 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday and before 7 a.m. Friday through Sunday. I’ve been amazed at how much more I’m getting done when I get up earlier!

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  • Yes! I so agree…having my goals written (or typed!) out makes me so much more likely to actually reach them.

  • Davonne says:

    Just wanna say that I love this series.

  • Beth Anne @ Thrifty Living says:

    I really appreciate the differentiation you make between dreams and goals. Dreams are great, but goals are what makes dream truly achievable. Great reminder!

  • I too am loving this series (and I am LOVING your book) they both are exactly what I am needing right now! I think If I take each step slowly I can keep from getting overwhelmed.

    Right now my kitchen is straightened, counters and sink cleared and shined, the last few dirty dishes are neatly stacked in my brand new (just installed today) dishwasher that we paid cash for! It’s amazing how waking up to a cleaned up kitchen can impact your whole day.

    Thank you Crystal! 🙂

  • Dawn says:

    This is a great series!
    I know I am late to the initial 24 hour goal – but after my childen were ill, I did manage to complete my laundry Saturday – including all winter items and bedding. YAY to me as I am always behind on this goal.
    The way I plan to stay on track is to do one load of laundry each day from start to finish, including putting it away.
    It has been a couple of days and it seems to be working.

  • Blaire Ruch says:

    been washing the face. yep. go me!

  • I am reading this series while reading your book too! I’ve got my top financial goals written up, and already have a blog post written about them. 🙂

    As for getting up earlier in the morning, I caught whatever Oliver had, and it wasn’t pretty. I spent 24 hours in bed or on the couch. Yuck! With a 12-day vacation in Maryland coming up, maybe I should just pick something else since I’ll be dealing with jet-lagged kids (and me!) the whole time.

    BUT…I’ve stuck to my September resolution to post on my blog once a day. My traffic has gone up significantly, and I’ve actually made a (very) little money at it! 🙂

  • Nicole says:

    This series is great! Thanks for the inspiration and tips.

  • Kimberly says:

    Writing down goals, and to-do lists, and random notes is the only way I can keep track of it all and focus on the task at hand. Thank you for linking to the SMART goal worksheets!

    My favorite Sunday School teacher from my childhood did a goal series using these worksheets. He was, at the time, a Masonry instructor at the local Vocational school. He used the SMART goal system and within five years, built a multi-million dollar home development business from the ground up. Anytime I think about my goals and begin to second guess myself, I remind myself that anything is achievable with the right path and plan.

    While I do not desire a million dollar business, I do strive for a debt-free life. We are getting there, slowly but surely.

  • Meredith says:

    I’m struggling but think I am getting by. I think by writing down my goals today it may help. I have been trying to eat healthier but my folks are in town. They love to eat out. I have done better and the scales are going down, yet a very little.

  • Rachel says:

    I can send a wonderful little girl that will make sure your up everyday by 5:30. I promise she will not let you down.

  • HeatherHH says:

    I’ve continued to meet my goal of washing all dishes, pans, ziploc bags, etc after every meal. It definitely makes my day less stressful. I’ve also noticed that I’m doing other kitchen tasks more frequently. With the counter and stovetop almost always clear of dishes, I’m more inclined to clean them, etc.

    I’m also starting to do a bit more toward other future goals. They don’t currently have the absolute must-be done status of the first goal. But, I’m usually getting up at 7, instead of lounging until 7:30-8. I’m first trimester and probably anemic, so it’s not my previous 6 or 6:30, but it’s progress. I’m also trying to spend less time on the computer in the morning and do stuff then; it’s not my eventual goal of only 15 minutes on the computer before lunch, but it is progress. Amazing how much I got done yesterday with making an effort to do more before lunch.

  • Laura says:

    I’ve been doing really well with having a 15-minute devotion in the morning. In fact, my husband is getting up 15 minutes earlier than normal with me so we can have our devotion together. It’s been wonderful!

  • I was up at 4:58 this morning working away. Both of the kids got up with me, but one went back to sleep and the other played quietly in his room after a brief visit to the potty. We’re working on that.

    But, I did write for an hour and I got our pizza made for dinner, so I’ll call that a success.

    I’ve been forcing myself to shower before bed so I don’t have to dry my hair in the morning before work. It saves a lot of time.

  • Mary says:

    Thanks for the series Crystal, I like that you suggested doing 2hrs of exercise per week, instead of 30-45minutes daily and increasing from there. Some days get really busy and I don’t get to exercise, feel guilty and just stop. If I know I can make it up during the week, seems to give me the latitude I need. Just downloaded an app called “Lose It”, tracks my calories burned in exercise and food intake. I’m a numbers person so it makes sense to me. Thanks again!!

  • Lucy says:

    I’m really enjoying this much-needed series! I wanted to recommend an iphone app that I downloaded (it’s free) that is helping me a lot. (I’m not affiliated with the app or anything; I just randomly found it.) It lets you track 3 habits and everytime you do it, like drink a glass of water, you click “did it.” I’ve been using it for maybe a month and I really like it. I think it’s called “Healthy Habits.” Also if you want to track more than 3 habits, you can buy the app; the free version is limited to 3 habits so that’s all I’m tracking 🙂

  • Courtney Jones says:

    I am loving this series, you are writing at the perfect time for me. Thank you so much for doing it!

  • Katie says:

    I work part time as a nurse and have 1 1/2 year old twins so it’s really difficult to work towards too many goals at a time. However, a couple months ago I bought just a plain notebook that I keep with me all the time. I write my goals for the week there (one week my only goal was to go to work, keep up with housework and still be happy!) and that is also where I write my grocery lists/meal plans. If there is anything I want to remember (for example, something the pastor said in church, or a prayer request, etc.), I jot it down in that notebook. It’s not the most organized thing, but it’s a start and it helps!
    Also, I feel like one of the best things a person can do to accomplish their goals is turn off the TV! Since having children, I have watched very little TV and I’ve gotten more accomplished than I ever thought possible!

  • Toby says:

    Although many of your thoughts and ideas reflect the challenges of a young mother, I would like to chime in and let you know that this 56 year old unemployed women is inspired by your writtings.

    After working for 20 years full time, I have found out the hard way that I must set the tone and the motion of my household. Those disciplines have served me well and I continue with them. However, now that it is just my husband and I and I’m not working, I still found my day “getting away from me.” I shared this with my 81 year old friend who has been retired for about 25 yeras. She shared with me the importance of planning your day. You are never too old for this advice.

    My new goal is to plan my day to include exercise and Bible Study.

    We followed a plan much like Dave Ramsey’s before we ever heard of him and I can’t recommend that enough to those of you younger than me. DO IT! You won’t regret it. 🙂

  • Tshanina says:

    So very true Crystal. My husband and I do really well with our financial goals but I struggle with personal goals. A few weeks ago I wrote down some goals for November. While I knew it all along…it really works. ;o) Like you, I do well with sharing my goals with others for accountability. Well, posting my goals on my blog were a big motivator!

    Thanks for all you do to encourage us!

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