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4 Lessons I Learned From Goal-Setting “Failure” in 2013

benefits of setting goals on blackboard

2013 wasn’t a banner goal-setting year for me. I did manage to cross 13 goals off my list of 25 goals, but I spent the last half of the year feeling frustrated that I wasn’t making more progress in the goal-setting department.

As a person who thrives on productivity, feeling like you’re not making headway can be really discouraging. However, I’m trying to practice what I preach when it comes to giving myself grace, so I refused to beat myself up over the lack of progress.

Instead, stepped back and evaluated what needed to be changed for the coming year. After some thought and discussion with Jesse, I came up with four things that hampered my goal-setting success in 2013:

1. I need to set fewer goals.

I bit off more than I could chew last year in setting 25 goals. I got excited and pumped up when I was doing my goal-setting and didn’t think truly realistically — even though I really tried to.

This, in turn, set me up for failure in some of my goals. The goals themselves weren’t bad, there were just too many of them.

This year, I’m only setting 12 goals. When I look at my goals list, it feels so much more manageable!

2. I need to make my goals more specific and actionable.

Last year, I made the mistake of putting some goals on my list that weren’t specific enough or actionable enough. For instance, one of my goals was: “Wake up by 6 a.m. and exercise, shower, and dress by 8 a.m. every day.”

While this was somewhat specific, it was sort of one of those goals that was just “out there” — with no concrete ending. If I had said something like: “Wake up by 6 a.m. and exercise, shower, and dress by 8 a.m. every day for 21 days” that would have been much more doable, specific, and actionable.

This year, I tried to have every single goal on my list have a specific time frame or number assigned to it. For instance, instead of saying, “Write more content pieces for my blog” I said, Write 150 content pieces for the blog.”

This goal has a very specific action point attached to it enabling me to track exactly how I’m doing. Plus, this allows me to break it down into bite-sized pieces (i.e. I’m shooting to write at least 3 content pieces on my blog every week. If I do this, I’ll easily hit the 150 mark by the end of the year.)


3. I need to account more for the expected.

In January of 2013, I knew I was writing a book and doing more speaking/traveling, but I didn’t seem to account for that in my goal-setting. I forgot how much time and effort book-writing and editing and marketing requires and didn’t allow time for that when considering goals.

In 2014, I’m thinking very carefully about what I already know my life is probably going to look like. There will be a lot of book marketing stuff happening in early 2014, I have a full spring travel/speaking schedule, we have a BIG thing happening as a family in April which is going to require time and transition (more on that sometime soon), and we have plans to produce a few more products in 2014.

Plus, then there’s just the daily life stuff of homeschooling and activities for our children, nurturing our marriage, being intentional in my friendships, and other ministry opportunities. So, knowing all of this, I am being much more careful about what goals I’m setting realizing that my plate is already pretty full.

4. I need to account more for the unexpected.

This was my biggest downfall in 2013.

There were some wonderfully unexpected things that happened — namely, the business exploded (our traffic/unique visitors doubled in 2013!). As a result, we had to change a lot of our processes, switch to a new hosting company, and bring on new team members to take over many of my previous responsibilities of running and managing the business so that I could focus on what I do best.

This was all very exciting, but it also meant that there was a 3-4 month period where I spent every spare moment I had available answering questions from new team members, having business meetings and conferences calls, brainstorming new processes, training new team members, and tweaking and experimenting with the new processes. Needless to say, this meant that a lot of other things had to be put on hold in the mean time while we made this transition.

The growing pains were hard, but so very worth it! And I am very grateful for the amazing team! Each person on the team is incredible and they’ve willingly taken over so many behind-the-scenes details so that I can now focus most all of my business and blogging time on writing, brainstorming, overseeing, and speaking — the things I love most!

In an effort to prepare for the unexpected in 2014, I’m leaving some breathing room in the goals I set. And it feels so good to know that while my goals are going to stretch and push me, they hopefully won’t overwhelm me when curve balls are thrown my way.

Want to learn more from my goal-setting failures and successes? Be sure to pre-order a copy of my brand-new book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, where I share about the lessons I’ve learned when it comes to goal-setting. If you’re longing to live a more fulfilled and purposeful life, I think you’ll be blessed, encouraged, and inspired by it. Get your copy here.

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  • Jessica says:

    My husband had a job change (a vey welcome one) so moving put a few of my goals to the back burner too. I’m just trying to focus on the ones I did accomplish. You always seem so together. I assumed you’d get them all and then some. Thanks for showing the real side of life sometimes. I’m happy for you your blog has been so successful 😉

  • Amy says:

    Thanks for all the posts about goal setting. The past year I felt like I was spinning my wheels. This year I have goals, not resolutions for the coming year. Part of my learning curve is that I don’t have to do it perfectly or an exact way. For instance, I wanted to have a cute notebook to write in and record my progress in it each day. So far I haven’t made it to the store to find this elusive notebook, so I just have to do with what I have. Also, January 1 isn’t some magical date, if things don’t happen exactly on that date, then start the next day. Especially since it looks like I will be starting the New Year with a cold.

    • Courtney says:

      I love cute notebooks, but I find cute pens more motivating. Especially fun colors that reflect my mood that day – dark green, hot pink, purple, orange….

      On the flip side, my two favorite notebooks: 1 is an owl one from Ikea. The other is a plain black one, that I added sticker letters (already had at home) to that are cute. It’s now a cute notebook that I like.

  • Thank you for sharing! I failed on a number of goals this year, and came to the same conclusion… FEWER goals for next year. I also need to be more specific and actionable, and take into account both the expected and unexpected. We’re $14,000 from being debt-free, so goal #1 is to pay off our last student loan. Aside from that, I want to get in the habit of going to bed by 10-11pm every night, and getting up by 6-7am every morning. I may have a few other goals, but those are the big ones! 🙂

  • Victoria says:

    Can’t wait to find out what the BIG thing is in April.

  • Kim says:

    Thank you for the timely reminder to set SMART goals. I have mine written down and will be blogging about them later today!

  • Love it! Thanks for sharing! I have not even had a chance to sit down and write out my goals for 2014 , although I’ve been thinking them out in my head. With 4 very young children, including a newborn, I can only fit so many extras into the day. One thing’s for sure – if I can’t even find a slot of time to write down goals, I certainly don’t need to be setting big ones. Hmm…how can I make sure goals like “feed the kids and change their diapers” are measurable? I guess I’ll just try to make sure I do it for 21 days straight! 🙂 Seriously, I really do appreciate reading your lessons learned; they will definitely be a help as I think through what goals I can realistically reach and how I when I can reach them.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I just went back and re-evaluate the goals that I was working on for 2014 and your advice helped me to re-write a few goals that weren’t specific or measurable enough. I love the simplicity of your new goals. Best wishes for your new year!

  • I love this, probably because I’m changing my goal setting approach in 2014 too–although in different ways than you listed above. After having huge success with a handful of goals, I did some serious evaluating of why they worked so well, and I’m applying that to all the goals I’m setting for 2014.

    For what it’s worth, I had no idea you were experiencing growing pains! Double the growth, holy smokes! But things seemed smooth to me, as a reader.

    Wishing you all the best for 2014!

  • I love this post! I turned 35 in 2013 and made a list of 35 things that I wanted to achieve/experience. I didn’t cross off all of the things on my list. I am okay with that because my life went in a unexpected direction. After lots of discussion and prayer, my husband and I decided that I would go back to school to become a nurse. This has been a dream of mine since I was 17 years old!! I could have dug in my heels and determined to cross off every item on my list. I knew that would have driven me crazy so I just let it go. God led my life in a different direction and it is amazing!! My plan was good but His is GREAT!!

  • Jo Lynn says:

    Happy New Year Crystal! I love this article…very practical and applicable. I havent commented in awhile, life got really busy for a bit, but Ive still been reading along and gleaning wisdom from you and your guest posters! My husband and I had a good conversation about your “When you disappoint yourself post”…putting a lot from there into action. Looking forward to learning more from you this year here and from your book. Wishing you and your family the best in this new year!

    • Crystal says:

      I was just thinking this past week about you and wondering how you were doing. Glad to hear things are well for you. And thank you for your encouragement, as always!

  • Marie says:

    I have not been great at goal setting and really attempted this past year. When I look at the goals I realize my problem was not having the steps written down on how to accomplish those goals. I will definitely be doing things different this year. But my biggest take away from 2013 was the one goal that was a huge feat for me I came close to accomplishing! Through your encouragement I got back into reading. And in 2012 I read 12 books! So I doubled that goal to 24 for 2013. And I read 23!!! For me this is huge because I really struggle to find time for me or balance in my every day life. But I was persistent in finding 20minutes here and there.
    Thank you for being a continued source of encouragement. Can’t wait to hear your BIG news!!!

  • Marianne says:

    I’ve heard that if you meet 100% of your goals, you are setting the bar too low. 🙂

  • Ashley says:

    Care to share how many people it takes to run your site?

  • I tend to do the same thing–bite off more than I can chew. Thank you for being real with us and helping us learn with you! 🙂

  • Yana S. says:

    Thank you for sharing! I think I have set up too many goals for this year (especially considering coming of our first baby this February! Exciting and scary!) but I am not going to remove any of them from the list. I was just listening to one of the podcasts interview with Michael Hyatt, and he said something like this “it’s better to set goals and achieve fewer than you have set. If you don’t set any, you definitely will not achieve any”. So I choose to set a lot and be happy with what I achieve. A good reminder from you is to make them measurable…it’s hard though sometimes especially when you are just starting something and have know idea how things will be working out.

  • I’m the personality type that feels like a failure if I don’t achieve my goals. For the most part, I try to set achievable goals. (Although this year we set a big financial goal!)

    We all have to give ourselves grace – no matter what we’re dealing with!

  • Robyn says:

    I think it’s really important as moms to reframe perceived “failures” as detours. As my boys get older, I find everything has shifted…yes, I can go to the grocery store by myself. My husband and I can go on a date without hiring a babysitter. And yet…that loud group of teens in my basement? Yeah. Hard to concentrate. 😉

    And yet, maybe the interruptions are the most important thing at this stage of my life.

    Putting in a frozen pizza and welcoming the loud into my home. Being present to these boys and listening. (yes…boys have so much to say once they are sure of your safe presence. Homemade cookies help too.)

    Filling my home with grace and being willing to set the list aside and just be. Especially being willing to unplug and model LIFE to these boys, instead of watching others live life online.

    I have so many thoughts for this year. I will set some concrete goals, but they will be hard to measure at the end of the year…and yet to have teenagers who I love to hang out with…this is a gift.

    Happy New Year, Crystal. Thank you for all of the encouragement on the journey!

  • Chelsea says:

    I love how you “keep it real” for us. It’s nice to know I am not alone in setting over-ambitious goals, and as a fellow blogger, it’s humbling to me to realize it’s okay to tell your readers.

    Can’t wait to hear about your surprise! By the way, have you posted your 2014 goals yet?

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