I love goals. Setting goals in in my bones. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.
Goals like “convince my mom to let me shave my legs before I’m 12,” and “save up to buy decorative rubber stamps sets and make sweet art projects”.
(Yes, my actual goals. Both of which I achieved, thank you very much.)
In a journal when I was 12, I wrote down a bunch of audacious goals including the goals to learn French and live in France one day. I wrote down that I wanted to learn to rock climb and run a marathon (pretty sure I didn’t know they we’re 26.2 miles since running the mile at school just about killed me at the time).
And at the time, I was just a pudgy kid in thick glasses who mostly read books and daydreamed.
But by the age of 26, I’d checked off more than half my goal list, including all of those listed above. Which I think is what probably turned me into the goal-setting junkie I am today.
Because I learned that no matter where you start, you can go incredible distances if you not only dream big, but make a plan.
PLANNING IS EVERYTHING
As Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
Because someone could hand you a golden plan to achieve all your goals, and it would be completely meaningless. Because to work through your goals, YOU need to do the planning.
You need to do the mental work that takes a hope into a commitment and a thought-out plan.
In my efforts over the years (not all successful–I haven’t yet conquer the demon “sugar”), I’ve found that the trick to actually achieving the goals I set is to create a realistic plan that sets me up for success. A plan that shows me baby step by baby step how to start tackling my goal.
And what to do when I trip up or face the inevitable obstacles.
As much as I’d like to punch the air and declare to the universe that I’m going to quit sugar and magically stop stealing my kids’ Halloween candy and binge-eating entire plates of cookies, it’s not going to happen without a lot of planning.
The act of breaking our big goals down into smaller one, anticipating obstacles, and creating a timeline and accountability structure is what actually matters. That’s what sets us on the path towards waking up earlier, running a 5K, yelling less, losing 20 lbs, or whatever other goal you may set for yourself.
And this free printable goal worksheet is going to walk through all the steps in order to set and then properly beat your goals into submission. It’s designed to work you through breaking down one goal and creating a plan of action that will set you on the path to success.
These steps will walk you through making the most of your free printable goal worksheet so you can rock your goals!
(Be sure to check out 10 Goal-Setting Tips to Change Your Habits & Create the Life You Want for even more tips to create a rock-solid plan.)
STEP 1: DETERMINE YOUR GOAL
The first step in goal setting is to define exactly what your goal is in a way that you can actually achieve it. If we’re talking about SMART goals, this is where you want to be specific (or at least as specific as possible) and measurable. You want your goal to be an action item, not just a wish.
For example, if you want to be healthier, “get in shape” isn’t a goal that means much. Exactly what shape do you want to be? After all, you are already in a shape.
And how will you know when you’ve accomplished your goal? How will you know when you’re “in shape”?
So instead, maybe you set the goal to have the habit of working out for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Or losing 20 lbs.
Something specific and measurable (with a clear end point).
Some more examples:
- Instead of “read more”, you might write “read 12 books this year”
- Instead of “get more sleep” you may write “develop the habit of going to bed by 10:30pm every night”
- Instead of “get organized” you may write “go through everything I own and declutter my house, room by room” or “create a daily schedule and stick to it”
- Instead of “watch less TV” you may write “only watch TV on the weekends”
Start With Keystone Habits
While the sky’s the limit for what kind of goals you can set, you’ll get the most from any effort to change one of your keystone habits.
Keystone habits are foundational habits that deeply effect your life. Just changing these habits often automatically leads to changing other habits.
These are the categories of keystone habits:
- morning routine
For example, a lot of people who start exercising naturally start to eat healthier foods and get better sleep. Many people find that an intentional morning routine leads to greater productivity and a more organized life.
These keystone habits work for both good and bad.
I recently let my sleep habits go completely down the tubes and suddenly I wanted to just eat Rice Krispie Treats, skip the gym, and binge Netflix all day and let my kids fend for themselves. Once I got my sleep back on track, it was so much easier to get my act together with exercise, eating well, and being an attentive mom.
Same with my morning routine. Developing the habit of getting up before my kids and creating an intentional morning routine completely transformed my life. Just by changing that one habit, I was a happier and more patient mom. I got more done everyday, exercised more regularly, and my house stayed cleaner.
All from a simple morning routine before my kids were up.
Which keystone habit in your life needs to most work? That may be a great place to start when goal setting.
Additional Resources For Keystone Habits
- 9 Tips For Night Owls to Wake Up Early
- 9 Ways to Makeover Your Morning For a Happier, More Productive Day
- 3 Ways for Busy Moms to Get Motivated to Workout
- 10 Ways For Moms to Get Better Sleep
STEP 2: NAIL DOWN YOUR “WHY”
Next, you want to determine your motivation behind your goal. Establishing your “why” is big when it comes to mustering the willpower and energy to accomplish your goal when the going gets tough and you feel like quitting.
To wake up with your alarm when you’d rather hit snooze.
To hit the gym when you’d rather binge-watch Netflix and eat frozen gummy bears (seriously, just try them).
To use your kid’s nap-time to attack your reading list or your decluttering project instead of scrolling through social media.
Tapping into your “why” can give you the power to persist.
Questions to consider:
- How will accomplishing this goal change my life? (e.g. losing weight and improving my fitness will help me keep up with my kids)
- How will I feel physically or emotionally? (e.g. getting on top of the clutter and cleaning in my house will bring me peace of mind)
- How does this goal relate to your identity? (e.g. I want to be the kind of person who wakes up early)
Having a strong “why” is important when it comes to overcoming the obstacles and maintaining the struggle to work through your goals.
If you can’t find a strong motivating force behind your goal, then maybe your heart really isn’t in it. Maybe it’s a goal you think you should have. In that case, it’s best to settle on a goal that does really get you revved up.
STEP 3: BREAK YOUR GOAL DOWN INTO BABY STEPS
After you’ve nailed you goal and determined your “why,” now it’s time to break down exactly what steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal.
Basically, you’re taking your big goal and breaking it down into a bunch of mini goals.
For example, I recently set the goal to get 8 hours of quality sleep a night–a big order for a working mom of 4. But after reading a lot of scary research (namely the incredibly researched book, Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker), I’ve been frightened into making sleep a top priority.
In order to do this I’ve set the mini goals to:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (10:00pm and 6:00am respectively which ensures 8 hours)
- Stretch for 15-20 minutes as part of my nighttime routine (which relaxes me and helps me sleep better so I don’t lie awake, mind racing)
- Take a hot bath before bed each night (which also improves sleep)
I’ve also set the goal to lose the last 20 lbs to finally get to my goal weight (here’s a little about my weight loss journey). I’ve broken this goal into several mini goals:
- Only eat sweets on Sunday evening (where I will plan and make something super yummy that’ll keep me going during the week).
- Always eat from a -2 to a +2 on the hunger scale (here’s more on the hunger scale from the incredible Corinne Crabtree of Phit & Phat–it’s pure gold)
- Eat veggies with every meal
- No mindless snacking
- Work out at the gym 5 days a week doing a mix of HIIT, cardio, and weights
Breaking it down gives you small tangible things you can do (and track) to
STEP 4: ANTICIPATE OBSTACLES
There’s one truth about goals that we have to acknowledge.
- Your plans will completely go to crap at some point.
Your toddler is gonna have an epic tantrum at the end of The Day From Hell, when you’re beyond beat emotionally and physically. After a day where your car battery died right when you were going to take your kids to school, your toilet got so clogged you had to call for a plumber and ended up having to get a new toilet– all while your husband is in meetings with his phone off (this was one of my actual days last month).
And while you’ve stuck to your eating plan all day, the stress may lead you to wanting to break open a bag of marshmallows from the pantry.
Willpower runs low and life gets hard. While we often start out our goals on fire, inevitably major obstacles crop up. Obstacles like illness, a gooey cinnamon roll, complete exhaustion, or screaming kids.
Thing is, they’re obstacles we can usually see coming.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you know you’re going to face some serious temptations. Dinner at your favorite restaurant. A neighbor who shows up with brownies. Donuts in the workroom.
(For me, it’s at the end of a long, exhausting day when my willpower is shot and I just want a Chik-Fil-a milkshake)
If you’re trying to yell less and be more patient, you can bet your boots your kids are going to act possessed and push you to your limits at times.
If you’re trying to exercise before your kids are up, you know you’re going to have mornings when you absolutely would rather cut off your toe than tear yourself from your bed.
Thinking about your goal, what obstacles will you face?
STEP 5: VISUALIZE OVERCOMING OBSTACLES
Once you identified the obstacles you can see on the horizon, then you need to figure out how you will overcome them. And then actually visualize yourself tackling these obstacles before you ever face them.
That way, once they arrive, you’ve already worked out how you’re going to handle them.
For example, if you’re trying to eat healthy, how will you overcome the temptations of eating out with friends, the neighbor who shows up with brownies, or the donuts left out for everyone to sample?
Perhaps you find the menu in advance and pick out the healthiest option before you ever set foot in the restaurant. And then you visualize yourself doing just that.
When it comes to treats that just land in your lap (e.g. neighbor’s brownies or workroom donuts), maybe you decide that if it’s your absolute favorite treat, you will partake, otherwise, you abstain. Or that you’ll always skip such treats.
Then imagine yourself, in as much vivid detail as possible, seeing the treats…and then doing something else.
If you’re trying to be a more patient parent, how are you going to handle your 2-year old in the middle of a meltdown over having to wear pants?
Maybe you imagine yourself taking deep, centering breaths and calmly telling your child (as she writhes on the floor, screaming) that she cannot simply wear panties and a t-shirt to the store. And then staying calm no matter what.
Maybe you come up with a mantra your repeat to yourself like “No one “makes” me angry. I choose how I react.”
If you’re trying to exercise before your kids are up, you know you’re going to have mornings when your alarm clock will go off and you’d like to hit snooze or tear it from the wall.
So you visualize your alarm going off and then you jumping out of bed, smile on your face, and throwing on your workout clothes.
How will you respond to your obstacles?
STEP 6: CREATE AN ACCOUNTABILITY FRAMEWORK
Now it’s time to figure out how you’re going to be accountable for this plan you’ve set. Most people either need or greatly benefit from someone else helping them stay accountable when it comes to doing things for themselves.
Some examples of accountability structures:
- Get an accountability partner (like a workout buddy)
- Join a group challenge
- Hire a coach
- Gather like-minded friends and create an accountability group
- Make a public declaration (a lot of people feel obligated to follow up when they tell everyone they’re doing something)
Putting money on the line often encourages people to get serious about their goals. This could be through hiring a coach or trainer. Or my favorite thing ever: A friend of mine very publicly vowed to write a check for $100 to the campaign of a local politician (who she found entirely repugnant) if she could not go 30 days sugar-free. She did.
Be honest with yourself and what works for you. Sometimes creating the right accountability structure means going outside of our comfort zones. But don’t let fear and insecurity keep you from creating a life you love.
STEP 7: DO SOMETHING EVERY DAY
There is incredible power in doing something every single day. To paraphrase Anthony Trollope: a small daily effort beats out the occasional Herculean feat.
It does this for a few reasons:
- You’re constantly making progress on your goal, which keeps you in the right mindset.
- Knowing you’ll do something everyday takes away making a daily choice (“Will I do it today or not?”), which preserves willpower.
What can you do everyday–even if it’s just for a few minutes–that will get you closer to your goal?
For example, if you want a cleaner, more organized house, then creating a daily cleaning routine will go a long way towards achieving your goal.
The small daily habits you have determine the kind of life you lead. What daily habits do you need to achieve your goal?
STEP 8: MAKE A TIMELINE
After all the other steps, you want to put a timeline on your goal. Look at the mini goals from step 3. When do you want to accomplish each thing? And when is it realistic for you to accomplish your end goal?
Give yourself a date and get crackin’!
GO FOR GOLD & ADJUST AS NEEDED
As you finish your plan and set out to conquer the world, you may run into problems. Maybe waking up at 4:00am to go to the gym wasn’t actually a realistic plan when you’re up with a baby 3 times a night. Or maybe a big life event happens (e.g. job loss/gain, a move, illness) that leads makes your plan less feasible.
So you may need to adjust. But that’s life. Especially when you have kids.
Our plans might be constantly evolving in order to best fit our lives and to the most effective.
You’ve got this!
Are you ready for this?! Are you ready for some awesome changes? Then download your free worksheet and get planning!
- 10 Goal-Setting Tips to Change Your Habits & Create the Life You Want
- How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done
- 10 Things You Can Do Everyday to Be a Happier Mom