Setting Goals

23 Jun

I recently read that one of the keys to happiness is to always have goals that you’re striving to achieve. People typically set goals at the beginning of the year, but that’s so cliché, and breaking New Years resolutions is treated like a national past time. For these reasons, I suggest setting goals on any day other than New Years day–perhaps your birthday, the first day of school, or how about July 1st, which just happens to be next week.

Here is the approach I take each year in setting my goals.

STEP 1  –  Write down the high-level key areas of your life. Below is a suggested list, along with a description of each. Your list may include additional areas, such as religion/spirituality or charitable work. Modify the list, if you like, but keep it high level.

  • Financial–Includes your savings, investments (including home ownership), debt, etc.
  • Career–Includes your current or future career and your writing (unless you feel it’s more of a hobby).
  • Interests–Includes your hobbies, recreational interests, something new you’d like to learn.
  • Relationships–Includes relationships with your significant other, children, parents, siblings, friends.
  • Health–Includes nutrition, physical activity, rest/relaxation.

STEP 2  –  Once you have the list written, think about how satisfied you are with each of these areas of your life, and put a plus (+) or minus (-) next to each item on your list. Do not over-think this.

  • Financial            +
  • Career                –
  • Interests             +
  • Relationships     –
  • Health                 +

Did you end up with a minus (-) next to each line? If so, do it again, and this time lighten up a little.

STEP 3  –  Now toss out the ones with a plus (+).  In this example, you’d be left with career and relationships.

STEP 4  –  Break down the areas with a minus (-) into more detailed components.

  • Career—your 8-5 job
  • Career—writing
  • Relationships—significant other
  • Relationships—children
  • Relationships—parents
  • Relationships—siblings
  • Relationships—friends

STEP 5 – Now think about how satisfied you are with each of these areas of your life, and put a plus (+) or minus (-) next to each line on your list. You can put a little more thought into it at this stage.

  • Career—8-5 job                                 +
  • Career—writing                                 –
  • Relationships—significant other     ++++          (I’m a newlywed)
  • Relationships—children                    +
  • Relationships—parents                     –
  • Relationships—siblings                    +
  • Relationships—friends                      +

STEP 6  –  Now toss out the ones with a plus (+) sign next to them. In this example, you’d be left with your writing career and your relationship with your parents. These are the areas that need your attention. Create goals around these areas.

STEP 7  –  Now consider each of these areas and determine why you’re dissatisfied with these areas of your life. Take some time to think about it. Perhaps you’re dissatisfied with your plotting skills, and perhaps you don’t see your parents as much as you’d like. Whatever it is that makes you dissatisfied with that piece of your life, identify specifically what the issue is. Writing it down is optional.

STEP 8  –  Write your goals. Be specific, and whatever you write, make sure you have the ability to make them happen (you cannot control whether you win a contest, but you can control how many contests you enter, which will increase your chances of winning one). Writing SMART goals is a good idea, but I don’t have the space to describe it here, and many of you are probably familiar with the process. If not, you can query it on-line. There’s a lot of information available.


  • By August 15th, 2011, I will have read one book on plotting, and by December 31st, 2011, I will have participated in one workshop on plotting.
  • Twice a month, between now and July 1, 2011, I will meet my parents for lunch, a visit, a movie, or some other activity.

Don’t write so many goals that you’ll feel overwhelmed. Pick the most important and most beneficial goals to work towards. Once you’ve written your goals, keep the list someplace where you’ll see it on a regular basis. I don’t use the TASK function on my computer’s calendar for much, so I list my goals there. Every time I open my calendar, there are my goals.

There is something very satisfying about fulfilling a promise to yourself. We make and keep commitments to others all the time, but we often don’t show ourselves the same respect. So take your goals seriously and try to meet them. With that said, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t hit the mark 100%. If you miss a couple weeks with your parents or you’re a week late in taking that plotting class, you’ll still be a SCREAMING SUCCESS.


Posted by on June 23, 2011 in books, goals, writers, writing


Tags: , , , ,

27 responses to “Setting Goals

  1. Sally

    June 23, 2011 at 7:34 AM

    Carley, I’m going to try this method – looks like it might work for me and my goals. Thanks!

    • Carley Ash

      June 23, 2011 at 5:38 PM

      Great! I love this approach. Thanks for checking out the blog today.

  2. Janis McCurry

    June 23, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    Carley, this is a wonderful achievable method. Thanks so much.

    • Carley Ash

      June 23, 2011 at 5:39 PM

      Thanks Janis.

  3. Lori Edwards

    June 23, 2011 at 8:41 AM

    Hi Carley – yes, this is a totally different method that I have used in the past. Made me think about priorities and have put down a couple goals for me. One of those goals will be reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen in a while. You should be seeing an email from me for lunch in the next couple weeks 🙂

    • Carley Ash

      June 23, 2011 at 5:39 PM

      That sounds fun. Thanks for checking out the blog.

  4. Steph Bochenek

    June 23, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    Carley, I like the idea of using the task function. I’m going to try that. Very interesting blog.

    • Carley Ash

      June 23, 2011 at 5:40 PM

      Thanks Steph. I like having my goals flashed in front of me several times a week. I can’t forget them that way.

  5. Shannon Blaine

    June 23, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    I like this so much I would like to share with our management team. Is that okay with you?

    • Carley Ash

      June 23, 2011 at 5:11 PM

      Feel free to use it. Thanks Shannon.

  6. Johanna Harness

    June 23, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    Gotta love a process that takes us from a vague sense of dissatisfaction to concrete goals. Thank you!

    • Carley Ash

      June 23, 2011 at 5:42 PM

      You are welcome, and thank you for retweeting for me today.

  7. Ruth Ard

    June 23, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    Good advice! However, one of your goals needs to be “Lunch with Ruth”!

    • Carley Ash

      June 23, 2011 at 5:13 PM

      That sounds like an excellent one.

  8. Liz Fredericks

    June 23, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    Great information, Carley! Thank you for sharing your process.

    • Carley Ash

      June 23, 2011 at 5:44 PM

      Thanks Liz.

  9. lynn mapp

    June 23, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    Carley, thank you for the blog. I like how how laid everything out in such an orderly fashion. I’m going to try this.

  10. Carley Ash

    June 23, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    Thanks Lynn. I hope you enjoy the process as much as I do.

  11. Clarissa Southwick

    June 23, 2011 at 10:41 PM

    This looks like a great method of goal-setting. I’ll have to try it. Thanks, Carley.

    • Carley Ash

      June 24, 2011 at 6:30 AM

      Thanks Clarissa, and good luck next week.

  12. Anne Hamilton

    June 23, 2011 at 10:59 PM

    This method sounds very intriguing – thanks for sharing it. Thanks, too, for the specific examples of the goals – they show me that a goal can be just to make some progress (read a book) rather than being a big, grandiose thing (become a master plotter).

    • Carley Ash

      June 24, 2011 at 6:32 AM

      Thanks for reading the blog Anne.

  13. Stacy C

    June 27, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    What a great idea – to narrow down your goals in this way and set them mid-year or during a personal anniversary. I love it!

  14. Carley Ash

    June 27, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    Thank you Stacy.

  15. Amity Grays

    June 28, 2011 at 5:26 AM

    Great idea, Carley. I especially like the starting it from the point and time that fits your calendar not the yearly one.

  16. Carley Ash

    June 28, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    Thanks Amity, and thanks for stopping by Gem State Writers.

  17. Mary Vine

    June 30, 2011 at 8:36 PM

    I like how you included more than just writing goals in your list. And I like how you brought goals up in the middle of the year. Great post, Carly!


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