The Ultimate 2014 Goal Setting Guide

By ultimate goal setting guide I mean epic, step-by-step, and intense. Also, kind of long… but annual goal setting is some of the most important life work you will ever do. Pour yourself a cup of tea, grab a notebook and start planning your best year ever. Don’t have enough “time” – beg, borrow, or steal it from your internet surfing, TV watching, or even sleeping time if you have to, but get intentional about goal setting!

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We all know that New Year’s resolutions aren’t real goals – they are like momentary brain blips. We get caught up in the euphoria of this mystical, amazing blank slate that January 1st brings us and make plans to conquer the world. Then we go to a New Year’s Eve party drink far too much champagne, decide to start tomorrow, then Feb 1st, and before you know it, it’s September and this year is a wash so we plan to start next year. It’s time to to stop the goal setting madness.

For the most part over the last 3 years I have made huge strides in my career, personal relationships, and on this blog, and along the way my batting average with goals has improved a lot. Sure, there are still some areas where I haven’t been quite on target (fitness and finances come to mind), but I’m convinced it’s because I’ve set the wrong type of goals in those areas. The thing is, most women aren’t motivated by hard number goals, yet we are still striving to make “x” number of dollars, or do “x” number of squats; rather than setting goals around our feelings. With that idea in mind I’ve the spent the last two months picking apart the pieces of my goal setting system that work, identifying what’s broken, and bringing together ideas from various other sources and writers that I love, to create a unique and completely customizable process for annual goal setting.  This process looks at all areas of your life as a whole; work, family, self, health – we are going to touch on it all.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of the process, I want to take a moment to recognize the importance of tying your intentions for the year to belief. If you don’t believe that goal setting works, it won’t work for you. So assuming you believe in goal setting, of equal importance is choosing your goals with intention. You are crafting the next 365 days of your life, don’t just pick the first goal that pops into your head, be intentional, think of what achievements would have maximum impact on your life, work, and relationships before committing to a goal. Now that we have that out of the way – let’s make magic in 2014!

Step 1: Celebrate your successes from last year

Take the time to create a list of all the amazing things you accomplished in the last 12 months before putting this year to bed. What would the highlight reel of your work year look like? It’s also beneficial to review your year on a personal and relationship level. Once I took the time to dump my iPhone photos and sort out some memory cards, it was actually reassuring to see how many amazing experiences I had with my kids and husband last year, hooray for shaking some mommy guilt!

After your list (or lists) are complete, make sure you celebrate. It can be as simple as going out for a drink with a friend, or ordering in a pizza with your spouse (my celebration involved gluten free doughnuts and milk with the kiddos). The only rule – whenever possible, celebrate with someone else, even if you have to do it over skype.

Note: As we work through the steps and the process I will not be sharing my entire list of goals with you for two reasons – one I don’t want to influence your goals, this is really personal stuff we are working on, and the second reason is the last step in the process so you have to keep reading #tease.

Step 2: Choose Your Core Desired Feelings for the Coming Year

This is a concept I learned from Danielle La Porte’s Desire Map (which I highly recommend picking up if you haven’t already). The simple act of attaching goals to desired feelings has completely changed how I set my goals and measure success. The short version is this; before you set a single goal for the year choose 5-7 words that reflect how you want to feel everyday. What feelings “feel like” success and happiness to you and truly speak to your soul? Try completing this exercise from The Fire Starter Sessions to find your core desired feelings.

For 2014 I ended up selecting 6 words, and 3 of them are; heart-centred, adventure, and abundant. These words only need to make sense to you, and resonate with your soul (you can call it your heart if soul is too spiritual for you). Whatever you do, don’t try to get buy in from your friends or spouse on your core desired feelings – they are personal, protect them like you would your children (I’m serious, be fierce about it).

Side Note: Along with my Core Desired Feelings I also choose an overall word of the year, it’s kind of like an overarching theme (read more about it here). My word for the year in 2014 is Ease, but I will expand on that more in a future blog post. Core Desired Feelings are about how I want to feel, while the word of the year is more about the rhythm I want in my life.

Steps 3, 4, and 6 are adapted from this amazing blog post by Nicole of Life Less Bullshit (yes, she really named her blog that, and she’s awesome!) In her post she talks about “9 life buckets”,  I like to call them 9 pieces of the puzzle because I enjoy the visualization of these pieces of my life fitting together perfectly. Along the lines of the puzzle, I’ve included business and work goals inside of my 9 puzzle pieces because I’m self-employed and work from home, however, Nicole does a separate goal plan for work. You are free to do whatever works for you; goal setting isn’t supposed to be a one-size-fits-all experience, it’s personal. (Do you see a theme here … goal setting is personal).

Step 3:  Select 9 Areas of Life You Would Like to Focus on in the Coming Year –
These are Your “Puzzle Pieces”

Remember, you are crafting your ideal life, so you can choose whatever floats your boat. There might be some obvious categories like work, marriage, self care etc, but beyond that really stretch yourself to come up with other pieces of the puzzle like travel, health, self-talk, or even your sex life (I’m not trying to scandalize you, just push you out of your comfort zone a little!) For 2014 a few of my traditional puzzle pieces are self, work and marriage, and I also have some customized pieces like food and adventure.

Step 4. Within Each of Your 9 Selected Areas Create 3 Goals

I know what you are thinking  – this is crazy, 27 goals for one year?! Stick with me here and I promise the puzzle pieces will all come together (pun intended). Looking at each area choose a hard, medium, and easy goal. For example in my food puzzle piece, my goals might be as follows:

  • Easy – Include one vegetable in every dinner I cook
  • Medium – Shop from a meal plan every week
  • Hard – Cook at home 6 days a week

See how that is much easier to digest (oh boy, another pun) than a vague resolution of “eat healthy”. It’s also measurable which a lot of experts say is key to successful goal setting.

When you are setting your goals remember to focus on results you want to achieve by December 31st (or 365 days from your start date), not things you need to be doing consistently on January 1st. This is why most people “fail” at New Year’s Resolutions because they can’t quit coffee cold turkey, or wake up one morning and start working out for an hour every day. We are working up to these achievements, it’s a process.

Step 5: Commit to Your Puzzle Pieces and Goals

Once you’ve selected your 9 puzzle pieces, and 3 goals for each, take some time to read over them again and make sure they match up with those core desired feelings that you chose in step 2. If everything sits right then have a little commitment ceremony with yourself and those goals and profess your love for them (or just write them down in permanent marker – that’s a bold sign of commitment too).

Note – I take the commitment to my goals very seriously (we had a ceremony after all), but if at any time during the year one of those goals isn’t important to me any more or doesn’t resonate with my core desired feelings, I give myself permission to replace it with something else. Always replace a goal that no longer motivates you with something that does – otherwise you will start feeling like a failure.

Step 6: Monthly Practice

This is my favourite take-away from Nicole’s post! At the beginning of each month, take out your list of goals and write down one thing you will do that month that will bring you closer to that goal – one simple thing. So going back to my food example, it might look like this:

Easy Goal:  Include one vegetable in every dinner I cook 
Action: Go to the fruit and vegetable store once a week. 

Medium Goal: Shop from a meal plan every week
Action: Choose 7 meals we love and create a re-usable meal plan

Hard Goal: Cook at home 6 days a week
Action: Organize kitchen cupboards and make a list of tools that need to be replaced 

The reality is, you probably won’t check off all 27 items every month, but you will be probably check off somewhere between 12 -17 (totally unscientific guess, but you get what I mean). You’ll be a few steps closer to each of your goals at the end of every month.

Step 7: Honour Your Goals

I used to share my goals with anyone and everyone – but not anymore. Goal setting is a highly personal process, and sharing them with everyone takes a little bit of the magic out of it. Not to mention, when you share a goal with your friend or partner and they don’t show the same level of excitement that you have for it, a little bit of your excitement and belief in your ability to achieve that goal dies too. So for the most part, keep those goals to yourself, look at them everyday, pet them, talk to them, breath life into them (or just review them), but don’t share them with just anyone.

So who should you share them with? First off, anyone who has a stake in the goal. For example, my food goals have to do with the health of my family so I need them to buy into the plan to “get healthy”, so I’ve shared with them. I also have a few really good friends that I love and trust and they are my biggest cheerleaders so I might share certain work goals with them. That’s it, no one else.

Goals are sacred and deserve respect. If that’s too whoo-whoo for you, check out this very scientific post by Michael Hyatt on reasons why shouldn’t share your goals publicly.

If you are still with me at this point, congratulations! Making intentional changes in your life takes a fierce commitment, and it takes time. Time to learn, explore your deepest feelings on life and success, and time to grow. So step away from the computer for a little bit, quiet your mind, and wait for the answers to your questions about puzzle pieces, goal setting, and desired feelings to be answered with ease. When those answers come (and they will) be ready with pen and paper, make a blueprint for 2014, and then rock on sister!

So I’ve broken a record for my longest post ever by 600 words, I hope you all enjoy and get benefit out of this post! 



  1. Kalyani
    December 20, 2013 / 3:03 pm

    A truly beautiful post Raj! So realistic, motivating and simple:-) You should write a book..I’d buy it!
    I was looking for something exactly like this but struggled to find goal setting ideas that are tangible..I will certainly be making my 27 item blueprint for 2014..

    Wish you the very best for 2014:-))

    • December 20, 2013 / 5:51 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words Kalyany – totally made my day!

  2. December 20, 2013 / 8:56 pm

    I suddenly feel very inspired and less overwhelmed about goal setting. We are in the midst of an incredible life change, and this might be just the things to help keep us on point when we start to settle into our new life.

  3. Taneane Twele
    December 23, 2013 / 4:44 pm

    Thank you Raj, very helpful and inspirational. I am excited to make my blueprints for 2014!

  4. January 1, 2014 / 12:11 pm

    Great post Raj! Here’s to the best 2014 ever!

    • January 9, 2014 / 4:04 pm

      Thank you love – we are so overdue for a chat!

  5. January 29, 2014 / 10:09 pm

    fabulous post!!! I’m so glad I popped over to the VM2013 page and saw the post so I could pop over here and read this!! I’m so ready for goal setting. It might not be Jan. 1st but I have a year ahead of me to get excited about. And oddly, I picked two words for myself this year to summarize what I want to feel – so I guess I’m already started on the path and I didn’t even know it.

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