I was reluctant to be too committed to things like personal goals and magical words in the past because they felt a bit contrived. I didn’t want to fail. And I didn’t have a practical way to implement my ideas.
But, after giving it a good go with my PowerSheets last year, I’ve been converted. Goals and having a “word of the year” are my jam now.
My 2019 word is “rhythm.” I’d love to share it with you—what it means and how I chose it.
And in order to do that, first you need to understand my word of the year last year and how my thought process evolved.
Image credit: Bruno Nascimento
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Looking Back on “Connection” in 2018
Last year my word was “connection.” I chose it because in a lot of areas in my life I felt the opposite: disconnected.
To be honest, it was difficult to translate this word into some tangible goals. I did have a few, but they shifted quite a bit over the year. (And this was all fine—good, in fact.)
For example, I started out wanting to focus on each of my kids’ love languages more. That didn’t really happen, but I did make a habit of taking photos each week and worked out a new system of organizing them. As a result, I have one of the better organized and documented years of our family!
“Connection” also led me to some unexpected life lessons that I couldn’t have orchestrated with goals at all. Simply being cognizant of the idea led my heart on journeys I couldn’t have imagined.
One of the biggest lessons I learned was that in order to be connected, you have to be vulnerable. This opens you to pain and suffering, but is also vital to close relationships.
As I spent time over the past few weeks considering where I want my life to go in 2019, I definitely wanted to continue growing in connection. I tossed around some words that were very similar.
But when I looked at what went well last year, a surprisingly different word stood out.
The areas of my life that have worked well include my friendships, family relationships, our homeschooling and my relationship with God. And they all had one thing in common.
They have been flowing smoothly in my life because I have made room for them. I don’t have to think hard about them because there are systems in place that make them my highest priorities.
In other words, I am able to be more connected with the things that matter most because the rhythms that I have in place enable that connection.
So what will happen if I apply that concept—rhythm—to other areas of my life, especially the ones that need a little help?
When I shared what I was thinking with my husband Marc, he asked me what the difference is between “rhythm” and “routine.”
The answer: everything!
Rhythm: a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound.
A similar word is cadence. These are terms often associated with music.
Rhythm is spiritual. It reminds me of the natural processes we see in nature: seasons, months, weeks, days. Rhythm is also throughout the Scriptures, set in motion by the creation account in Genesis 1.
The definition of “routine,” in contrast, is: “a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.”
It’s the difference between a symphony and an accounting spreadsheet. They’re both systematic. But one is a masterpiece. The other is…well, an accounting spreadsheet.
Rhythm is the foundation of any piece of music. Once the rhythm is in place, you have the freedom to improvise and express yourself. But without it…you’re lost.
Another beautiful thing about rhythm is that you can find your way back to it when you get off track, once you know it and internalize it.
My 2019 Goals
So here’s where the theory hits reality. What kinds of goals can I set this year around this abstract concept of rhythm?
Some people say to shoot for big, impossible goals that will stretch you outside of your comfort zone. While I see the value in that, that’s not the direction I believe God is nudging me this year. Instead, I am working on fine-tuning.
I have a lot of great rhythms already in place. My intent is to refine them, rather than completely overhaul them.
I didn’t share my goals at the beginning of the year last year publicly, but this year I’m going to branch out a bit (it also holds me accountable!). My hope is not that you’ll make the same goals yourself, but that they’ll help you think about how to approach this process in your own life.
I have 10 big goals that I want to accomplish this year, but I am primarily going to focus on those I can complete in the next 90 days. Being true to the idea of rhythm, it makes to sense to me to focus on what I can each season, rather than keep up an unsustainable pace for a full year.
The top three goals listed below are my highest priorities (which I hope to accomplish by spring), while the others are in the background.
1. Implement New Home Management System
This one sounds a bit vague, so I’ll explain three ways I’m improving the way I run our household, which will help it run on a smoother rhythm:
First, we were overdue to revamp our meal planning system. I recently got my hands on the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle and have started using a new planning/shopping/prepping system that takes the stress out of making healthy, homemade meals. So this part of the goal is already done, only two weeks into the year!
Second, now that my kids are older I need to get us on a cleaning and home improvement schedule. I wrote out a plan and schedule helps train and engage them, and now we just have to follow through.
Finally, I want to continue to make tweaks and experiment with some other systems that will take a lot of the stress out of running the home. I’m working through this Family Routines e-course from my friend Hilary and want to try some of her amazing tips!
If I can successfully complete the e-course and find that my other systems are working well by March, I’ll consider this goal met.
2. Nurture a Daily Creativity Habit
I’m such a productivity freak (ahem, can you tell?), but after reflecting on what connection has meant to me in the past year, I realized that I want to continue to make space for beauty and creativity in my life.
What this will look like practically is getting into a new rhythm: making space for these things daily. The goal is to spend at least 15 minutes a day doing something that involves beauty, whether that’s playing the piano, reading fiction or listening to music, just for the fun of it.
If I can do this 5/7 days a week for 12 consecutive weeks, I’ll have met this goal. (And even if I don’t hit it, I think I’ll still benefit.)
3. Add to Our Savings Monthly
We have a frustrating rhythm of letting our money fly in and out of the bank account. While we’ve been free of consumer debt for years, I’ve been frustrated about our shallow amount of savings. This year, I’m setting aside our savings first (and putting it in a separate account so that out of sight, out of mind!). I’ve reworked our electronic envelope budgeting system to make this more manageable.
To make this goal even more manageable I’m tracking the habit of reconciling our receipts with our spending envelopes daily. I’d like to make this habit part of the rhythm of my everyday life.
4. Cultivate More Prayerful Friendships
I’d like to get into the rhythm of praying more with my friends. My goal is to pray with someone outside of my household at least once a week for 12 consecutive weeks.
5. Finish Refreshing Our Bathroom
I’m really bad at updating our home because I don’t often have large chunks of time to work on it. So I’ve taken the approach of getting into a good rhythm with a little progress at a time.
I have several tasks to complete in order to finish updating our master bath. I should be able to finish if I have a few weekends where I have just a couple of hours to focus on it.
6. Have a Garage Sale
This goal is driven by the desire to declutter the house. I feel like our home runs at a much smoother rhythm when we’re not burdened with so much stuff. Whether I have an actual garage sale, sell goods online or donate it all, my goal is to have decluttered the whole house by summer.
7. Double My Blog’s Email Subscriber List
This isn’t just an arbitrary number; based on my current rate of growth this is a stretch, but doable. One of the ways I want to accomplish this is by getting into a smoother rhythm in the ways I produce my content. (I won’t bore you with those details!)
8. Double My Take-Home Income
In addition to running this blog, I also write copy for businesses. I hope that by getting into a good rhythm with my work hours and content strategy this year, I’ll be able to reach this income goal that I’ve been wanting to hit for awhile!
Once I hit this goal, I’ll be in a better position to explore hiring team members and giving more away to families in need.
9. Prepare My Kids for Their Personal Goals
My two oldest boys have a couple of activity and school-related projects that I’m encouraging them to reach this year. By continuing in a consistent rhythm in our homeschool, I hope to assist them in getting there.
10. Read Six Books That Help Me Focus on Rhythm
I have a reading list about a mile long and don’t have a lot of intention about how to tackle it. I decided that if I have “rhythm” as a theme (loosely), I can benefit from some more focused study. Six is a very easy number to hit. We’ll see where it takes me after that.
Currently on my reading list:
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
Discipline: The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
Sabbath Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest by Lynne M. Baab
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff by Myquillyn Smith
Now it’s your turn: Do you pick a “word of the year”? Do you set goals? I’d love to hear what you’re working on.
Do you want to set goals or choose a word of the year but don’t know where to start? Check out the mini-workbook in my free resource collection.