The Goal-Setting Session I Hold With Friends Four Times a Year

published Jan 19, 2022
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Every January, I sit down with three of my girlfriends for a goal-setting session that’s going on its fourth annual iteration. We held our inaugural session in 2019 after attending a vision board workshop with a local creative entrepreneur — we took what we learned and molded it into our own tradition to develop goals across our personal lives, careers, and passions. We write down abstract visions and action steps. We discuss how we want to feel in our future. And, each quarter, we meet to discuss how we’ve progressed.

Last year, the goals among our group included buying a home, launching a rental property, getting into the dating world, and having a baby. While not everything was totally in our control, by Dec. 31, we’d put those goals into the world and all of us had achieved (or were on the way to achieving) them. 

It’s incredible that we all saw success with our goals in 2021. That won’t happen every year. But by meeting four times a year to discuss progress and plans, it helps us celebrate the wins big and small and reroute as needed. 

Here’s how we do it. Note: The first two sections are typically done only in January, and the last two are revisited quarterly. 

20 Minutes to Brain-Dump Keywords Across Personal, Career, and Passion

Our first exercise is designed to brain-dump the keywords, concepts, and ideas that you want to bring into your life over the next year. These don’t need to be concrete goals yet. Split these into three categories: personal, career, and passion. 

Under personal, you might write “save more, text a friend whenever I think of her, redecorate my apartment in a way that feels less Insta-inspired and more me.” Career could include “meet peers in my industry, ask for a raise.” You could jot down “paint more, pursue hobbies without monetization, focus on vulnerability” under passion.

Then, take just a minute or two to create a “no thank you” list where you’ll toss away all the things you want to leave behind, like toxic relationships, saying yes to everything, wasted time scrolling through Instagram, or too much alcohol.

10 Minutes to Write Down Your Holistic Vision 

This is where things get abstract before they get back on track toward the actionable. Take 10 minutes to think deeply about what you want your life to look like in a year. Reflect on how you feel now and how you want that to change in the next 365 days — or whether you would be happy to bring in more of what you have in the current moment. If you do a word of the year, set that now.

Write down the feelings, emotions, landscapes, achievements, experiences, and people that surround you in your ideal future. Maybe you want to feel curious, loved, and at peace in a cottage in the country. Perhaps you want to feel settled, successful, and with your closest friends at a raucous party. These are in-the-clouds concepts. Once you’ve tackled one year, take a few more minutes to go even bigger. Write down how you want to feel in 10 years.

20 Minutes to Break Down Step One Into Specific Goals

Now it’s time to buckle down. Go through the items you wrote down in the first step and choose which you want to prioritize over the next year. Break those down into specific goals and steps. 

If one of your personal goals is to walk more, your steps could look like “take two 20-minute walks a day. If an errand is within a one-mile radius, walk instead of rideshare.” If your career goal is to meet others in your industry, write down, “Once a month, reach out to someone I would like to know for a virtual coffee. Organize a once-a-quarter professional dinner with people I’d like to connect with.” 

10 Minutes to Wrap Up With Immediate Action Items

With specific goals in mind, the last step is to look at which ones you want to tackle in this quarter and put immediate and short-term action items down on paper. Write down the moves you can make starting today and through the rest of the quarter. 

Revisiting the “walk more” goal, your immediate action items could be “block twice-daily walks in my Outlook calendar” and “make sure my Apple Watch is synced,” and your short-term goal before the end of the quarter could be “hit 10K steps five days a week.” For the career networking goal, consider: “Write down a list of 12 people for the monthly coffee dates” or “join Bumble Bizz” in the immediate and “schedule the first professional dinner” in the short term.

Revisit Quarterly

Every three months, come back to your goals as a group. Look at which ones are still priorities in your life and how you can shift your actions to get closer to them. Set new immediate and short-term action items for new quarterly goals, and reassess as needed. 

Remember this is a fluid process and you can adjust throughout the year. But the importance of coming back quarterly is to refocus and maintain sight of the bigger picture.