I got married on December 28, 2005. On New Years Eve we were road tripping back home after our honeymoon. While my husband drove, I found a fresh page in my notebook and wrote 2006 at the top in big letters. Then I wrote down four subheadings: Physical, Intellectual, Spiritual and Social.

“Okay,” I said. “What are your goals this year?”

My husband blinked at me. “What goals?”

“Your 2006 goals…” I said.


“You don’t set New Years’ Goals?”


“Okay, well, I always set goals and this year you’ll join me. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary, just a little goal in each category.”

I proceeded to force my husband to set goals.

I wish I still had the paper I wrote those down on. My husband figured that losing weight is a pretty common goal. He set a goal to lose ten pounds. December 31, 2005 is the thinnest he’s ever been.

We were worried about losing touch with our single friends. We set a goal to hang out with people at least once a month. We needn’t have worried. Our tiny apartment hosted game nights at least once a week.

Fifteen years later, my conversation with my husband is similar. “Have you thought about 2021 goals?”

“Not really.”

“Alright, well what about physical? What do you think you want to do for that?’

“I think I want to run another half marathon.”

“Another half? It’s been five years since you’ve run more than two miles.”

“I know… I just think I want to run another one.”

“Okay…” I say, slowly writing it down. “What are you going to do to get there?”

The exercise seems identical, futile even, but we’ve come a long way. We are definitively better people than we were fifteen years ago, in every way. Even physically (at least I am 😉) I know people have strong feelings about New Year’s Goals.

My 2020 social goal was to do something vulnerable every week. That goal directly led to my first novel being published this year, feeling a greater sense of belonging in my community and allowing me to be a force for good in the lives of people around me. Despite Covid.

If you’re interested in setting goals, or want to make your goals more effective than in past years, here are some great reads to help you.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  If you haven’t read this one yet, now is a great time. I wouldn’t describe this as a self-help book. It reads like a Malcolm Gladwell, citing various studies and anecdotes to make points about a greater theme. It will inspire you to examine your life and notice what your habits are.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey.  Modeled after the much heavier book by Sean’s father Stephen Covey, this book is a more bite sized approach to the seven habits.  Which are excellent, as the long-lasting popularity of Stephen Covey’s book suggests.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. On letting go of ‘should.’ This book, and Brene’s famous TED talk are the things that inspired me to make my vulnerability goal in 2020. Very inspiring.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Even if you don’t buy in completely to Ramsey’s money philosophy, reading this book will make you more intentional about how you’re managing your finances.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. If you’d like to set a running goal this book will inspire you. Just resist the temptation to try barefoot running, it will only end in pain.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Once again, you may not agree with everything Gilbert is saying but her book will inspire you to be brave. If you have creative goals this year, pick this one up.

Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. I love this book because it helped me not be so scared of calories. I started concentrating more about if I am getting the right nutrients in each day. It concentrates on health, with weight loss being more of a side effect.

Pick someone you admire and read their biography. I read Thomas S. Monson’s biography a little over a year ago. The writing wasn’t my favorite but the way he lived his life, with a focus on lifting up individual people, inspired and motivated me. I read another book called Mama Maggie. Once again, the writing was underwhelming, but the woman’s life serving the poverty-stricken children of Egypt was inspiring. Self help books are all well and good but I think what really motivates us to change is seeing how the people we admire lived their lives.

We all grow and change everyday. All we have is our choices. I hope you find some forward progress in 2021!

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