Lessons Learned from Setting 13 Goals in One Year

posted by Aby Garvey on January 1, 2014 7 Comments

Whew, it’s hard to believe that 2013 is now just a memory. The year flew by for me. Perhaps not in the beginning, but somewhere around mid-summer, the year went on turbo-charge. I know when it happened…it was when I started training for the half-marathon (Goal #8), which I might add, was one of my best decisions, and my best goal of 2013. So…how did I do? Well, instead of just sharing the nitty-gritty update for each goal, I’d like to share some of my big takeaways, what I learned by setting 13 goals in a single year. In the process, I’ll weave in my year end progress report.

Setting a goal a month is an excellent approach. I loved it. In the past, I’ve tried to set all of my goals for the year at the start of the New Year. This is a fine approach, too, but for me, I loved setting a new goal each month. It kept the year exciting and fresh, and allowed me to hone in on changing moods and needs. But…there was one drawback.

Year-long goals can collide with one another. When they do, you have to make choices. I had a couple year-long goals. My highest priority goal was to run 500 miles (Goal #1), and I’m happy to report I exceeded that mileage and after my New Year’s Eve run, came in at 530 miles. However, my other year-long goal, to do Project Life (Goal #3), didn’t fare as well. Am I disappointed? Sure. I would love to have a finished Project Life book in my hands right now, but I had to make a choice about how to use my limited free time. I chose running over scrapbooking, and for me it was the right choice. (Maybe this is why my camera broke…to validate my decision?) I don’t look at this as failure, but instead a choice. I chose one goal over another. And…because I set the goal to do Project Life in the first place, I have four months of really cool memories captured and completed. (Love that!) Which leads me to my next big takeaway…

When you set a goal, you always go further than you would go without a goal. I know it can be intimidating to set goals…because…what if you fail? Well…I didn’t hit some of my goals, and the world didn’t stop spinning. For me, however, the world might as well stop spinning if I don’t have a goal, something I’m really passionate and excited about doing and achieving. I have written before that goals give your life purpose and meaning, and for me that couldn’t be more true. And so, I will be back at this goal thing in 2014…but I won’t be adding a 14th goal. In fact, I think I’ll ratchet it down to one goal per month.

Little goals create momentum. Some of my goals were little goals…like reading The Happiness Project (Goal #2), finishing a scarf I started knitting in 2012 (Goal #12), attending a conference (Goal #5), recording gratitude for 31 days (Goal #13), and refreshing our home (Goal #7). Okay…maybe a lot of my goals were little goals, but they were good goals none-the-less. These goals helped me create little wins, which fueled me as I pursued my bigger goals, like running my first half-marathon (Goal #8) and running in one race per month from April through December (Goal #6) and running 500 miles (Goal #1). So don’t feel as if your goals have to be grand in scale to be worthwhile. Every goal is a worthy goal, even the ones you don’t finish. Which leads me to my next takeaway…

Sometimes the best choice is to not finish a goal. My word for 2013 was Happy, and it was a wonderful compass to guide me through the year. The goals that made me the happiest (running goals) definitely got the bulk of my time and attention. In the process, I reaffirmed that it’s okay to set a goal and decide to stop short of the finish line. For example, one was my goals in 2013 was to create four new workshops. After the second class, I decided two was the right number for 2013. As a business, we decided to switch gears and set a new goal (Goal #9) which involved launching our self-paced online classes and Member Area. (This goal got a check mark earlier this week, by the way.) This is shaping a new direction for simplify 101 and that makes me happy.

It’s okay to carry over goals from one year to the next. Goal #11 (a personal goal) is one that didn’t quite get wrapped up in 2013. No worries…I’ll just keep plugging along in 2014 until my goal and I meet face to face.

Lessons Learned from Setting 13 Goals in One Year

Sometimes on the path to one goal…you achieve another. A long standing background goal of mine has been to strengthen and create new friendships. This may surprise you (or not) but I’m actually a pretty shy person. When I was a child, I was very, very shy…and so the friends I had were friends who sought me out, not the other way around. Though I’m not as shy as I used to be, I haven’t really mastered the art of making new friends. Until…I started running. A wonderful benefit of running has been new and strengthened friendships, which turned into a (surprise) goal, Goal #10. The big takeaway here is that sometimes your goals have a way of finding you…just when you least expect it.

Achieving goals feels incredible. It’s worth the risk, worth the sacrifices and worth facing the fear of failure head on. I can honestly tell you one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life was crossing the finish line in the half marathon. Best moment of 2013 hands down. So…if there’s a dream in you that’s dying to get out. Go for it! Make 2014 be your year. You can do it!

So there you have it, a look back at the big takeaways from my 13 in 13 goal challenge. How did you do with your goals in 2013? What were your big takeaways? Thanks so much for sharing!

Happy New Year!


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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and coaching program

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  • January 1, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Thanks, Aby. I would just like to echo a couple of your points. I sometimes get upset with myself for taking so long on some goals, but I’m increasingly realizing that they are big things, and also hard for me, and that I am in fact making some progress. So I’m a bit more at peace about carrying them over into a new year. Although I hope I can cross at least one off my list in 2014!

    I also think small goals are really, really important–as you say, they help you feel that you’re making progress, but also, sometimes the little things have a lot of weight. I’ve found that addressing small, nagging problems can have an outsized impact!

    January 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks, Nancy! I appreciate your comments. And you’re so right about the benefits of addressing small, nagging problems!

    • January 2, 2014 at 8:19 am

      Yay!!! This is a wonderful post and very inspiring. Thanks for sharing. I love the idea if monthly goals. Question, did you set them up all at once or wait for the month to come. Congratulations on achieving your goals. Love the takeaways. I forget to do that. Can’t remember, but were writing down takeaways part of one of your classes?

      January 3, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Hi, Marcia,

      I set them once a month. Sometimes I knew what would be coming up next…but I didn’t figure them all out ahead of time…but instead figured them out as I went. I think this is a huge part of what I liked about the approach…it kept goal setting fresh throughout the year.

      And yes, capturing your takeaways was part of the Holiday’s class. :)

      Thanks for your comment!


      • January 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm

        What a great post Aby! I definitely need to start writing my goals down. I know that’s a big help in achieving them. Here’s to a great 2014!

        January 3, 2014 at 6:00 pm

        Yes – writing down your goals is a terrific first step in achieving them. Happy 2014 to you Val! :)

        • February 17, 2014 at 10:47 am

          I thought your ‘goal a month’ post way back last January sounded interesting, so I got a bunch of smashbooks and coerced two of my daughter-in-laws into doing it with me. Now my other daughter-in-law and niece joined us! [You can see a pic of our books here, hopefully: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=425365720930165&set=a.116699688463438.19915.100003702218570&type=1&theater ]. We keep our goals to manageable, with fun in mind, and no feeling bad if you don’t meet your goal! Some of our goals have been: go to the movies, read a book, clean the oven, write thank you notes, start Honeymoon scrapbook (that was 3 of us!), go to IKEA. Thank you for a great idea, we love it!