I thought I’d mentioned this here before, but Julie Goldberg swears I have not. So, I bless you with this ritual that I’ve been doing since I was a wee lass. Well, a wee teenager.

It started when I was at some kind of conference (I’m sure religious in nature, as I was quite the holy roller) and one of the speakers was talking to us about life balance. He told us to put a dot in the center of a piece of paper, and then he asked us to draw eight lines radiating from the middle, and the length of each line represented the time we’d spent in each of eight different areas.

  • Social
  • Educational
  • Financial
  • Spiritual
  • Health
  • Creative
  • Emotional
  • Community

Then you were to draw another line connecting the ends of those lines. I imagine in high school, my drawing looked something like this:


He then told us to look at our outer lines and if they were connected, to ask ourselves if it would roll. In other words, are we living a balanced life?

The lesson stuck with me. It’s so easy to get caught up in one aspect of your life, and totally ignore others. I decided that I would set goals in each area, and see what I could achieve.

So I did. I started soon after that first presentation, and eventually I decided to make it a New Year’s tradition, and then I’d revise the goals again in July.

The categories have changed over the years. At one point I had “Love” as a category. (?!) (I’m assuming I was referring to a relationship I had at the time, but really, it could’ve meant anything. I was young.) I saved some of them, and the earliest I can easily put my hands on is from 1995. I was 24, and one of my financial goals was “Balance Checkbook”. One of them was simply “Plan”. (I really get me-at-24. So much.)

So, after many years of doing this thing, here’s my Goal-Making Process. I hope you find it useful, or interesting. Or perhaps you will use it to mock me with, in which case I WILL HAVE MY VENGEANCE. Anyway…

Goal-Making Process

Rules. The purpose of writing these goals down is NOT to beat yourself up at the end of each year for not being a Juggernaut of Human Purpose. The idea is to keep your goals in front of you, to remind yourself of the things you’re working towards. You will not accomplish all your goals. You may make progress towards some of your goals, and if you do, that is enough. Life is hard. Don’t yell at you.


  • Social: This is your time spent with friends, communicating with friends, and focusing on friends. It’s important, because your network is important, and they need you, and you need them. Your social network provides you with support, love, understanding, sometimes mind-altering substances, sometimes sorely-needed excuses, and depending on who you/they are, alibis. At any rate, pay attention to your friends in whatever way possible. My own goal list has a specific party that I throw each year, and a commitment to actually go OUT of the HOUSE to some PLACES with specific people, and to (gasp!) write letters or postcards to others. (I’m trying to bring back letter-writing, which I love. It’s folly. I know I won’t do it, but I might do it a few times, and that’ll be fun!)
  • Educational: This is not for work. This is something that you want to focus on for yourself. If you keep learning, you won’t be that boring guy who everyone hates talking to. Just kidding, you’re not that guy. I mean, it’s true that some people are that guy, but that’s not why you should do it. You should do it because it makes your brain grow, and it expands your understanding of the world. AND because you’ll be thrilling to talk to at parties. This year, I’m actually going to figure out what it will take to earn my $%^&^%%#$ degree. I also want to learn to draw, I want to do better with my gardening, and I want to keep learning about writing. (I’ve decided to focus on domesticity this year. I’m calling my soul back to home and hearth. So there’s a lot of that in my goals.)
  • Financial: This is exactly what it seems. Have financial goals to pay off credit cards, save money, buy stocks, talk to a financial adviser, find a second job, or get in someone’s will? This is where you put that.
  • Emotional/Self Care: This category used to be about feeding your emotional life, and now it also includes acknowledging and taking care of all those icky emotions, like anger, sadness, and fear. Whatever you need to do to vent those emotions in a positive way, put those goals here. I journal, though I don’t journal enough, so I’d like to journal weekly at least. (I have to work it into my schedule, and if I do that, I’ll get it done. The only thing I ever listen to is my calendar.) Other goals I have are for gardening (one vegetable garden, and clean up the flower beds), because I like to take out my aggression on weeds; and organizing and throwing out junk, because I get hostile when my surroundings are chaotic. I should also put something about music here, because it does funny things to my brain, and sometimes it makes me cry. I’ll have to think about that.
  • Spiritual: You can include this, if it’s your thing. I think you could safely substitute the word “Inspirational” here, and indeed, I might do that, too. But I’m exploring different places of worship this year, so I listed that. Plus, I need to work meditation into my routine. I’m so much calmer and clearer when I meditate regularly.
  • Community: I typically reserve this for volunteering goals. I have three organizations that I volunteer with, and they’re listed here, along with frequency.
  • Health: Lose 20 pounds. Join a gym. Build muscle mass. Take your vitamins. Stop eating at Wendy’s. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Make that doctor’s appointment, finally. Stop eating entire cakes at one sitting. Whatever your particular nagging health issue is, this is where you remind yourself to get it taken care of.
  • Professional: What do you want to get better at in your job? Or do you want a different job? Or maybe you want to network? Whatever you need to do this year to advance your career, or change it, list that here.
  • Family: This used to be listed with Social, but now that I have a family of my own, I know I need to pay attention to them specifically. I started something a couple years ago called “Mommy/Daughter” days, and I’m supposed to have them monthly, but that’s too often. You don’t usually get a whole weekend day out of every month for just one thing. Another idea is a dedicated “Family Day”. Or maybe you want to get your family away from computer screens. Or maybe you want to try to consistently have those elusive family dinners. Or maybe you have extended family that you want to keep up with. Or maybe you just need to make time for your spouse. OR maybe you want to trade your family in for a collection of friends. Put that here.
  • Creative: I like to create things, so I have a creative category. Even if you’re not creative, I think it’s important to dip your toe in creative waters, just to see what you can make. Creating things feeds your soul. You’re giving the world a gift that only you can make. No, I don’t care if that sounds schmaltzy. Go make things! SHOW ME YOUR THINGS. I WANT TO SEE YOUR THINGS.

Changing Your Goals. Even in the space of six months, our lives can change. Maybe you’ve accomplished a goal. Maybe you don’t want or need to accomplish one of the goals you have. At the beginning of each July, revise your goals. I like to do it around the 4th of July, because if my goal-setting takes place during holidays, it feels festive.
Display Your Goals. The whole purpose of this thing is to keep your goals in front of you, so you are constantly reminded of where you’re trying to head. I used to tape mine on the wall. Sometimes I put them on my phone. I once made them into my computer wallpaper. If you have a notebook you use frequently, put them there. Keep them visible.

Let me know if you have any ideas for this process! It’s been a constantly-changing thing for years now, and I love improving on a process. And whether or not you use this for your goals, I hope you accomplish everything you set out to do in the new year, and that you look fabulous doing it.