A New Perspective on Goal Setting

 by Susan May Warren

I woke up this morning to a layer of fresh grace on the evergreens, sparkling in the rising sun, Lamentations 2:23 in my mind. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Phew. Because with the relatives gone, the Christmas tree down, the ornaments packed away for next season, I’m sitting on my sofa looking out at the snow-laden trees and beyond, into the new year, realizing that 2016 passed with blink.

And with it, my goals. Every year I spend a few days putting together the action plans of My Book Therapy and Susan May Warren Fiction – what do I want to accomplish, how do I hope to touch lives?

Did you spend your weekend looking at last year, and figuring out what you want to do differently in 2017? Did you look at your strengths, areas of growth, of where you are in your dreams?

Maybe you picked one word for the New Year, or a verse for the year. Did you set up goals, projects and plans?

I can admit that sometimes my New Year planning feels a little I’m loading up my year with a pile of to-dos akin to Robert DeNiro’s character hauling around his load of penance weapons in The Mission. (Do you remember that 1986 movie? If not, it’s worth seeing again!)

I’ve been in the publishing industry for over a decade now, and I’ve discovered something that helps me put my sales and projects into perspective…none of it matters unless I am a better person because of my writing journey. If I turn into a frenetic, stressed-out, amazon-obsessed author, always comparing myself to others, I’ve missed out on the point. God doesn’t really care if I’m published, but he does use the journeys of our life to change us, draw us closer to Him.

And maybe that should be the point of goal-making.

So, instead of setting up objective goals about sales and NYT lists (although, yes, we all want that), I could plan from the inside out, with a different perspective:

1. What unexpected thing did I do this year that I loved? Often, our hidden strengths are found in doing something unexpected. For me, this year, it was my swimming and yoga classes. Although I wasn’t a regular, sneaking away for an hour to exercise recharged me. This year, I’ll make a better effort to invest in my “escape” time and let my mind recharge.

2. Where did I find deep contentment? Life seems to blow by faster every year, and I find I don’t have time to invest in things that leave me empty. But I’m often surprised at the things that “fill me up.” This year, my daughter had a baby, our first grandchild. I am CRAZY about being a grandmother. Sadly, two of my four amazing children live far away, so it makes me ever more committed to working hard so I can sneak away and get that quality time. It makes me determined to utilize my time well.

3. How did I expand my reach/skills this year, and what did I learn? For me, this was all about taking a look at my gifting – teaching and writing – and seeing if I could fine-tune this. I love helping people tell their story, and make an impact in their world, so I dove into teaching a series about Impactivity and designing a life that isn’t just productive but impactful. This next year I’ll be honing my skills at helping writers up their game through powerful storytelling.

I also took a look at my writing – and this year I went hybrid. I published a short ebook series (Montana Fire) designed to prep readers for my bigger series (Montana Rescue). My readers responded so well, this year I’m going to respond to a few reader requests and go back to Deep Haven and connect the Montana Fire and Deep Haven series with a few crossover book. What this taught me—listen to your reader base!!

4. Did I fall deeper in love with Jesus this year? I know that feels like a personal question, but it’s something, as a Christian, that matters to me. If not, I need to take a look at why – and is there a way I can pursue God more? This year, I picked a number of books to add to my quiet time reading. (Have you found, Jesus is Better than You Imagined yet?)

5. How did I measure success last year? This question has been the most important I consider as I look back onto 2016…and into 2017. Is success making more money? Upping my sales? Or maybe, success is something more intangible, but produced by asking the questions: Am I a better wife, friend, novelists, teacher…and most importantly lover of Jesus because of my choices this year? And, will I be with the plans and goals I’ve put together for 2017?

Not your typical planning list, I know, but perhaps, if you’re like me and a little tired of the SMART goals, and the Action Plan lists and feeling like you’ve just given yourself a load of luggage to haul around in 2017, try planning from the inside out, with the bigger picture in mind.

It just might set you free.

Have a blessed 2017!

Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale,BarbourSteeple HillSummerside Press and Revell publishers, she’s an eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of theInspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: www.susanmaywarren.com. Contact her at:susan@mybooktherapy.com.