How to Outline Your Goals for Clarity
June 02, 2021

How to Outline Your Goals for Clarity

The R.O.O.T.E.D. Goal Setting System helps you to identify and reverse-engineer essentialist goals that bridge the gap between the future you want and the life you’re living right now.

Sustainable, Life-Giving Goals Are:

Last week, we worked through finding the overlap between your core calling goals (your beckoning future), your starting point, and your deepest long-term priorities. It was in this intersection that we found goals that were organically growing out of your context—goals that make sense for you, where you are, today, and that act as a bridge to help you get to the next level.​

This week, we’ll be talking about how to outline ("reverse-engineer") your goal for clarity.

Clarity is QUEEN: Detailing the What, the Why & the How

If you remember ONE thing from this post, let it be this one: A strong goal is a CLEAR goal.

Clarity is QUEEN when it comes to giving your brain an objective that it can actually process, prioritize, and tackle in the day-to-day.

Let's pause right here clarify the difference between a goal and a task or project. A goal takes considerable strategy in order to accomplish it. A task or project is more granular, and has a very obvious path of execution. An example of a task would be "wash the dishes." An example of a project would be, "declutter my cabinets." An example of a goal would be, "streamline my kitchen operations so I can do what I need to every (normal) day in under 90 minutes."

You also want to get extremely, minutely, and even obnoxiously clear on WHAT you want to accomplish with any given goal. If you don't, you will likely spin your wheels in the non-essentials, and struggle to ever feel like you've accomplished it.

Here's an example:

Say you've done the core calling exercises and you've determined that you're drawn to start a business. But as you got really real with drawing your goals from what is organically growing out of your context in the next exercise, you had to admit that your home felt a little too chaotic to jump into the deep end of business in the upcoming quarter.

You determined that the next right thing would be to tackle your biggest pain point: getting your home in order so that you can begin to make space for your business.

Now many people stop right there. They feel they know what they need to do next, and get to tackling it immediately. But, as I've learned from experience, that sets your "goal" up to be a vague and potentially meaningless rabbit hole. As obvious as our example goal may seem, it's actually not very clear.

Let's work through clarifying it together using What/Why/How.

  1. The WHAT: You need to get CRYSTAL CLEAR on "what" you actually want to accomplish (which may not actually be what you think it is!)
  2. The WHY: Then you want to tap down into your "why" so that you can fortify that goal with confidence and resilience, so that your goal will endure through the challenging moments.
  3. The HOW: Then you want to hammer out a solid (but flexible) blueprint for your "how" so that your brain has a direction to latch onto.

What, Precisely, is Your Goal?

Let's start bringing some cogent definition to the very general: "I need to get my home in order so I can make space for my business" goal.

Start by asking yourself exactly what pain points you're trying to address with your goal. This will help you get laser-focused on the essential things. It doesn't do to spend your quarter "getting the house in order" by organizing the basement, painting 2/3 of your house's vinyl exterior, or creating an elaborate system of color-coded chore charts only to find that, at the end of it, you haven't freed up a lick of mental bandwidth for your business.

So what actually is burdening your mental bandwidth? Is it the fact that the mountains of laundry and dishes never seem to shrink, no matter how much time you spend tending them? (You could probably remove 80% of those puppies from circulation.) Is it that you find your naptime to dust and vacuum, leaving no room to think creatively? (Gotta batch and anchor, my friend.) Are you embarrassed when that certain person drops by unannounced and throws off alllll the judgy vibes when you're on your laptop when the floors need to be vacuumed? (Okay, this could legit be all in your head orthere's some inner work that needs to be done here in regards to what others think of your priorities.) Are your children needing to learn how to be faithful with chores, or do you need better boundaries around pets? (HUGE game-changers.) Or perhaps you're just about done with a house flip and getting the exterior completely painted would be a massive load off! (Fully finishing the thing can do so much for your mental bandwidth!)

You've got to lean into the precise things that are stressing you out, and think through the precise details that need to change in order to have that mental bandwidth, peace, and confidence to start carving out serious deep work time.

When I was in this stage of my life, needing to "get my house in order" so I could make more space for Evergreen, I came to realize that clutter was my #1 stressor—if I could declutter our home completely, then my daughter would be able to pick up her own toys, my drawers and closets would basically stay organized, and my cleaning routines could be minimal. I gave myself a very precise goal—"declutter all of the main areas of the home down to the basic ESSENTIALS: kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedrooms, laundry room, and hall closet"—invested in a decluttering e-course, and then gave myself a quarter of the year to complete it. I decided to ignore the shed, our guest room, our school closet, and other spaces that weren't part of my daily rhythms. I didn't need my shed to be Pinterest-perfect in order to clear mental bandwidth for my business—heck, I didn't even need main living spaces to be! I simply and precisely needed to minimize the mental bandwidth I had going out to day-to-day housekeeping operations so I could have a whole lot more time and decision-making energy to give to the business.

This brings up another very important point: Clarifying WHAT your goal precisely is not will be just as important as clarifying what exactly it is. Rearranging my bedroom (again) was not a primary need in "getting my house in order"—but paring down to a capsule wardrobe and getting all the junk out from under the bed so I could vacuum faster was. (Side note, though: sometimes rearranging/redecorating is exactly what needs to done for you to feel peaceful and focused, so don't miss my point! You're totally in charge here, and need to make sure you kick any false guilt where it belongs.)

In order to identify what you're not going to focus on, ask yourself: "What would it look like to bravely do this in my own unique style?"

For me, this meant that:

  • I was not going to worry about whether my closets looked good on my Instagram grid
  • I was not going to make myself keep the same toy system that my favorite decluttering teacher had if it wasn't working
  • I was not going to worry if my dollar store organizational bins looked tacky
  • I was not going to lose sleep over the fact that my 3yo chose to donate her $50 Calico Critter tree house to kids in need but wanted to keep her neon Burger King toy (okay, maybe I did lose a little sleep over that, but I was rolling with my style of parenting and trusting that her generosity would be blessed by God and that it would be a good learning experience about personal agency)

It meant that I was going to take alllll of the time, effort, and emotional energy that would've otherwise gone into the non-essentials listed above and pour it into finishing the task of decluttering my home and clearing that space for business.

To figure out what I was going to work on, I employed the Pareto Principle. Only 20% of what I could do to declutter my house would actually give me the results I wanted. This means I could forego the 80% of the non-essentials (like whether my organizational bins matched perfectly) so that I could stay laser-focused on accomplishing the essence of my goal. In order to get very clear about the 20% that mattered most, I had to tap down into my "why" (which we'll cover next.)

Takeaway: When you run your goal through the "what" filter, make sure to spend time writing down exactly what you need to be accomplished in order to make life-giving progress on the goal, and then what is tempting but not priority. In order to get really clear about this, ask: "What would it look like to do this in my own unique style?

Why, Precisely, Does This Goal Matter So Much?

This is SO important. This step will help you to tap the essence of your goals and fortify them so you don't give up at what feels like the first impasse. I find my "why" for any given goal by asking myself if and how it connects to my core calling. (If a goal doesn't connect deeply, I have to think long and hard about why I'm even setting that goal!)

My "whys" for decluttering my main areas of the house were these:

  • TIME (I precisely wanted to drop my daily cleaning time from 2 hours down to 30-45 minutes so I could put the time I saved into the business—a business that was a stepping stone in my core calling.)
  • DECISION-MAKING ENERGY / MENTAL BANDWIDTH (I wanted to put decision-making power into choosing the strongest copy so that I could attract the people I was called to serve, not trying to decide if my toddler's shirt had too many stains on it to wear into town.)
  • INDEPENDENCE FOR MY KIDS (I wanted my children to have so few toys that they could actually enjoy them and learn early to master taking care of them—and it doesn't take much to imagine how raising independent kids connects to my core calling as a mama.)
  • PEACE (I knew I achieved my goal when I could relax on the maintenance and our home still felt peaceful to our hearts—not perfect in a random guest's eyes. Having a peaceful home is also a vital part of my core calling.)

Knowing my precise "whys" for the goal meant that I could really distill down my "what" to the essential 20% as well as engage my feelings to help me pinpoint when I had accomplished my goal. Decluttering my bathroom wouldn't be about counting towels, but instead about how much time and decision-making energy it took for me to get ready every day. Decluttering my kids' spaces would be focused exclusively on the level of independence they could attain with whatever clothes and toy systems we landed on. Decluttering my kitchen would be more about how much peace I felt when cooking than on how I technically still had a box of random kitchen accessories to go through in my shed. If I was saving time, bandwidth, effort, and stress throughout the day, then I was succeeding. This is SO MUCH STRONGER than writing a massive checklist that I felt had to be completely checked off before I felt like I was "allowed" to move on to my business.

Takeaway: When you run your filter through the "why" filter, ask yourself, "What vital thing(s) will change if I can solve this pain point by accomplishing this goal? What's the 20% here? What precise metrics will help me gauge whether I've accomplished the essence of the goal? How do I need to feel to know it's done?"

How, Precisely, Might I Tackle This Goal?

Next week, we will get to the juicy "reverse-engineering" part of goal-setting. However (if you're not careful) this one could trip you up a little.

So before I teach you how to start charting everything out, I want you to swallow this foundational key: You probably do not know every step of your "how," and the steps you think you know are likely going to change as you go.

It is important to flesh out a good "how" pathway from your starting-point-A to your envisioned-Z. It gives your brain something to wrap itself around and lean into. It helps you get very precise with the specifics that you're wanting to accomplish, the scope of your goal, and the trade-offs it might entail. This kind of brainstorming clarity is essential.

But perfectionisticly locking yourself into your "how" pathway is non-essential, and it can be a recipe for unnecessary (and sometimes pretty extreme) stress.

Your "how" can flex. Heck, even your "what" can flex. In order to be successful, the only thing you have to tenaciously root yourself in is your essential "why"—the beating heart of your goal that can energize you to take high-value action no matter how your life's circumstances might change the details of that action.

We'll dig into the mechanics of reverse-engineering a goal next week.

Until then, use the "takeaways" noted above to refine and bring definition to a core calling goal that is organically growing out of your context.