Goal Setting

2018 Themes + Goals by Rachel Nordgren


In 2017, I set exactly one goal: keep going.

I was coming out of a hellish 2016, still reeling from the death of my Mother and the subsequent cascade of changes, my mental and emotional health could be classified as “limping” at best, and my marriage was struggling under the weight of all of it. The election didn’t help matters (I don’t care what side of the aisle you’re on; the 2016 election was traumatic for all of us) and my eyes were being opened to a horde of modern day injustices in America.

I felt spiritually homeless in a faith expression that no longer fit. I didn’t have a four-walled definition of “home” either, since Hans and I had sold our house in Topeka to move in with my father, and that house felt more like an empty shell without its heart: my mother.

I was restless, edgy, chronically stressed and tense, and increasingly feeling like I was trapped in the bowels of a sinking ship. There was no room in my head or heart for lofty aspirations or cheery goals or dynamic plans. Honestly, the thought of trying to set goals was exhausting.

There was one thought: keep going.

Looking back over 2017, I can say confidently that’s exactly what I did. Listening to my 2017 Playlist, I'm reminded how much 2017 was a year of survival, recovery, tension, grit. It started with a weekend in Waco with three of my dearest friends and ended in the guest room of a house outside London.

Now, a few weeks into 2018, there’s room in my heart and head for forward thinking again. Despite the fact that so much about 2018 is unknown (for example, I have literally no answer to the question, “When are you coming back to the United States?”) there are a few things I do know for sure.


But first, a note on tools…

In the past I’ve used (and loved!!!) the Day Designer Planner from Whitney English and the PowerSheets from Lara Casey. Both are powerful and practical tools that I sincerely cannot recommend highly enough. However, neither one was going to be a good fit for my life in 2018. I am a pen-and-paper girl through and through, but I also have limited space on this nomadic journey through Europe. I needed one place for schedule keeping and goal setting, and landed on the MiGoals Goal Digger Planner.


Because my schedule doesn’t involve a lot of day-to-day right variation, a weekly format works well. I particularly love that this layout has a spot for daily habit tracking! There are also a few goal-setting prompts at the beginning of the planner, designated Goals and Review pages for each month, a Budget section, and plenty of note pages in the back. My husband and I are also using a shared iCloud calendar to keep track of travel plans.

To curate my goals for 2018, I watched this webinar from Whitney English and also worked through Lara Casey’s annual Goal Setting Series, using the Notes section at the back of my planner to gather my thoughts.

I'm also loosely color-coding my life, because it genuinely helps my brain. Using Whitney English's HEART Goals system and 5 Flair pens, here's what that looks like...

Here’s what I came up with…

I tried to make a list of traditional goals, but it didn’t quite work. I kept coming back to these big themes and questions that couldn’t quite be broken down into concrete, actionable steps. I kept finding little goals and projects that I wanted to work on, but that didn’t quite carry enough weight to be deemed a “2018 Goal.” There were small rhythms and routines I longed to cultivate that cropped up over and over again.

My vision for 2018 broke down to themes + questions, long term goals, short term goals + projects, and rhythms + routines.


Themes + Questions

1. "Where do I see truth, beauty, and goodness?"
As I travel far from where I grew up, both geographically and in terms of my Evangelical upbringing, it feels as if I am stripping my faith down to the studs to see what will hold. I am, as author Sarah Bessey says, making peace with an evolving faith. On the advice of a really good counselor, I am asking myself everyday where I see truth, beauty, and goodness.

It's not new; philosophers have been pondering the "transcendentals," as they are called, for literally thousands of years. In Christianity, these three things are seen as the essence of God and the ultimate desires of man. In his essay entitled “[CS] Lewis’s Philosophy of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty,” Peter Kreeft says...

"There are three things that will never die: truth, goodness, and beauty. These are the three things we all need, and need absolutely, and know we need, and know we need absolutely...For these are the only three things that we never got bored with, and never will, for all eternity, because they are three attributes of God, and therefore all God’s creation: three transcendental or absolutely universal properties of all reality."

For someone who is in the process of deconstructing her faith, the bedrock basics are everything. If you want to follow along with my daily answer to this question, head here.


2. Traveling Europe well
Towards the end of 2017, Hans and Banjo and I began our nomadic journey across Europe. We're housesitting from place to place, working online and looking after other people's animals. Traveling Europe had always been one of those "someday" dreams of ours, but it got pushed to the forefront in the wake of my Mother's death. We'd sold our home, we weren't rooted down in a careers or a community, and we are young and healthy. We figured there would never be a better time than now, and that life is too short to put off the things that are important to us.

We want to use this time WELL. This broadly means immersing ourselves in local culture, trying new foods/experiences/ways of living, looking after the homes and pets entrusted to our care, and documenting our memories along the way.

I've consistently gone back to this quote from Shauna Niequist's book Bread and Wine...even though we don't have kids yet...

“...we travel because it’s there. Because Capri exists and Kenya exists and Tel Aviv exists, and I want to taste every bite of it. We travel because I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak and view the world. I want them to know that “our way” isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood—they love to play, to discover, to learn.

I want my kids to learn firsthand and up close that different isn’t bad, but instead that different is exciting and wonderful and worth taking the time to understand. I want them to see themselves as bit players in a huge, sweeping, beautiful play, not as the main characters in the drama of our living room. I want my kids to taste and smell and experience the biggest possible world, because every bite of it, every taste and texture and flavor, is delicious.” 

3. Strengthen + sweeten our marriage
Along with the adventure of traveling Europe together, this year is for Hans and I to re-establish who we are as a couple. Our marriage was struggling before my Mom died, and things didn't exactly get easier during the process of grief and upheaving our entire lives to move to be with my Dad.*

*this is a decision that Hans and I made 100% together. It's one of the few times the Holy Spirit told us the exact same thing at the exact same time, and we don't regret it a bit. The season of living with my Dad was bitter because of grief, but sweet because the two men I love most in the world ended up becoming really good friends.

The story of how we got here (the photo below was taken by our good friend Emma when Hans and I renewed our vows in October) is a long one. It involves fighting, leaving, coming back, counseling, the prayers of a lot of good people, hard decisions, hard love, and essentially yanking the emergency brake on our marriage so that we wouldn't crash.

It's a good story, and I'm so grateful it's not over.


I'm also grateful we have this time together where it's just the two (well, three if you count Banjo) of us, far removed from everyone and everything we've ever known. It's making us rely on each other in ways in new ways, deepening our understanding of one another and our marriage, strengthening our love, and giving us memories that we'll still talk about when we're 80.


4. “Where is home?”
As I mentioned earlier, we don't feel particularly "rooted" right now. After we moved to be with my Dad, we briefly considered making our life together in my hometown, but it wasn't going to be a good fit...and that's okay.

As much as we love traveling, we also find ourselves wanting to put down roots. This dichotomous tension pulls at me as we wander the aisles of foreign IKEA's and put mugs away in other people's cupboards. It's something that author Tsh Oxenreider so beautifully captures in her book At Home in the World...

“Two opposing things can be equally true. Counting the days till Christmas doesn't mean we hate Halloween. I go to church on Sundays, and still hold the same faith at the pub on Saturday night. I shamelessly play a steady stream of eighties pop music and likewise have an undying devotion to Chopin. And perhaps most significantly: I love to travel and I love my home.” 

We don't know where we want to put down those ubiquitous roots. In many ways, America doesn't feel like home (for reasons that go beyond the current occupant of the White House) but we're unsure about living overseas. In short, we don't know...and that's okay.


Long Term Goals

1. Continue to pursue mental + emotional health
If I don't have these two things, all hell will break loose. My mind and emotions impact everything: my health, marriage, other relationships, work, and my general ability to be a functional human being. I owe it to myself and the people I love to be mentally and emotionally well. It's a lifelong process involving continual maintenance, but one that I am especially prioritizing in 2018.

This looks like...
- prayer + meditation
- journaling
- yoga
- reading
- finding + exploring my Enneagram type*
- regular periods of rest + retreat
- periodically touching base with my counselor back in the States
- cultivating life-giving daily rhythms + routines

* in 2017, I heard literally everyone from monks to stay-at-home moms talking about the Enneagram, so I figure it's time for me to explore it for myself

2. Manage our finances well
After my Mom died, basically all attempts at budgeting went out the window. We were survival mode. For about two months I got massages every week (and then every month-ish afterwards), because my body was wound tighter than a drum. I bought pretty things on the internet because it was nice to have something to look for in the mail other than sympathy cards and junk mail addressed to my Mother. Hans and I took a much-needed vacation because our marriage had been neglected (on both sides) and we were about to crash.

We made financial mistakes in 2016 and 2017, but my sanity and our marriage survived, so I ain't mad about it.

Now, we want to manage our finances well during this nebulous year of travel so that we have money for whatever is coming next. We want to build the life we want in the place we want, while still being wise and generous with our finances.

This looks like...
- tracking our expenses*
- meeting with our financial advisor on a regular basis
- spending less
- saving more
- exploring investment options

* right now we're using Spendee; we'll see if we stick with this particular app going forward

3. Write 50,000 words
Writing is one of my deepest gladnesses. Simply put, writing is life-giving to me. It's how I process the world around me, and it's something I have consistently been told I'm good at. (Should you, dear blog reader, not share this opinion, that's perfectly fine...my Mom thought I was a good writer, and that's enough for me) I want to hone and strengthen my writing abilities by cultivating the habit of consistently putting pen to paper.

I'm not putting pressure on myself to publish every single word I write, but consistently creating content for my blog is a part of this goal.

This looks like...
- butt in chair*
- writing
- writing, writing, writing
- reading 2-3 books on writing
- writing some more

* thanks Anne Lamott


Short term Goals + Projects

1. Get organized for 2018
This encapsulates basically all my goal-setting, planner prep, and obsessive color-coding.

2. Be confident taking photos with our DSLR camera
We bought a "fancy" camera right before leaving the States, and it scares me. I've practiced a bit, but I want to get more comfortable with it.

3. Create photo album "yearbooks" for 2013 - present
Considering Hans and I are approaching 5 years of marriage and I have yet to print our wedding photos, I'd say this is long overdue. I plan to put books together with Artifact Uprising, and hit "order" when they run a good sale.

4. Read 52 books
After 2017, I have a renewed appreciation for the healing powers of easy-breezy fiction. This year, I'm pushing myself to read books that grow and stretch me, while still giving myself permission to dive into novels. Follow along at #readwithrach.

5. Learn to bridge shuffle a deck of cards
I am embarrassed to say that I can't do this, but I've always wanted to learn!

6. Find my signature perfume scent...in Paris?
I have wanted to find my signature perfume scent for years. I want to find the perfume that feels as at home on my body as my wedding ring. Also? Scent is strongly linked to memories. Paris literally has a History of Perfume museum, so I figure that's a good place to start. 

7. Write more reviews and leave more comments
I'm so grateful for the people that make the podcasts I listen to and write the posts and books I read, and one of the most practical ways to say "thank you!" is to leave positive reviews of their work online.


Rhythms + Routines

These are the things I want to make sure I stay (roughly) consistent about on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, as well as a few things I want to do on a semi-annual and annual basis. I keep these organized with a mix of iPhone reminders and notes in my planner. During this year of travel especially, rhythms + routines will keep us sane!

- "Morning 5" (water before coffee, vitamins, wash face, brush teeth, floss)
- ask Hans, "How can I make you feel most loved today?"
- meditate/pray
- yoga
- read
- write
- journal
- track spending
- get outside!
- use Clue*

* if you're a woman and you're not using Clue, consider this your formal invitation

- do a face mask (I have this one currently)
- review monthly goals/projects
- check in with my goal buddy*
- prep planner for the week ahead
- meal plan + go grocery shopping
- quickly curate photos from the week
- clear my email inbox
- schedule blog posts

* in this dear group of friends, we're rotating through each other every 2 months for goal encouragement + accountability

- take a day or an afternoon to just rest + unwind
- schedule a Skype date with a friend or two
- check the ladies
- "Marriage Meeting" with Hans*
- check my "Hard and Happy Days" calendar**
- review themes + goals
- record my running word count
- prep planner for the month ahead
- back up photos to Google Drive
- back up Notes***
- plan blog content for the month
- send out our travel newsletter
- send out my blog newsletter

* we touch base about our relational health, schedule, finances, goals, etc.

** I keep a digital calendar with recurring reminders for birthdays/anniversaries, as well "hard days" for the people I love so I remember to check in with them

*** the native iPhone Notes app is where I keep half my brain

- check in with my counselor back in the States
- if possible, visit a spa to get a facial and a massage
- check in with our financial advisor
- brainstorm blog content
- digital declutter*
- make sure we're stocked up on toiletries, vitamins, etc.

* this means clearing out/organizing my Notes, Reminders, PocketPinterest, internet bookmarks, email folders, and unsubscribing from things that are no longer useful

- go on a personal spiritual retreat*
- schedule a check up with my primary care physician and OBGYN**
- dream, hope, and plan with Hans
- set themes + goals for the upcoming year
- declutter clothes + possessions
- buy next year's planner
- print that year's photo album

* I did this in 2017 and it was literally (LITERALLY) one of the best things I've ever done for myself

** not entirely sure how this will work while we're traveling...


Whew! That's a lot.

I confess...this post was just as much for me as it is for you. After roughly a year and a half of being in survival mode and not having particularly clear-cut goals, it feels good to have some structure and direction, and to have my rhythms + routines written out. Our circumstances will vary wildly this year...and these ideas and goals will probably change a bit, too. That's okay. I'm starting somewhere.

What themes, goals, projects, and/or rhythms do YOU have for 2018?