What I Learned From My Failed 2018 Goals – And How I Can Improve For 2019

by Amy Graham

by December 2018


The idea of setting 2019 goals is something that is probably on many a planner’s mind as we make our way through the final quarter of 2018. Yet how many of us glaze over that last quarter in lieu of getting ready for the holidays or dreading the multitude of parties and hordes visiting family we have to contend with the last 2 months of the year?

For most of us, the last person we think about is ourselves during that fourth quarter. When the last week of December rolls around, after we finally take a deep breath again, suddenly panic sets in because we have barely thought about our goals and most of us haven’t had time to really put any solid effort into planning them.

Last year I had my goals set early on.  I would say they were in my head and on paper by mid to late November.  That was huge for me.  However, looking back, it was all too easy.

Just for reference, my five goals were as follows:

  1. Finish my 1st Novel
  2. Run my 1st Triathlon
  3. Organize every room in the house
  4. Reach 1k new subscribers on YouTube
  5. Lose 30 pounds

Now, let me just tell you where each of them stands…

  1. I have half a novel written. I also am starting a new one Nov 1, 2018 so who knows how this one will end.
  2. My first triathlon is scheduled for November 3, 2018 at 7am. Barring any major injury, I will complete this goal by 11am that same day.
  3. Organize every room in the house. Not only did this NOT happen, it caused me so much grief and guilt, I was mentally exhausted thinking about it every fucking month it didn’t happen.
  4. Reach 1k new subscribers on YouTube. FINALLY!!!  A win J  I am super proud that this happened and I am so thankful for those of you who follow my media channels.  Thank you so very much.
  5. Lose 30 pounds.   I’ve lost 3.  Not 30.  But I also still have 3 months to go.  So we will see.

So, now that you know the state of my 2018 Goals, I feel like I have given you enough reference so that I can continue with the rest of this blog.

Let’s take a look at the 3rd goal in my list.

By all intents and purposes, this should have been the EASIEST goal to achieve.  I literally just had to take an entire fucking year to clean my house, top to bottom. I use Momentum Planner pages so I even had it broken down, first by quarter then by month and yes, EVEN WEEKLY!!! Yet, here I am, fairly sure I gave myself an ulcer worrying about the fact that I didn’t get everything done every month.

Sure, I got some things done.  My studio is amazing and I love it, I actually enjoy opening up my pantry now instead of bracing for whatever it is that will inevitably fall out and try to hit me on the head, and my basement gym is fantastic.  Yet, every other room in my house looks like a tornado hit it.

So why did this seemingly simple goal completely screw my entire year up?

It is because I had no emotion behind it. It wasn’t something I was driven to do, it was something that seemed easy to do and who doesn’t want a clean and organized house?!?  I would venture a bet each and every planner out there has some sort of cleaning schedule in his or her planner that goes partially uncompleted every week.  I know I do.  I write that stupid little list out every single week. I even use a template to make teeny, tiny little check boxes so that I can have the satisfaction of checking a box, yet I never find time to finish the tasks.

But, I continue to put them in my Hobonichi.  (What’s that definition of insanity again…?)

Just because a goal is a good idea, and something you THINK you should do, doesn’t always mean they are the best goals for you.

Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.Cal Newport

In other words, if you have nothing invested in the goal, when the time comes to complete it, you will be less likely to finish it.

Reading many books about goal setting can definitely help you set successful goals, IF you already have a compelling reason to gain what that goal will give you.  Without that reason, and without a specific target in mind, your goal will be distractive and directionless.  My lack of a perfectly organized & clean house is a prime example.

I had no underlying reason to “Organize every room in my house” other than the fact that I thought it needed to be done because every planner out there talks about cleaning and organizing something in your home. In addition, I felt like I could get it accomplished over an entire year.  Funny how fast 12 months go by when you absolutely, positively have zero time to spend sorting an underwear drawer.

Therefore, instead of having a nearly complete, organized house right about now, which according to my 2018 Goal Plan, I would only have my study, my den and my Harry Potter room (under the stairs) left to sort & organize.  I have every room (including the studio that I did earlier in the year because STATIONARY STUFF breeds & multiplies) in my house left to do. Again.

Guilt and loathing have run rampant in my head, simply because of this stupid goal.  Honestly, I really do think I gave myself an ulcer because of it.  It’s a goal, I should do it.  Goals are my thing; I do them…when humanly possible.  Goals are what drive me!!!

Unless of course I fail, then they just drive me insane.

Yet, before you all get too far ahead…that exact goal is going BACK on my 2019 Goals list!

(No really…it is!  And no, this time it’s not the definition of Insanity…)

The reason behind me adding this exact goal to my list in 2019 is simply that I have a very specific reason to do it now.

As it turns out my husband Greg, wants to retire overseas.  Therefore, should we decide to up and move across the pond, we cannot take everything with us, plain and simple.  So, the goal of downsizing our belongings makes perfect sense and considering how much I got done in 2018, it will take us a few years to get rid of everything we won’t need lol.  But I am going to do first round cuts in every room next year and I am even giving myself a head start by working through our study and basement level this last quarter!

Before, I had no specific emotional tie to purging and organizing my stuff.  I like stuff.  Stuff is good. It means I am/are/was a success at life right?  Yea, No.  Well not totally No, I actually DO like stuff.  Show me a minimalist stuff accumulating planner girl and I will show you someone who just “thinks” she needs to “use it or lose it” but really…do we ever actually lose it?  For most of us, that answer is no.  Somehow, that space always seems to get filled.

I remember a comment on Facebook about planning as a hobby.  Someone stated that technically its TWO hobbies.  There is the hobby of collecting all the stuff associated with having a planner, and the hobby of actually using a planner.  I find that both hilarious and true J

Having a specific emotional reason behind setting your goals helps.  Knowing that in a few years (or maybe much sooner depending on the political climate) I will have to pack up everything I own and cross the border into another country fills me with dread, panic, excitement, adrenaline, and desires to purge it ALL!!!  Within reason of course (as I look longingly at the shelf of leather travelers notebooks).

Adversity, courage and purpose drive true learning, much more than simply reading a book full of ideas on how to set goals and then making half-assed decisions based on what you think the author wants you to do.  When you have a compelling reason to set a goal, then you can start looking for what that goal should be. Not the other way around.

Solve a real problem, get out there and figure out what it is that you WANT to do, find something bigger to work on, do not make your goals easy.  Cleaning my house was easy, but it never got done because it wasn’t enough of a challenge to drive me to want to do it. Purging my belongings to embark on a grand new adventure in an unknown land…yep pretty compelling I think!

When you set your goals, have skin in the game. Know that these are goals you will put real work behind, not just eh, hopefully it happens.  I don’t want to wake up in 2020 and realize I am in the same place I am right now.  That isn’t growth, that isn’t progress.  Push yourself.  Are you in the same place right this very minute, as you were one year ago?  I know I am not, and I realize that I did reach MANY goals throughout the year; they just weren’t my BIG goals.  Also try to remember how successful you have been when you review what you had planned for this year, especially when you find things you didn’t get done.

I am using several empty pages in the back of my Hobonichi Weeks Mega to do my strategic planning for 2019 and I have a specific page dedicated to goals (both big and small) and I just write them down, sort of like a Goal Ideas brain dump.  So when I do sit down and start working on my actual goals for next year, I can figure out the big ideas and a lot of the smaller goals as well.  In this method I can also weed out anything that doesn’t push me far enough to help me grow. Those ideas are probably better suited as tasks are put into a 2019 Master Task List that I will look at over the course of next year when I can and cross them off as I do them.

This is how I will tackle my 2019 Goals and yes, I am starting the process now (along with Swedish Death Cleaning) and hopefully by the time 01/01/19 hits, I have a progress forward list of Goals to accomplish (as well as a fully organized study J) to work with.

I hope you found something helpful in this look back at some of my biggest failures of 2018.  I learned a lot and while I didn’t get everything done I wanted to, I also never gave up, which is something I can be proud of, regardless of unorganized underwear drawers!


Apr-2018-A-Graham-Bio-PicYou can find Amy Graham, The Badass Valkyrie, on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, her blog, and her Facebook athlete page.

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