Setting Goals for Life and Work


The New Year is upon us and it’s time to set goals so we can focus our energy and make some truly spectacular things happen this year….professionally AND personally.

For years, I struggled with work life balance although I’ve been absolutely smitten with the concept since college.  And I know this is a hot topic now with lots of debate about whether balance is actually a reasonable thing to strive for.  Regardless of how you feel about the topic, if there are things outside of your work that are important to you, that aren’t getting the attention they deserve, I encourage you to read on.

As for my journey, I’ve not yet perfected the art of having a balanced life.  A wise friend helped me see it’s not about “balance” but about “balancing”, which implies that this is a practice.  Not something to “achieve” and be done with. But a way to help us remember that there are things outside of work that are important, too, and that they deserve our energy.

Here are the goal-setting practices I’ve developed over time that help me keep balancing in mind. I hope they help you too!


1) Get Clear On Your Life’s Intentions

What’s most important to you? In my practice, I use the Life’s Intentions Inventory from Maria Nemeth’s book, Mastering Life’s Energies, to identify what’s most important.  Top of my list: to be a loving family member, to be a creator of community, to be spiritually developing, to be a generous friend, to be physically fit and healthy, to be a contribution to others, and to be a visionary leader.  As I create goals for the coming quarter I keep this list front and center.

2) Create Professional AND Personal Goals

For most of my professional career, I’ve had a practice of creating quarterly goals.  Being a “J” in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I find great satisfaction in checking things off the list.  So the practice of creating goals worked great…except that my personal life was taking a beating, especially after I became a mom.

This came into focus in early 2010 when I saw that I was achieving my business goals but was completely wiped out.  When I looked more closely at my goals, I realized they were all about business and there wasn’t anything there about self-care or what I wanted to be doing with my family or friends.  Yikes!

With that I began the practice of creating both personal and professional goals, linked to my Life’s Intentions, and it’s served me incredibly well.  The “J” in me is extremely happy “getting credit” for going after my personal goals – like planning a vacation or birthday celebration, spending time on my meditation practice, or hitting a new fitness goal.  And my work goals get their fair share of attention too.

3) Don’t Do Too Much

While it’s tempting to capture every idea I have on my list o’ goals, I found that with too many things on my plate none of them happen.  So now I challenge myself to fit my quarterly goals – personal and professional – on one 8 ½ x 11 piece of paper.  I’ve found that when I go over, or use a teeny tiny font, I can’t get everything done and end up berating myself for not achieving superwoman status.  Now I capture good ideas on a separate list, for future consideration. It’s pretty liberating to be able to say to myself or others that I’ll consider that new possibility for the coming quarter’s goals.

4) Keep ‘Em Handy

This may be super old school, but I love to have a print-out of my goals in the little pocket of my journal.  It’s somehow different from looking at them electronically. I review my goals at least weekly to make sure I’m on track and not forgetting anything important as I plan the coming weeks.

5) Support

Well, the topic of support can fill a book as it is super edgy for most of us.  The Cliff Notes version is this: 1) Talk about your goals – personal and professional – with people you trust.  This builds energy and is an important step in bringing new things to life. 2) Ask for and let in support so you can have more balance in your life.  Tell people what you need, share where you’re challenged, and brainstorm ways to work together to make things better.

Here’s to a fabulous 2013 and much success both professionally AND personally!

Nancy Larocca Hedley