Explore: How An Annual Theme Becomes a List of Goals [2018 Edition]

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Happy New Year! I’m more excited about starting 2018 than I have been at the beginning of the last several years. Taking a look at last year and making a concrete list of goals for this coming year has been so helpful to regroup and refocus.

Goodbye, 2017

While I ended the year on a good note, 2017 was a rough one. The year held some unexpected tough situations over which I had little or no control. For 2017, my word of the year was RENEW. I went into the year hoping/planning for RENEW to be more about rest and rejuvenation. The reality ended up being a lot more about making a conscious choice to shift my MINDSET.

Hello, 2018

Looking ahead to 2018, my husband Charles and I came up with a joint word of the year that we each feel really good about personally, as a family, professionally and generally across all areas of life. As we were discussing what our word should be, the immediate consensus was that it should be something around putting ourselves out there, trying new things and growing.

We both have a tendency to play it safe, but looking back, our greatest areas of growth came from the times we took risks. We want to take more risks, not by abandoning logic, but considering when it makes sense to take a calculated jump or a leap of faith.

As we considered words and phrases, we brainstormed a lot of words like dream, growth, skills, grit, challenges, adventure, resilience, get comfortable being uncomfortable, sharing, and presence.

Explore #2018 #oneword Image shows annual theme of explore and accompanies post that discusses how that turns into a lit of goals

We (finally) landed on EXPLORE for our annual theme and family goals.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

I recently ran across this quote that was theme of a freshmen orientation while I was in college. It’s now so much more meaningful (and true!) now than it was at 18, which was a full half my life ago now. Where does the time go?!


At a macro level, we’re using the theme of EXPLORE as the lens to view everything that comes across our paths in 2018 and to create our list of goals. We’ll ask, “Does this (whatever this is) help me EXPLORE or not?” If yes, go for it! If not, ditch it.

I love that EXPLORE can take on many nuanced meanings depending on the lens or area of life it’s being applied to.

EXPLORE… getting out of ruts.
EXPLORE… more analog and less digital.
EXPLORE… more presence.
EXPLORE… lower stress and more emotional space.
EXPLORE… more adventure, more tinkering.
EXPLORE… putting myself out there more.
EXPLORE… relationships and experiences above things (except when those things enable relationships and experiences)

Not to mention, the boys love exploring more than anything. The eyes of a four year old and a six year old remind us that exploring doesn’t need to be a massive undertaking. Exploring can be as simple as stopping to pick up and examine the frozen leaf on the sidewalk or discovering that that ledge makes a great table.

How does EXPLORE break down to a list of goals?

We are taking a quarterly (or 12 Week Year) approach to allow for flexibility since we all know how quickly life can change. The quarterly list of goals still ladder up to the theme of EXPLORE!

For Q1, the list of goals is:

Self-Development Goals

  • Read 12 books, including at least 6 non-fiction. This goal is actually reading less than prior years with an intent to be more mindful of what I’m reading and to consider if reading is the best way I can EXPLORE at a given point in time.
  • Read daily from Harvard Classics in 365 Days. As the title implies, this is a daily reading from classic literature that’s billed to provide “a liberal education in a year.”
  • Daily Instagram posts. As an introvert and INTJ, it’s entirely too easy to have a 90% finished graveyard of content that’s not quite published. Posting daily to Instagram is a way to both focus on EXPLORE daily as well as put myself out there and share more.

Travel Goals

Hopefully that’s a self-explanatory EXPLORE theme. 🙂 Travel goals for Q1 include:

  • A trip to Arizona this month for a friend’s book launch and annual non-profit board meeting.
  • One family weekend trip. We’re thinking Bend, but may change our minds.
  • At least three day trips out in the Land Rover. Trip #1 was January 1, so we’re well on track there!
  • Get passports! Mine is up for renewal, and the boys don’t have them.

Parenting Goals

Goodness, how do you distill parenting into a list of goals?! Parenting was one of the areas that rocked our world in 2017, as we had some major unexpected behavior challenges with one of our kids that turned a large portion of my fall upside down. We’re in a much better space now, but this is one area we’re holding loosely in terms of specific goals. A few focus areas:

  • Saying yes more often
  • More reading aloud
  • Less television
  • Earlier bedtimes
  • A whole lot of prayer for our kids (and for our parenting wisdom!)

Relationship Goals

  • Prioritize twice weekly at-home date nights, as well as one date-night-out per month.
  • Continue our a standing monthly group date with our neighbors. We started this last year with two of our neighbors, and it’s fantastic! We have an amazing babysitter who watches all the kids at one house. Since the kids are all at once house, we often do dinner and game night at one of the other houses, which makes it a cheap evening and still a lot of fun.
  • Have people over more often. We have great intentions here, but the reality of our schedules (plus two introverts!) means that it doesn’t happen nearly as often as we’d like. We haven’t set a specific frequency goal, but hope to figure out what makes sense at this stage of life.

Financial Goals

Financially, EXPLORE means that we’re shifting our focus from frugality and debt reduction/elimination to increasing our net worth. I’m very risk averse financially, but can also see where I’ve spent so much time being frugal that it’s at the detriment of living life.

By focusing on increasing our net worth, we will put emphasis both on paying down debt (we’ve got auto loans + a mortgage) and investing in growth opportunities.

  • Do a January spending freeze on all non-essential items.
  • Review our overall budget and roughly map out big projects, purchases, savings and investments for the rest of the year.

Health Goals

The lens of EXPLORE gives me a reason to focus on my health and weight loss: I know that I’ll be able to physically do a lot more exploring and adventures if I’m healthier.

  • Q1 health goal: to lose 3lbs per month. I’ll achieve this goal by doing one week per month on a no-sugar, low-carb diet and limiting sugar and carb intake the other weeks of the month. Sugar is my enemy!

Career & Business Goals

From a career standpoint, EXPLORE is mostly about being comfortable in my own skin and putting myself out there. My personality type has the blessing and curse of always seeing what’s still left to be done or could be improved upon. This has led to me holding back at various points over the years, both intentionally and unintentionally. That has no place in the year of EXPLORE!

Q1’s career & business goals are mostly around figuring out exactly how and where I want to be spending my time and then planning accordingly. I’m currently feeling a bit stretched thin across my day job, blogging, volunteer roles and working with my husband on some business ideas he has. In order to be successful at any of it, I need to make some tough choices to focus and streamline.

Explore.Dream.Discover. Mark Twain Quote that relates to a list of goals | strategysarah.com

For all goals, done is better than perfect. I am excited to take an approach that’s all about exploration rather than driven by perfectionism. How is your list of goals looking this year? 

One goal oriented person's example of a list of goals, starting with an annual theme, broken down by type of goals and quarterly milestones.

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