Goals versus Plans


In one of my 2013 roundup posts I noted that I had not written down any goals in 2013. However, I did make a variety of plans and spent a great deal of time making sure they came to fruition.

I see my plans distinctly from my goals. For me, plans are generally more concrete like a bike tour or a brevet. A plan may be part of my effort to reach a larger personal that is almost always bigger and often more abstract than my plan.

I know some people do not like to engage in goal-setting, but I consider it a helpful reflective activity. Goal-setting allows me to think about where I am and where I want to be headed. I dream big. I refocus. It’s a worthwhile exercise in mindfulness.

For 2014, I spent time developing goals for the following facets of my life:

Leisure Time

These are based on a piece I read by Gale Bernhardt, who coaches Olympians and other elite athletes. Despite not falling into this category (obviously) I found her structure helpful for my own goal-setting.

Under each of these five areas, I first brainstorm all the things I could focus on. I write them all on paper. It gets them out of my head and into an articulated space. I do this over a couple of days.

Sometimes I’m surprised by what I end up writing down by just letting my pen flow freely.

After making an initial list I cull through my ideas, honing in on what I really want to be mindful of during this year.

Where am I going as a person in these various areas? Where are the areas of overlap? How do they work together to help my personal growth? I take another few days to refine my goals.

Afterward, I’m set. I often make plans that support some of these goals. The “health,” “career,” and “leisure” areas are often the ones that include specific plans throughout the year.

I review my goals periodically, and reflect on them. How am I doing in these chosen goals under each area? If I’m not addressing something, why is that happening? Is it because it is not really a priority or is there something about it that intimidates or is keeping me from doing it?

Maybe this all sounds dry and boring, but it’s actually a creative and rewarding process. January is the perfect time for me to engage in this kind of mindfulness. Not only is January the beginning of the calendar year, but it is also winter, a time that takes on a slower feel than other seasons. Perfect for plotting out the year’s goals.


  1. I also love the beginning of the year. Making plans and setting goals is important to keep myself focused. Otherwise I feel like a leaf in a stream. I think that having projects is the best way to be young. Without plans, who drives our lives? Without them, what are we waiting for?


  2. Mary, you are such an inspiration…I wish I had the energy to do what you manage to get done. I need to make time to follow your example and contemplate goals for the upcoming year. I hope a new coffeeneuring challenge is on your list! Thanks for inspiring me toward a more productive year. Jo


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