The R.O.O.T.E.D. Goal Setting System helps you to identify and reverse-engineer essentialist goals that bridge the gap between the future you want and the life you’re living right now.

Sustainable, Life-Giving Goals Are:

Last week, we talked about how to start uncovering the soil of your core calling. Core calling goals resonate deeply, compel you to follow-through on them, and start bearing fruit immediately. The soil of your core calling forms a rich environment for setting sustainable, healthy goals that actually energize you.

This week, we’ll be getting super practical.

If you did last week’s prescribed exercises, you encountered a lot of core themes by examining your intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. You may have even experimented with something new that taps into the deeper, life-giving currents within your soul. Even if you simply read the post, you may have felt whispers and nudges from deep within, bringing to the surface of your conscience reminders about buried goals and dreams.

But if you’re anything like I was at the beginning of my goal-setting journey, you feel like the chasm between these ideals and real life is unpassably wide. How do you even begin to make traction on the things that matter most when you spend 90% of your time hopping from one urgent thing to the next and the 10% you have left in a scrolling stupor because you don’t have a lick of creative energy left? And when you do have a good day or week, you don’t feel organized enough to really move the needle forward on those big things. So you’re spinning your wheels in the trivial and the temporary, wondering when you’ll ever have the space for serious progress.

GIRL—I get you.

You don’t need any more pie-in-the-sky goals to blow raspberries at your lived reality.

You need goals that take your real life context seriously and embrace it. You need goals that recognize that you’re where you are right now for a reason. You need your goals to reassure you that your point A (even the hard stuff) is not a mistake—it’s Providence.

Your Hunger for Change

Complacency is never our calling. We are Imago Dei, called to cultivate abundance in every area of our influence. When you look out into your world and you see needs, problems, gaps—and you feel that deep wish welling up within that things should be different—well, that discontentment can be holy.

When those future-oriented longings are aligned with strong priorities that say “amen” to challenges, lack, and even suffering as the result of doing the right thing in this oft upside-down world, then you’re still walking in the footsteps of Paul in Philippians 4:12.

But Paul also made it his ambition to preach the Gospel to the unreached world. He even noted that he was not content to build on anyone else’s evangelistic endeavors (Romans 15:20). He saw the need of the unreached world—severe gaps left by his own people who had been commanded to teach the Gentiles for centuries—and he longed to fill those gaps. It was his core calling.

He even prescribed ambition to Christian individuals who had different callings than he did. Last week, we walked through how Paul encouraged the people at Thessalonica to invest their time in growing in grace and cultivating abundance. Paul did not want them to be unnecessarily dependent the industry of others, but instead be sources of abundance themselves.

If we began to see ourselves, because of Christ in us, as oases of hope and healing in a hungry, war-torn world, how would that change our vision for personal impact? If we believed 1 Corinthians 6:19—that we are temple of the Lord, that the God of the universe and love and hope has chosen to interface with the world that needs Him through US—how would that encourage us that our deepest desires to solve problems, craft beauty, serve deeply, and bridge gaps? How would we become curious about these desires as invitations from heaven to imagine, to engineer, and to grow?

What if we believed that we could begin to cultivate abundance, starting right where we are, today?​

Let’s dig into your daily lived context, your current responsibilities, and the order of your priorities. By overlapping where you are right now with the unique giftings God has given you (which forms the soil of your core calling), we will be able to begin identifying the immediate goals you can set that will help you really move the needle forward in the essential areas of your life.

Your Starting Place is Valid

As I’ve studied my life and others’, I’ve come to identify three seasons of our productive lives. Great “next right thing” goals come from identifying what season you’re in, and then asking, “What’s the single most impactful thing I can do to cultivate abundance in my life, where I am, right now?” Let’s parse through the three seasons of our productive lives, and I’ll show you the types of goals I’ve focused on to bring stability and make more space to thrive in my context.

  1. Surviving. Survival seasons are common and can arise in a flash, in even the most intentional of lifestyles. They can last a days, weeks, months, and (in the most of difficult cases) even years. It’s important to remember that, while there are almost always lessons to be learned, survival seasons are not always a result of one’s own personal failings. Many complex issues can tangle together and throw a monkey-wrench into even one’s best thought-out plans, rhythms, and interpersonal dynamics in surprising ways. The pandemic is an obvious example. Financial downturns, illness, injuries, and personal or family crises are others. A life full of heart and healthy risk can never be perfectly galvanized against survival mode seasons. Survival mode does not even mark a wasted period of life. Often, the survival mode elements are there precisely because you are being forced to tend to extremely important things even at the cost of a steady pace and ample relaxation. The key, though, is to recognize the survival mode season early, accept the reality of it, give yourself grace, say no to false guilt and shame, and then stay alert to the inner nudges that say, “alright, it’s time to get creative and take some control of the chaos.” The goals you’ll set in a survival season should be focused on getting out of survival mode. I’ve found the best success in getting out of survival mode with these three goals: (1) starting the habit goal of carving out daily quiet time to prayerfully use my planner and read/listen to the Scriptures, (2) ruthlessly purging my home, wardrobe, workspaces, and digital channels so that only the minimal life-giving essentials remained, and, (3) getting disciplined about my sleep and hydration
  2. Reviving. The reviving season begins when you let that desire to bring your leadership into the chaos really get ahold of you and empower you to make some hard choices. The process of reviving is marked by organizing all of the expectations on your plate, getting real about your personal limitations, purging non-essential stressors and time-wasters, setting healthy boundaries, implementing efficiency systems for the routine things you have to maintain, and finding ways to make life-giving space for your most essential goals and dreams. You can kickstart a reviving season simply by making space every single day to get still and organize your thoughts. Our planner the is the perfect tool around which to build this type of revitalizing daily habit. By setting strategic goals in your revival season, you can make space to thrive faster than you might realize. Here are some reviving goals to pursue in addition to maintaining the goals that got you out of survival mode: (1) create a solid anchor point in your day or week to prioritize a lifestyle change that matters most to you; (2) create solid anchor points in your day/week to invest deeply in each of your closest relationships; (3) make space every day to brainstorm about that one thing you can’t get off your heart that you think would cultivate abundance in a massive way. <– Rinse and repeat, until anchored habits become rhythms, and you begin to get a real sense of clarity around what’s essential.​
  3. Thriving. When you set out to make space to thrive, over and over again, one day you’ll look up and your breath will catch as you realize that you finally are. Seasons of really thriving come from having mental clarity and feeling organized about your tasks, responsibilities, commitments, and goals—and then feeling that each one of those things that you’re doing resonate deeply with who you were created to be. Thriving comes from a life focused on the life-giving essentials, with increasing volumes of non-essential preoccupations falling off the edges of your radar. Thriving comes with strong rhythms and habits and boundaries that string together to automate an exceptional, purpose-filled lifestyle—a lifestyle that’s been crafted with ample margin for flexibility, creativity, relationships, and growth. When you reach the zenith, the very reality that you feel like you’re thriving is, in itself, a reward and a celebration. The goals you begin to set from this season’s vantage point will start to feel intuitive and deeply personal. You may also start to realize you’re working through the goals you set at an increasing pace. You will feel compelled to cultivate abundance in new ways. That itch will propel you forward—even inviting you to risk some of the balance you’ve achieved as you stretch to grow. Some of these risks may even introduce a new survival mode season: but you’ve learned how to reign seasons like those in to be only as long as necessary (and not a day longer). As you struggle and your skills increase, you’ll find yourself in another revival period until you find your equilibrium again and, thriving, your capacity expands further. On and on, higher and higher, climbing through the execution of your goals as you build a life of intention and abundance and generosity.

Identifying Your Priorities

One of the most frequent questions we get is this: “There are SO MANY THINGS to do. How do I even know what my priorities are? Where do I start?”

I spun my wheels in that question for several months until I outright asked a mentor to help me figure them out. He answered by drawing several concentric circles (as I’d witnessed him do several times before)—but this time the desperation I was feeling as I was trying to crawl out of my time-management train wreck made me listen closely enough that it finally “clicked.”

He told me that my priorities should be chiefly informed by my expanding circles of influence. The place where I had the most responsibilities (i.e. my own household) was the place where I also had the most influence. If I concentrated on fulfilling my responsibilities, I would strengthen my core circle so much that I could begin to build on it. If I wanted to have my priorities straight and build sustainable influence, I needed to start from the core and work my way out. He pointed to each expanding circle, explaining each one in detail. The furthest-from-the-core circle was where national and global acquaintances and politics lay. He pointed out that I had no influence in that circle, because I hadn’t built up from the core to the point where I’d reached that level of influence—and that even if I did, it would be very diluted compared to the influence I’d have closer to home.

Everything he said made so much sense to me—and I immediately felt embarrassed about the hours upon hours I was wasting on the internet trying to mediate relationships between bickering online friends that were scattered across the globe, or trying to change the minds of perfect strangers on matters of public policy. My influence with any of these people was petty at best. I had to reframe my entire approach to my schedule so that my efforts matched my responsibilities and my real life opportunities to make a positive impact.

Here’s my (slightly edited) version of the circles of influence:

  1. You start by prioritizing communion with God and treating your body as a temple that needs to be respectfully stewarded.
  2. Next comes your relationships with the members of your household, and your responsibilities in the home (including your financial responsibilities—the way you add value to increase resources).
  3. Then you prioritize your relationships with your mentors and the people you disciple. (These are the people you carefully choose to bring in close enough that they can have a strong hand in shaping your life.)
  4. Once those core circles are strong, then you have a foundation for building healthy influence in your local community and beyond.
  5. In the outermost circle are the international currents of ideologies, economics, policies, and conversation. Meaningful impact in this circle is rare and would take an incredible amount of personal character and worldclass mastery of valuable skills.

So how far down do you need to go in order to truly strengthen your core? I’ve always dreamt in terms of my fourth and fifth circles, but when I got still, real, and focused, I had to admit that I needed to rework my life in massive ways, starting with my innermost circle.

Bringing it All Together

So now you have the exciting task of finding the overlap between your core calling goals (your beckoning future), your starting point (survival mode, reviving, or thriving), and your deepest priorities. This intersection is the best place to find goals that are organically growing out of your context—goals that make sense for you, where you are, today, and that act as a bridge to help you get to the next level.

Here’s a question to ask yourself that summarizes everything: “What can I do to really move the needle forward in cultivating communion and abundance in a way that aligns with both my truest priorities and my core calling?”

There is always a way to move forward on the unique work God has given us to do in this world while strongly prioritizing the people He’s given us care for. In fact, it’s impossible to move forward sustainably and wholesomely in your core calling if you don’t honor your relationship priorities. Efforts that are life-giving and ethical are built from a place of integrity.

Recognizing the season you’re in, identifying the contours of your priorities, and aligning your next right steps with your core calling will be a considerable undertaking. It’ll also be highly personalized. I can’t, in this post, help you turn over every single stone and explore every question you’ll need to ponder.

But I can run through what this has looked through in my own life.

  1. Using the core calling exercise, I identified a thread in my core calling that would compel me create and distribute resources that would help a certain underserved demographic to get on their feet. The project I have in mind is actually pretty massive, and would easily fill out ten years in my mind. So where do I start?
  2. In the survival seasons of my life, the best ways I could move forward on that huge vision was to get my life back into a place of stability. In reviving seasons, I always make space to keep fleshing out my ideas and outlining the materials I’ll need for this heart calling while I continue to make choices that bring further balance and enduring strength. In seasons when I’m thriving, I set more ambitious goals that help me make significant progress on my core calling.
  3. I also look at future success in this heart calling goal as necessarily being built on the core of strong priorities. I am constantly studying the Scriptures to better equip myself for my task; and of course my prayer life and personal health are both critical as well. I’m also discussing my heart goal with my husband on a daily basis: it’s something that matters a lot to both of us, and we’re continually finding ways to align our choices so that I can continue building into that long-range vision. I see my children as excellent guinea pigs for explaining difficult concepts on an accessible level, and I’m learning a lot about what makes people tick as I lean into my work as a parent. I’m also practicing my craft of explaining concepts through the written word as I accomplish certain parts of my day job (including writing posts like this one)! I talk about my project with mentors, and I practice coaching the material with people who are close to me. I learn more about developing a safe environment for interaction with my ideas as I practice hospitality. I tease through difficult concepts over lunch with my church family. I get on the phone with people who’ve heard about what I’m working on and want discuss relevant things.

At each intersection of the above, I can find places where a R.O.O.T.E.D. goal could be set and really flourish.

Here are some examples:

  • In a survival mode season that really had me prioritizing my kids, I’ve made progress on my core calling by setting an anchored habit goal that would have us snuggling together on the couch right after breakfast while watching Bible Project videos, while I jotted down in my planner the thoughts relevant to my calling that were being generated while watching. I’d then pick one to discuss with my four year old when the video is over until her attention span would run out and she wanted to get out the playdough.
  • In a reviving season that’s had me prioritizing my health, I’ve made progress on my core calling by getting really serious about the big changes that needed to happen in order for me to really thrive enough to do such big work. I set up a goal that put the needed change in ink, and then shared with my husband all of my ideas for making that change happen. We agreed on a course of action and began executing, until we saw God bring the change to past in His way and His time (which, in this particular case, was much faster than either of us anticipated!)
  • In a thriving season that’s had me prioritizing my business, I’ve made progress on my core calling by seeking ways to streamline or delegate processes that take me away from things that only I can do (like developing our message)—and by making more space for writing work that’s aligned with (and even contributes to) those core calling resources I am internally motivated to create.

I could play mix-and-match with each of these components (season, priority, and calling) forever, but I won’t because it’s your turn. I want you to get out your planner and a pencil and start figuring out what these things look like in your life.

What might be your next right step in light of the context of your season, your most urgent true priority, and your core calling?​

Take these ingredients, do some mixing-and-matching, and start building a list of ultra- relevant, motivated, and meaningful goals.


Our subscription box is currently open to new subscribers! We ship our sub boxes four times a year and they contain 3 Monthly booklets along with curated planning accessories. The Monthly is the muscle of our planning system. It’s a five-week undated day planner featuring week spreads, habit trackers, timeblocked day pages, and plenty of bullet grid flex space to make the planner completely yours. We can’t wait to see what you do with the right tools in hand!