June 2, 2021

How to Outline Your Goals for Clarity

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 worked through finding the overlap between your core calling goals (your beckoning future), your starting point, and your deepest long-term priorities. It was in this intersection that we found goals that were 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.

This week, we’ll be talking about how to outline (“reverse-engineer”) your goal for clarity.

Clarity is QUEEN: Detailing the What, the Why & the How

If you remember ONE thing from this post, let it be this one: A strong goal is a CLEAR goal.

Clarity is QUEEN when it comes to giving your brain an objective that it can actually process, prioritize, and tackle in the day-to-day.

Let’s pause right here clarify the difference between a goal and a task or project. A goal takes considerable strategy in order to accomplish it. A task or project is more granular, and has a very obvious path of execution. An example of a task would be “wash the dishes.” An example of a project would be, “declutter my cabinets.” An example of a goal would be, “streamline my kitchen operations so I can do what I need to every (normal) day in under 90 minutes.”

You also want to get extremely, minutely, and even obnoxiously clear on WHAT you want to accomplish with any given goal. If you don’t, you will likely spin your wheels in the non-essentials, and struggle to ever feel like you’ve accomplished it.

Here’s an example:

Say you’ve done the core calling exercises and you’ve determined that you’re drawn to start a business. But as you got really real with drawing your goals from what is organically growing out of your context in the next exercise, you had to admit that your home felt a little too chaotic to jump into the deep end of business in the upcoming quarter.

You determined that the next right thing would be to tackle your biggest pain point: getting your home in order so that you can begin to make space for your business.

Now many people stop right there. They feel they know what they need to do next, and get to tackling it immediately. But, as I’ve learned from experience, that sets your “goal” up to be a vague and potentially meaningless rabbit hole. As obvious as our example goal may seem, it’s actually not very clear.

Let’s work through clarifying it together using What/Why/How.

  1. The WHAT: You need to get CRYSTAL CLEAR on “what” you actually want to accomplish (which may not actually be what you think it is!)
  2. The WHY: Then you want to tap down into your “why” so that you can fortify that goal with confidence and resilience, so that your goal will endure through the challenging moments.
  3. The HOW: Then you want to hammer out a solid (but flexible) blueprint for your “how” so that your brain has a direction to latch onto.

What, Precisely, is Your Goal?

Let’s start bringing some cogent definition to the very general: “I need to get my home in order so I can make space for my business” goal.

Start by asking yourself exactly what pain points you’re trying to address with your goal. This will help you get laser-focused on the essential things. It doesn’t do to spend your quarter “getting the house in order” by organizing the basement, painting 2/3 of your house’s vinyl exterior, or creating an elaborate system of color-coded chore charts only to find that, at the end of it, you haven’t freed up a lick of mental bandwidth for your business.

So what actually is burdening your mental bandwidth? Is it the fact that the mountains of laundry and dishes never seem to shrink, no matter how much time you spend tending them? (You could probably remove 80% of those puppies from circulation.) Is it that you find your naptime to dust and vacuum, leaving no room to think creatively? (Gotta batch and anchor, my friend.) Are you embarrassed when that certain person drops by unannounced and throws off alllll the judgy vibes when you’re on your laptop when the floors need to be vacuumed? (Okay, this could legit be all in your head or there’s some inner work that needs to be done here in regards to what others think of your priorities.) Are your children needing to learn how to be faithful with chores, or do you need better boundaries around pets? (HUGE game-changers.) Or perhaps you’re just about done with a house flip and getting the exterior completely painted would be a massive load off! (Fully finishing the thing can do so much for your mental bandwidth!)

You’ve got to lean into the precise things that are stressing you out, and think through the precise details that need to change in order to have that mental bandwidth, peace, and confidence to start carving out serious deep work time.

When I was in this stage of my life, needing to “get my house in order” so I could make more space for Evergreen, I came to realize that clutter was my #1 stressor—if I could declutter our home completely, then my daughter would be able to pick up her own toys, my drawers and closets would basically stay organized, and my cleaning routines could be minimal. I gave myself a very precise goal—”declutter all of the main areas of the home down to the basic ESSENTIALS: kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedrooms, laundry room, and hall closet”—invested in a decluttering e-course, and then gave myself a quarter of the year to complete it. I decided to ignore the shed, our guest room, our school closet, and other spaces that weren’t part of my daily rhythms. I didn’t need my shed to be Pinterest-perfect in order to clear mental bandwidth for my business—heck, I didn’t even need main living spaces to be! I simply and precisely needed to minimize the mental bandwidth I had going out to day-to-day housekeeping operations so I could have a whole lot more time and decision-making energy to give to the business.

This brings up another very important point: Clarifying WHAT your goal precisely is not will be just as important as clarifying what exactly it is. Rearranging my bedroom (again) was not a primary need in “getting my house in order”—but paring down to a capsule wardrobe and getting all the junk out from under the bed so I could vacuum faster was. (Side note, though: sometimes rearranging/redecorating is exactly what needs to done for you to feel peaceful and focused, so don’t miss my point! You’re totally in charge here, and need to make sure you kick any false guilt where it belongs.)

In order to identify what you’re not going to focus on, ask yourself: “What would it look like to bravely do this in my own unique style?”

For me, this meant that:

  • I was not going to worry about whether my closets looked good on my Instagram grid
  • I was not going to make myself keep the same toy system that my favorite decluttering teacher had if it wasn’t working
  • I was not going to worry if my dollar store organizational bins looked tacky
  • I was not going to lose sleep over the fact that my 3yo chose to donate her $50 Calico Critter tree house to kids in need but wanted to keep her neon Burger King toy (okay, maybe I did lose a little sleep over that, but I was rolling with my style of parenting and trusting that her generosity would be blessed by God and that it would be a good learning experience about personal agency)

It meant that I was going to take alllll of the time, effort, and emotional energy that would’ve otherwise gone into the non-essentials listed above and pour it into finishing the task of decluttering my home and clearing that space for business.

To figure out what I was going to work on, I employed the Pareto Principle. Only 20% of what I could do to declutter my house would actually give me the results I wanted. This means I could forego the 80% of the non-essentials (like whether my organizational bins matched perfectly) so that I could stay laser-focused on accomplishing the essence of my goal. In order to get very clear about the 20% that mattered most, I had to tap down into my “why” (which we’ll cover next.)

Takeaway: When you run your goal through the “what” filter, make sure to spend time writing down exactly what you need to be accomplished in order to make life-giving progress on the goal, and then what is tempting but not priority. In order to get really clear about this, ask: “What would it look like to do this in my own unique style?

Why, Precisely, Does This Goal Matter So Much?

This is SO important. This step will help you to tap the essence of your goals and fortify them so you don’t give up at what feels like the first impasse. I find my “why” for any given goal by asking myself if and how it connects to my core calling. (If a goal doesn’t connect deeply, I have to think long and hard about why I’m even setting that goal!)

My “whys” for decluttering my main areas of the house were these:

  • TIME (I precisely wanted to drop my daily cleaning time from 2 hours down to 30-45 minutes so I could put the time I saved into the business—a business that was a stepping stone in my core calling.)
  • DECISION-MAKING ENERGY / MENTAL BANDWIDTH (I wanted to put decision-making power into choosing the strongest copy so that I could attract the people I was called to serve, not trying to decide if my toddler’s shirt had too many stains on it to wear into town.)
  • INDEPENDENCE FOR MY KIDS (I wanted my children to have so few toys that they could actually enjoy them and learn early to master taking care of them—and it doesn’t take much to imagine how raising independent kids connects to my core calling as a mama.)
  • PEACE (I knew I achieved my goal when I could relax on the maintenance and our home still felt peaceful to our hearts—not perfect in a random guest’s eyes. Having a peaceful home is also a vital part of my core calling.)

Knowing my precise “whys” for the goal meant that I could really distill down my “what” to the essential 20% as well as engage my feelings to help me pinpoint when I had accomplished my goal. Decluttering my bathroom wouldn’t be about counting towels, but instead about how much time and decision-making energy it took for me to get ready every day. Decluttering my kids’ spaces would be focused exclusively on the level of independence they could attain with whatever clothes and toy systems we landed on. Decluttering my kitchen would be more about how much peace I felt when cooking than on how I technically still had a box of random kitchen accessories to go through in my shed. If I was saving time, bandwidth, effort, and stress throughout the day, then I was succeeding. This is SO MUCH STRONGER than writing a massive checklist that I felt had to be completely checked off before I felt like I was “allowed” to move on to my business.

Takeaway: When you run your filter through the “why” filter, ask yourself, “What vital thing(s) will change if I can solve this pain point by accomplishing this goal? What’s the 20% here? What precise metrics will help me gauge whether I’ve accomplished the essence of the goal? How do I need to feel to know it’s done?”

How, Precisely, Might I Tackle This Goal?

Next week, we will get to the juicy “reverse-engineering” part of goal-setting. However (if you’re not careful) this one could trip you up a little.

So before I teach you how to start charting everything out, I want you to swallow this foundational key: You probably do not know every step of your “how,” and the steps you think you know are likely going to change as you go.

It is important to flesh out a good “how” pathway from your starting-point-A to your envisioned-Z. It gives your brain something to wrap itself around and lean into. It helps you get very precise with the specifics that you’re wanting to accomplish, the scope of your goal, and the trade-offs it might entail. This kind of brainstorming clarity is essential.

But perfectionisticly locking yourself into your “how” pathway is non-essential, and it can be a recipe for unnecessary (and sometimes pretty extreme) stress.

Your “how” can flex. Heck, even your “what” can flex. In order to be successful, the only thing you have to tenaciously root yourself in is your essential “why”—the beating heart of your goal that can energize you to take high-value action no matter how your life’s circumstances might change the details of that action.

We’ll dig into the mechanics of reverse-engineering a goal next week.

Until then, use the “takeaways” noted above to refine and bring definition to a core calling goal that is organically growing out of your context.


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!

May 26, 2021

How to Set Goals That Are Organically Growing Out of Your Context

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!

May 19, 2021

How to Set Goals That Are Rooted in Your Core Calling

At the start of this year, we wrote a post about how the R.O.O.T.E.D. Goal Setting System can be a game-changer for how you set goals this year. Over the next couple weeks, we are going to dive into each aspect of this goal setting system. If you missed that first post, take a minute to go read it now!

The R.O.O.T.E.D. system helps you to identify and reverse-engineer relevant, strong, essentialist goals that will help you bridge the gap between those big and important things that you know matter most and the life you’re living right now.

Sustainable, Life-Giving Goals Are:
  • Rooted in your core calling
  • Organically growing out of your context
  • Outlined for clarity
  • Tailored to your lifestyle
  • Etched into your memory
  • Developed by Providence

I have to admit—as thrilling as the first phrase in the acronym may be (‘Rooted in your core calling’), it’s also pretty intimidating. 

But tapping into your core calling is an essential part of creating goals that fully resonate, that compel you to follow-through in the execution of them, and that produce a lot of satisfying fruit along the way. 

So let’s begin uncovering essential soil for every sustainable and healthy goal you’ll ever set. 

The Core Calling of all Humans

Your “core calling” is a multi-layered concept. Let’s start with the most foundational layer—the layer of “calling” that is common to each of us.

In the first chapters of Genesis, we learn something very important about God’s heart for humanity. God created us as individuals made in His own image, and placed in the covenantal context of communion with Him, each other, and the world. From the dignity of being Imago Dei flows our purpose to steward this world God created by cultivating abundance and communion in every area of our influence.

Our generous God made so much space for us to walk with Him in love, to imagine, to engineer, to grow ourselves and our families and our projects. He equipped us with strong minds, strong bodies, strong capacities for relationships and nuance and wisdom. 

But then something terrible happened. The Enemy of communion and goodness and light and Love came in and planted seeds of doubt. He peddled the concepts of scarcity and conflict of interest to a world that was burgeoning with abundance and founded on a perfect harmony of interest. The real world had no space for his lies. But instead of pointing to reality and defending the world from the Liar, our first parents started to listen to him. They repeated his words in their minds until they sounded plausible. And then they decided to test the theory. They made a grab for exclusive control of resources—and in doing so they sacrificed their mutually-trusting relationship with God (and each other) for the opportunity to dominate without reference to God’s code of ethics. 

Humanity revolted against its core calling. Fallen human beings began to greedily contend with others for resources and eventually created entire systems of domination. The result has been a world fraught with scarcity, distrust, pain, and conflict ever since. But something else happened six thousand years after that fateful moment that barred humanity from Paradise. The Son of Man (the incarnation of God Himself) made our fallen world His home and started His renovations.

“That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.” He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” — 2 Corinthians 5:19-21

He started by reconciling people—individuals made in the Image of God—to Himself. In Christ, our hearts are changed from deserts of scarcity and conflict into small (but powerful) oases of hope and healing. 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” — 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

We are made into temples where heaven meets earth. Our lives become the context where God chooses to interface with the world around us.

In Christ, we are restored to our original Imago Dei calling to cultivate abundance and communion in every area of our influence. Christ takes the lead in our hearts by demonstrating that the redemption of the world can only follow spiritual transformation. But lest we think this means that we live our lives in some kind of floaty disassociation from real world problems, let’s consider the clear instructions of Paul to the Thessalonians (which is, of course, applicable to us all).

We are called to: 

(Taken from 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12)

  • love one another as we are taught by God
  • intentionally abound in that love
  • live peacefully
  • tend to our direct responsibilities
  • build wealth through enterprise and skillful industry (this is the literal meaning of the Greek word “ergazomai” in 1 Thess. 4:11; Gal. 6:10 makes it clear that we should take every opportunity to “ergazomai” for the good of all, and especially our brothers and sisters in Christ)
  • behave decently, respectfully, and ethically even toward strangers
  • abound so well in our own enterprises that we are not permanently dependent on the industry of others

In summary, sister, you and I (and every Christian woman reading this) will find that we have in common the renewed calling and impulse to cultivate abundance and communion in every area of our lives. Our efforts will be continually brought into alignment with the loving, peaceful, and respectful code of ethics that the Lord has restored to our hearts. And we will all be seeking ways to build wealth and independence by leveraging the unique resources and opportunities the Lord has given to each of us.

Your Core Calling as a Unique Individual

So how do you recognize and leverage the unique resources and opportunities that the Lord has given to you?

I’ve learned both from personal experience and from my coaching work with others that grasping the unique calling of God for our individual lives is a process

Digging down into our general calling to live out the dignity of being image-bearers who have been redeemed from our errors, adopted into the household of God, and given our heaven-meets-earth roles as truth-advancing royal priestesses (1 Peter 2:9) obviously provides an amazing amount of direction for our energies.

But 1 Peter 4:10 makes it clear that we are not lumped amorphously into the Body of Christ without any specific missions of our own. We are individual stewards of the “varied grace” of God. This means God has given us each special and unique graces in the form of our unique giftings, impulses, challenges, insights, resources, ideas, concerns, and desires.

This is because our One-and-Many God celebrates both the Unity of the One, and the Diversity of the Many. He doesn’t tend to the extremes of either uniformity or discord. His heart is for a world of peaceful unity that is also popping with invigorating diversity. 

So when I point out that there are reasons that you as an individual think about and pursue the things you do, that you have the desire to solve the problems that you notice, that you have important gaps that you were uniquely created to fill in the world—I’m not just the trumpeting modern “follow your dreams” marketing jingle. I’m pointing out a solid truth.

The Process of Getting Clarity on Your Unique Calling

Based on my personal and coaching experience, my study of the Scriptures, and the reading I’ve done on the concepts of calling, vocation, and purpose (from both Christian and other perspectives) I’ve developed a three-phase process to help you explore and uncover insights about the unique calling God has placed on your life.

  1. Explore your unique intrinsic motivations. Use the Venn Diagram worksheet to find the overlap between the things that give you life, the ways you are moved to serve people, the ways you build wealth, and the skills in which you excel. You will begin to see core themes that overlap in tightening circles—themes that serve as major hints into your core calling. Pray for the Lord to place the desires He wants for you to have in your heart—and know that if you’re in Christ, He’s already been doing that!
  2. Explore your unique extrinsic motivations. Explore the long-term things that motivate you that are outside of yourself, and which are present now. For many people, an easy answer to this is their spouse and/or children, their desire to have a family), and/or others who are under their care. In addition, what are the things that your mentors or friends most commonly ask you to do? What are the top skills for which people have paid you, or have offered to pay you? If you struggle to see what others value in you, ask a trusted friend to help you create a short list. What are the common injustices and/or serious needs that you always seem to notice? What types of invitations from others get you really excited? Ask the Lord to help you see which of these external motivations are part of His Providential direction.
  3. Plant a few seeds and leverage every opportunity to grow in skill, focus, and love. Did I mention that getting clarity on your core calling is a process? It can’t all be done while cozied up with a notebook and coffee. You have to engage real challenges and solve real problems in the life you’re living now. You might be getting a good feel for the soil of your core calling, but you won’t really know what’ll grow until you start planting some seeds. Notice which challenges you’re drawn to tackle and which problems you excel at solving. Plant a few seeds in a few different directions by experimenting with new things that give you life, that serve others in a way they need now, that add so much value that someone is willing to pay for it, and that you’re really good at. While you may not find that perfect combination right away, when an experiment seems to be remarkably successful, follow that avenue and see what else you can pursue there. Don’t overcommit yourself, though! Keep ample space in your life for daily responsibilities, rest, reflection, and play. Without breaking important commitments, give yourself the liberty to declutter your expectations often. Just because you try something doesn’t mean you have to permanently keep doing it. If something is draining you, try going at it from a different angle that aligns better with your unique giftings, get counsel about it, and/or let it go altogether. Never forget the people on the other end of your decisions, and keep your priorities straight (the most vulnerable people in your care come first, even if they’re not demanding the loudest). And no matter what, leverage every commitment you make or responsibility you fulfill as an opportunity to build strong skills, hone your focus on what matters most, and serve with authentic love. These three elements (skill, focus, and authentic love) act as the vitalizing fertilizer that fortifies and directs the good things that will start to grow out of the soil of your core calling. 

From what I’ve read, very few people actually know from a young age exactly what they’re uniquely called to do. And even fewer have a really fleshed-out understanding of what their calling entails. If you’re overwhelmed by this stage—don’t be. You don’t have to get it all right immediately. As you begin to nurture the soil of your core calling (even if you don’t really know what it is) by doing these exercises and by building skills, honing your focus, and growing in love, you’ll begin uncovering more and more direction as you go. 

Where Do You Go From Here?

The next step is to get extremely practical. We’ll be looking at your daily lived context, your current responsibilities, and the order of 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 most immediate goals you can set that will help you really move the needle forward in the essential areas of your life.

  1. Print out the Core Calling Worksheet and fill it out. 
  2. Use the flex space of your planner to work through the rest of the journaling questions I asked you in Phase 2. 
  3. Schedule in a few events, meetings, projects, or other forms of experimentation with the new ideas that are coming from your examination of the soil of your core calling. 

By doing all of this, you’ll be cultivating a rich plot for setting goals that are truly rooted in your core calling. 


Our quarterly subscription box of Monthly booklets will open to new subscribers tomorrow! Join the waitlist to be among the first to know. Don’t miss the chance to build a strong planning habit that will carry you through 2021 with intention towards the things that matter most to you.

January 6, 2021

How R.O.O.T.E.D. Goals Can Help You Thrive in 2021

I (Shelby) recently asked a very creative, capable, hard-working woman how traditional goal-setting methods had failed her in the past.

She answered and said that traditional goal setting methods failed to help her make a bridge between the accomplishment of her most important goals and the life she was actually living in the present.

I could completely relate to those feelings.

Last week we told the story of how I plowed through stacks of time-management books, articles, and podcasts a few years ago when I found myself absolutely overwhelmed with the demands of working full-time hours from home, first-time motherhood, and chronic illness.

I learned so much from the top gurus in the time-management, goal-setting and personal growth habits space. But one thing I started to notice was that many of the tips and strategies assumed something that I couldn’t relate to—they assumed that I’d be able get away to a kid-free office for eight hours per day and take twenty minutes before or after work to think, strategize, and walk through my goal-setting rituals. I began to realize something important. If I had any hope of truly taking action on anything I was learning, I would have to transpose all of these amazing CEO strategies into my real life context—toddler-crowded, macaroni-stained, cartoon-clanging kitchen “office” and all.

I also learned something extremely important after doing one particularly invigorating goal-setting exercise that fell flat in about three weeks. As good as I was at dreaming big and reverse-engineering my goals from A-to-Z, I couldn’t set arbitrary goals and hope to have the stamina to meet them. Unless I found a way to integrate my long-term goals with my family’s daily good, my goals were shot. I just couldn’t stand to poke my head up from my goal-executing-scramble and see my little family starving for my time and attention.

The verdict was in. If it was going to be a contest between my paper goals, and my real, living, breathing heart goals (which were represented by my closest relationships, the atmosphere in my home, and the unexpected needs of others in my local community)—the paper goals were going to lose every time.

But I knew that I was called to more than just reacting and responding to the urgent expectations, requests, and whims of the people in my life. I was called to be proactive, to initiate, to solve big problems, and to make space for the important things. I could envision ways to cultivate abundance in the gaps of life where no one else could. I was put here for a purpose, and I wanted to keep growing into that God-given potential.

I knew that goal-setting could help me level-up from the realm of wishful thinking and begin to make the changes (big and small) that would empower me and my family to truly thrive. But I also knew from experience that S.M.A.R.T. goals weren’t going to cut it.

The deepest currents of our lives that needed my proactive and steady nurture in order to be routed into something that gave us life (instead of drowning us in the overwhelm of it all) propelled me far past the bare mechanics of goal execution. I needed to cut back the layers of excuses and get to the heart of my “why” for living intentionally and setting significant goals for personal and familial progress. The bridge I built between my future goals and my current life context needed to be suspended by the things that were actually essential to a life well-lived.

This deep dive into my core values resulted in the development of a completely new approach to goal-setting. Instead of inadvertently introducing a contest between my goals and the “obstacles” of my life, I crafted the lifestyle that I and my family craved THROUGH the goals I set and accomplished. In turn, our new lifestyle made so much space for personal growth and productivity that it’s actually begun to fuel some of the most challenging and life-giving goals that I’ve ever dared to imagine. 

​And here’s the key: Sustainable, Game-Changing, Life-Giving Goals are…​