It’s that time of year again…a time when we reflect on the past twelve months and make goals for the upcoming year.

Did you know that only 8% of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions?

Many of us have become so cynical about it that we stop trying altogether because we’re tired of failing.  We beat ourselves up for not having enough willpower and discipline.

But the truth is that willpower has little to do with it.

Why We Don’t Achieve Our Goals

How do we get the results we want in our lives?

Maybe you have a goal to lose weight, find a better job, or pay off debt.  When you think about that goal, you’re probably focused solely on the actions you need to take.  This is problematic because we’re ignoring other important components of the equation.

Brooke Castillo, founder of The Life Coach School created a self-coaching model that looks like this:

Thoughts  -> Feelings -> Actions -> Results

Let’s say I have a goal to go to the gym every day after work.  I end up hardly ever going and then I beat myself up for not having any willpower.  I don’t understand why I can’t do this, and I think I’m just weak-willed and lazy.

Instead of judging myself, what if I simply observed my thoughts in a curious, nonjudgmental way?

We have 60,000 thoughts in a given day and most of us are thinking on autopilot.  We’re repeating the same patterns and ways of thinking that we’ve had for a long time…because our brains like to be efficient and the more times we think a thought, the more solidified that neural pathway becomes in our brains.

We hardly ever spend time actually paying attention to what we’re thinking.  When was the last time you thought about your thoughts?

Pay attention to them and you might be surprised by what you find.

In the case of me not achieving my goal of going to the gym every day after work, here’s what my thoughts might look like:

“I don’t feel like it today.  I’m too tired.  I had a busy day at work.  I just want to relax.  It doesn’t matter anyway.  It’s just one day.  What difference does it make?”

These thoughts lead to an emotion like apathy.  The feeling of apathy drives me to take the action of not going to the gym.  The result of this (over time) could be that I don’t lose any weight or I don’t gain any muscle (for example).

Instead of beating myself up (which won’t help me to get the result I want), I need to work on changing my thoughts…because my thoughts are what’s driving my actions and ultimately my results.

What if I thought this instead?

“I don’t feel like going to the gym today, but that’s okay.  I’ll go anyway.  I know I’ll feel better afterward and I’ve never regretted a workout.  The more I do this, the easier it’ll get.  I’m so excited to get [thinner, fitter, stronger, healthier].  It won’t be easy, but that’s okay because I know I can do hard things.”

This type of thinking makes me feel motivated, energized, and inspired…which will drive me to go to the gym and get the result(s) I want.

Guess what?  You can choose to think thoughts like this.  You can choose whatever thoughts you want…whenever you want.

Most people don’t.  Most live on autopilot…and most people miss out on achieving their goals.

If you want to get results in your life, be intentional with your thoughts.

I do want to note that my thoughts were not all sunshine and rainbows.  Notice that my thoughts were honest.  I admitted that I didn’t feel like going to the gym and that it would be hard.

I did not repeat a bunch of mindless affirmations that I don’t actually believe.  That’s not helpful. I chose thoughts that I can genuinely believe and that will create the emotion I want to feel.

The 8 Life Categories

Now that we’ve covered how to get results, let’s do three things:

  1. Reflect on the results we had during the past year
  2. The lessons we learned this year
  3. Plan our goals for next year

I like to reflect on how the previous year went overall and next look at 8 specific categories of life (I got these from Natalie Bacon – check out her Design Your Dream Life podcast here):

  1. Money – how much did you earn? Spend?  Save?  Give?  Did you pay off debt?  Take on debt?
  2. Career – did you stay in the same job? Get a raise or promotion?  Find a new job?
  3. Relationships – with your significant other, friends, family, coworkers, etc.
  4. Personal and Spiritual Development – how did you grow personally or spiritually?
  5. Home/Environment – did you de-clutter? Re-decorate?  Have a clean or cluttered space?
  6. Hobbies/Fun – how much time did you spend on hobbies and relaxation? What did you do?
  7. Contribution/Service – did you volunteer time or money?  How did you serve others?
  8. Health – did you lose weight? Gain weight?  Have anxiety?

Keep in mind that these are just a framework.  You can tweak them as you see fit!

Make sure that you’re honest about how things went this year, but also tell your story in a way that serves you.  You don’t need to beat yourself up about anything that didn’t go well.  That’s not useful.


Overall, 2019 has been the craziest, most change-filled year of my entire life.  Most of these changes have been amazing blessings.

There have been so many new things this year…new house, new town, new car, new puppy, new surgery, new job, and a new diagnosis (for my step dad…who is 60 years old and has early-onset Alzheimer’s).

I’m thankful for the wonderful changes and while I wish I could change the one awful thing that happened this year, I have learned a lot during the challenging times this year.

I’ll share the results I created in some of the 8 life categories during 2019 (and my plans for 2020) so you can see some examples of results.

Remember that every result you have in your life is a reflection of your past thoughts! 

If you want new and different results, focus on changing your thoughts.


Achieved in 2019:

  • Saved for a down payment on a home and bought a townhouse.
  • Paid cash for my surgery (about $1,500 out of pocket).
  • Saved $13,000 in an emergency fund (baby step #3).

Goals for 2020:

  • Complete baby step #3 (our goal is $20k).
  • Pay cash for new flooring on the main level of our house.
  • Increase retirement contributions to 15% of income.


Achieved in 2019:

  • Got a new job that pays well and is less than 10 minutes from my house. This happened because I believed it was possible…even when everyone was telling me it wasn’t.  I refused to entertain offers with lower pay or in less desirable locations.  I knew that if I limited my beliefs, I would also limit my results.

Goals for 2020:

  • Take classes on Canadian payroll.


Achieved in 2019:

  • Had healthier relationships with difficult people.
  • Improved my ability to accept people for who they are instead of wishing they were different.

Goals for 2020:

  • Stop blaming other people for how I feel and take responsibility for my emotions.
  • Continue accepting other people for who they are.


Achieved in 2019:

  • Had my gall bladder removed.
  • Maintained my current weight.
  • Worked out 5-6 times per week.

Goals for 2020:

  • Maintain my weight.
  • Continue going to yoga once per week.
  • Continue using the treadmill at least three times per week (I’m decreasing this goal a little because my new employer doesn’t have an on-site gym).


Achieved in 2019:

  • Improved my ability to process negative emotion, buffer less, and accept things I can’t control.
  • Grew in my faith through an amazing class I’m taking at church and the awesome podcasts I’m listening to.

Goals for 2020:

  • Continue growing in faith through prayer, quiet times, reading the Bible (or listening to it…I just downloaded an audio Bible app), going to church, taking my class at church, and listening to Christian podcasts.
  • Continue listening to personal development podcasts and implementing what I’m learning.

Your turn!

What results did you get this past year?  What goals do you have for the upcoming year?


The last thing I like to do during this process of reflection is to think about all the lessons I learned over the past year.

Here goes!

Shout out to all of the awesome podcasts that inspired these lessons, including The Life Coach School, Design Your Dream Life, Things Above, Proverbs 31 Ministries, Elevation Church, and The Next Right Thing.  I learned so much from all of them and it was really hard to limit this list to only 15 things!

  1. Acceptance is the key to inner peace. “Whatever you fight, you strengthen and what you resist, persists.” – Eckhart Tolle
  2. Bad habits like overeating, overdrinking, and overspending are ways we “buffer” and hide from negative emotion. Our brains are wired to avoid emotional pain.
  3. The worst thing that can happen is a negative emotion. Emotions are harmless.
  4. The only person responsible for how I feel is me. I will always have my own back.
  5. So what if something is hard? I can do hard things.
  6. Every result you have in your life is a reflection of your past thoughts.
  7. You will create whatever you believe is possible.
  8. Your debt says nothing about you. It’s a neutral circumstance.  You can make it mean whatever you want it to mean.
  9. Don’t give your critic words.
  10. Forgiveness leads to freedom. If you don’t forgive yourself, you’re giving yourself a higher tribunal than God.
  11. There’s always a meanwhile. There’s what you see and there’s what God is doing.
  12. Whenever I thought I was being rejected by something, I was really being redirected toward something better. When God closes one door, he opens a better one.
  13. I don’t know how, but I know who! …I’m holding it, but I’m not controlling it.
  14. When we run from what we’re praying for, how do we expect to receive it?
  15. Simply do the next right thing…in love.

What lessons did you learn this year?  Share in the comments!