Join ACFW |  Forgot Password |  Login: 

A New Perspective on Goal Setting

By Susan May Warren

I woke up this morning to a layer of fresh grace on the evergreens, sparkling in the rising sun, Lamentations 2:23 in my mind. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Phew. Because with the relatives gone, the Christmas tree down, the ornaments packed away for next season, I’m sitting on my sofa looking out at the snow-laden trees and beyond, into the new year, realizing that 2014 passed with blink.

And with it, my goals. Every year I spend a few days putting together the action plans of My Book Therapy and Susan May Warren Fiction – what do I want to accomplish, how do I hope to touch lives?

Did you spend your weekend looking at last year, and figuring out what you want to do differently in 2015? Did you look at your strengths, areas of growth, of where you are in your dreams?

Maybe you picked one word for the New Year, or a verse for the year. Did you set up goals, projects and plans?

I can admit that sometimes my New Year planning feels a little I’m loading up my year with a pile of to-dos akin to Robert DeNiro’s character hauling around his load of penance weapons in The Mission. (Do you remember that 1986 movie? If not, it’s worth seeing again!)
the Mission
I’ve been in the publishing industry for over a decade now, and I’ve discovered something that helps me put my sales and projects into perspective…none of it matters unless I am a better person because of my writing journey. If I turn into a frenetic, stressed-out, amazon-obsessed author, always comparing myself to others, I’ve missed out on the point. God doesn’t really care if I’m published, but he does use the journeys of our life to change us, draw us closer to Him.

And maybe that should be the point of goal-making.

So, instead of setting up objective goals about sales and NYT lists (although, yes, we all want that), I could plan from the inside out, with a different perspective:

1. What unexpected thing did I do this year that I loved? Often, our hidden strengths are found in doing something unexpected. For me, this year, it was my swimming and yoga classes. Although I wasn’t a regular, sneaking away for an hour to exercise recharged me. This year, I’ll make a better effort to invest in my “escape” time and let my mind recharge.

2. Where did I find deep contentment? Life seems to blow by faster every year, and I find I don’t have time to invest in things that leave me empty. But I’m often surprised at the things that “fill me up.” We had a wedding this year. It was an extrovert’s happy place! I loved the focused time spent with friends and family. What does that tell me? Make sure I am deliberate about scheduling specific time with the people I love.

3. How did I expand my reach/skills this year, and what did I learn? For me, this was all about taking a look at my gifting – teaching and writing – and seeing if I could fine-tune this. I love our weekly Peptalks at My Book Therapy, so I dove into honing that, trying to become a better online teacher. This year, I’ll look at how I can create better online presentations, and help people more on a personal level.

I also took a look at my writing – and realized how much I love writing big family series. I’m just finishing the last book of the Christiansen family series (book #4 came out last week – Always On My Mind), so as I go forward, I’ll take a look at how I build on that and develop another connected series.

4. Did I fall deeper in love with Jesus this year? I know that feels like a personal question, but it’s something, as a Christian, that matters to me. If not, I need to take a look at why – and is there a way I can pursue God more? This year, I picked a number of books to add to my quiet time reading. (Have you found, Jesus is Better than You Imagined yet?)

5. How did I measure success last year? This question has been the most important I consider as I look back onto 2014…and into 2015. Is success making more money? Upping my sales? Or maybe, success is something more intangible, but produced by asking the questions: Am I a better wife, friend, novelists, teacher…and most importantly lover of Jesus because of my choices this year? And, will I be with the plans and goals I’ve put together for 2015?

Not your typical planning list, I know, but perhaps, if you’re like me and a little tired of the SMART goals, and the Action Plan lists and feeling like you’ve just given yourself a load of luggage to haul around in 2015, try planning from the inside out, with the bigger picture in mind.

It just might set you free.

Have a blessed 2015!

Susan May WarrenSusan May Warren is the Christy, RITA and Carol award-winning author of over forty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press. Two time Christy winner, RITA winner, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol award. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the book, Conversations with a Writing Coach.
She is also the founder of, a craft and coaching community for novelists. You can reach Susan at or

This entry was posted in Advice, Authors and writing, Encouragement, Friends of ACFW and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to A New Perspective on Goal Setting

  1. Pingback: Goal Setting and How to Grow as a Writer in 2015 | Learn How To Write A Novel

  2. Sara Ella says:

    Great post, Susie May! It really encouraged me today 🙂

  3. Wow, Susie, I love looking at my 2015 goals from the inside out. In this busy season of mothering and writing, I’ve told myself not to make too many goals, lest I fail them all. By thinking about goals on the inside, it frees me from a “to-do” list I probably won’t accomplish. It helps me to remember I’m a work-in-progress, and that God doesn’t measure me by contracts, or an organized house, but by my teachable, loving heart. Thank you for this freedom to consider my goals in a whole new light.

  4. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Your 5 questions really change the perspective of any goals I might set for 2015! I particularly like the questions about “what unexpected thing did I do that I loved?” and “did I fall in love with Jesus more this year?” Thanks for sharing.

  5. Tammy says:

    I just read the Kindle sample of, Jesus is Better than You Imagined, and I am going to buy it today. Thank you for the suggestion. It is exactly what I need. Thank you for this wonderful blog.

  6. Melissa Tagg says:

    I LOVE this post, Susie. So, so good. I especially loved this: “None of it matters unless I am a better person because of my writing journey. If I turn into a frenetic, stressed-out, amazon-obsessed author, always comparing myself to others, I?ve missed out on the point.”

    And you mentioned my favorite book of 2014. Oh man, I’ve already read that twice and now I want to a third time.

  7. Ronie says:

    HOOAH, Susie! So very true and such a good reminder. THANK YOU!

  8. I’ve already crashed and burned over the goals I set a week ago.
    Reading your suggestion to start from the inside out motivates me to dust myself off and tackle the process again.
    Thank you.

  9. Susie,
    Thanks so much for these words! What a blessing to read them and think about goal setting with a fresh, new perspective!

  10. Gail Helgeson says:

    You are a great teacher.
    Just about done with my class…Conversations with a Writing Coach. I am soaking it all in. Taking my time to really understand this writing journey.
    It is going to be a great year writing.

  11. Susie May says:

    Hey all – thank you so much for your encouraging comments. I love what Gabrielle said – we’re all work in progress – for me, goal-setting this way helped me not be so hard on myself. 🙂 And Melissa, yes, LOVED the book you recommended (Jesus is better than you imagined). Read it 2X already! Thank you for stopping by, and for your sweet comments. Hugs!

  12. Elaine Clampitt says:

    Loved this post, Susie. “he (God) uses the journeys of our life to change us, draw us closer to him.” 2015 is just another step on the journey and my writing is only one part of this year’s journey. I’m looking forward to becoming a better wife, writer, friend and encourager this year.

  13. Thanks so much for your post, Susie! Since I haven’t gotten to my goals for 2015, this will be a great direction setter–as well as Chip’s advice. Blessings!