Desire Over Discipline: 5 Step Process to Set Goals that Actually Stick

This activity was generously brought to The Maker City Summit on September 19, 2017, by Steph Crowder of Fizzle Co. Please click here to view her presentation in entirety, as this is an elaborated expression of her points. 

Most words and all concepts written below are the intellectual property of Steph Crowder

Let’s get on the same page right away. Goal setting sucks. 

  • Goal setting has never worked for me before. Why would it now?
  • It always fizzles out (New Year’s Resolutions Syndrome)
  • I already know what I need to do — get outta my way!
  • Putting goals on my art will hurt the magic of it

It seems like December 1 pops up on the calendar and the mad rush to reinvent our lives and improve all of our (perceived) shortcomings becomes our nagging focus. We look at our businesses, our fitness and health, our relationships - we reluctantly say "this year, I'm really going to do it!" and after a month or two, our goals peter out and we go back to the resignation that new year goals setting doesn't work. 

Goal setting is broken.

Traditional goal setting misses the mark, big time. Here’s why.  

  • The “productivity” approach: A lot of people think goal setting is all about being more disciplined, working harder, longer, pushing more, etc.
  • “Should-ing” all over yourself: Most of us write down goals we think we should have (i.e., “I want to make 6 figures”, “I want to be a size 0”, “I want more Instagram followers”)
  • “Maybe next year”: There is NOTHING magical about January 1st. We can’t wait for energy that only rolls around once a year. We have to create that energy with a new process.
  • The need to “come up with goals”: You already have goals, you just don’t know it.

Maybe traditional goal setting doesn’t work, but there has to be a better way.

Steph sees four common approaches to yearly goals that tend to end in disappointment. Do any of these sound like you? Would you like to switch your approach to a more positive and successful way? 

  1. Crazed & overwhelmed —> calm, aligned & confident
  2. Working harder, faster, longer —> working with intention
  3. Hoping things work out somehow —> solid action plan you actually believe in
  4. Pretending you have your sh*t together —> connected to your meaningful work

In her own words, "I’m a serial over-achiever, gold star chaser and ladder climber." Steph manages her own blog + podcast, in addition to working with one of the biggest and fastest growing entrepreneur-focused blog + podcast online: Fizzle Co. This is on top of her life, family, hobbies, and traveling to speak at conferences like The Maker City Summit! 

Here are some thoughts that go through her head when it's time to set goals: 

  • The success treadmill: Before, meeting my “goals” never felt like enough. I’d celebrate my success for a minute, then move on to the next. I was addicted.
  • “Is this the ‘right’ goal?”: I would chase goals that other people gave to me. I searched for a way to set goals that would make me feel aligned, satisfied and more at peace — not more crazed.
  • Goals without control: I used to set goals that I didn’t actually believe in. “Make X revenue”, “Sell 100 widgets” — these aren’t outcomes I can actually control.
  • I thought, there must be a way to set goals that help me come home to myself — not continue to chase some “better” version of myself. Could it be possible to not have to try so hard?

Less discipline, more desire.

The crazy part? You already have the right goals. They’re in you. You just don’t know it yet.

Goal setting driven by discipline

  • “Maybe if I just worked harder, laid out my schedule better, woke up earlier, meditated harder, or drank more water, I’d be successful”
  • Makes goal setting about becoming more productive

Goal setting driven by desire

  • Asks the question, how do I want to feel? What is my ideal life?
  • Makes goal setting about becoming more in alignment with your own version of meaningful work

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

Grab a notebook and pen or your favorite digital writing app for this goal-changing 5-step exercise! 

Step One: Brain dump.

Set a timer for 10 minutes. Grab a blank piece of paper.

  1. What’s on your mind? Anything & everything swimming around in your brain, jot it down no matter how big or small.
  2. What do you dream of? What could life look like?


  • “I want to see my book in airports around the country” “I want to appear on television” “I want to quit my day job” “I want to go on an adventure with my spouse”
  • “I want to feel less overwhelmed and crazed in my business. I want to find a way to enjoy this!”

Step Two: What's working? 

Discover where you want to end up by evaluating where you’ve been so far.

  1. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper.
  2. On the left, write down what’s working. What’s going well? What do you feel great about? What gives you energy?
  3. On the right, write down what’s not working. What’s stressing you out? What keeps you up at night? What drains your energy? What do you wish you could change?
  4. Don't edit yourself or worry about WHY something’s working — that’s up next. For now, go with your gut instinct and jot down as much as you can.

Step Three: One word.

You’re going to pick one word that symbolizes your next year’s worth of goals. Here’s how to find your one word:

  • Read through your “what’s working” list. Circle 3 things that really stand out.
  • Read through “what’s not working”. Cross out 3 things that feel like the “big ones”.
  • Look for patterns & trends. Now we’re asking WHY things are working, and why other things aren’t. Is there a trend? What can you learn from each column?
  • Listen for your ONE WORD. As you evaluate, what word floats into your mind to summarize how you want this next year to FEEL?

Step Four: Your life buckets.

Now that you know your one big word, how will it impact each area of your life?

  1. Think through the different “categories” of your life. If you divided your life into different “departments”, what would they be?
  2. Go back to your brain dump (Step 1). What can you do in each area of your life to get closer to your dream scenario?
  3. Combine your “one word” with your “life buckets” to discover the goal

Step Five: Set goals!

  • Look at each life bucket individually. What’s one thing you can do in the next year to get closer to the way you want that area to feel?
  • Write out 1-3 steps you can take on that goal. Make sure this is a goal you can actually control. It’s all about action — so what things can you do to make progress?


  • Delight + business —> I’ll schedule 15 minutes into each morning to white board ideas I actually want to work on. I’ll think of small & unexpected ways to surprise my customers with amazing value & service.
  • Vibrant + body —> I’ll plan a week of plant-based meals each Sunday evening & go to yoga 4 days a week
  • Gentle + creative —> I’ll allow myself to follow my own curiosity when I paint & be content with my progress. When I start to compare myself to others or think negative thoughts, I’ll stop painting & do something that sounds fun.

Phew! That's a lot of activity for a blog post. We know that it isn't always easy to go at this alone, so we invite you to download the transcript of Steph's talk to see her additions: 

Before we wrap this exercise up, recognize you’re at risk of quitting before you actually begin.

  • It feels good to go to a conference & learn stuff. In fact, you’re kind of high on that “learning feeling” right now. It will make you believe you made progress without doing work.
  • Go through this process yourself until you’ve fleshed out each step.
  • Set a calendar reminder for every 3 months. You’ll repeat the whole process again and even revise your “one word” if you feel compelled to.
  • You’ll start to look forward to this time of energy + possibility every 3 months.

Let us know in the comments: are you excited about goal setting? Do you have a method you enjoy? We'll be sharing planner tips throughout December to get you ready to make 2018 your BEST maker year yet!