The Life List of Radical Goals: How to Set Goals for the New Year

For the past four years—ever since I read Chris Guillebeau’s The Art of Non-Conformity, in fact—I have created a life list of radical goals.

These are goals that I am eager to accomplish in the coming year or the next five years or at some point, any point, ever. I write down anything and everything that I might ever hope to accomplish or experience, and then I set a plan to reach these goals some time soon—maybe in the coming year, or maybe the next 20 years. The point isn’t so much “when.” I’ve found it just as useful to reflect on the “why” and the “what” of these goals. Knowing what you want to do is a huge step toward someday doing it.

make a life list

The life list has been an amazing source of encouragement and motivation for me. In the past year alone, I checked off more elements of the list than I ever anticipated I would. Some of my far-off goals were met. Some of my very-near goals were missed. A handful sent me scrambling to meet the one-year deadline I had set. And all along, I felt a great sense of focus and accomplishment.

From year to year, the list—and my experience with the list—keeps getting better and better.

The past 12 months have been life-changing for me. Literally, my life has changed a lot. Figuratively, I have grown by leaps and bounds. I am grateful every second of the day for where life has led me, the people it has brought me, and the opportunities I have.

Here’s how I’ve come up with some goals and ideas of what the next year and next several years might hold for me.

The 3 Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself

In a really fascinating YouTube video (watch at least the first 5 minutes if you can’t sit for the whole thing), Mind Valley’s Vishen Lakhiani shares his thoughts on the three most important questions to ask yourself.

  1. What do you want to experience in life?
  2. How do you want to grow?
  3. How do you want to contribute?

Vishen encourages you to answer each question in 90 seconds. The short timeframe is purposeful so that the ideas and responses can flow out of you without any time for second-guessing or overthinking.

When you have your answers, you’ll be well equipped to set meaningful goals for your life.

Vishen also advises to differentiate between “means” goals and “end” goals. Here’s a bit more about how he explains it:

Over the years I’ve come to stop believing in goal setting. Why? Because goal setting, or at least the way most of us are trained to do it, actually gets us to be obsessed about the how of attaining our goals, rather than the passion, the vision, and the beauty of the goal itself. In short, we get obsessed with the ‘means’, rather than the ‘end’.

How to Create a Life List of Radical Goals

(via Chris Guillebeau)

Step one: Create your life list / bucket list

Spend an afternoon, or even just half an hour, listing out a range of activities and experiences you’d like to have sometime. The typical life list contains a wide variety of goals, ranging from the trivial (“try 100 fruits”) to the difficult (“camp on Antarctica”).

Step two: Break the list down

Take the overall list and break it down into measurable goals with an approximate deadline.

Here’s the breakdown that Chris Guillebeau uses for his list of goals:

One-year goals: This list gets reviewed a few times a year, and I create next year’s goals each December. I break this list down into further specific categories. Some of mine are Writing, Health, Business, Friends, Family, Service, Travel, Income, and Giving.

Five-year goals: This list gets reviewed once a year and contains some of the “big things” you hope to do in the near future. Note that as some of the goals on the one-year list are completed, other goals from the five-year list shift down.

Lifetime goals: This list gets reviewed once a year and includes everything that you want to do, but either don’t have a timeline for or will take a long time to accomplish.

Bonus: The To-Stop-Doing List

The best way to stop spending time on unnecessary distractions is to make a “to-stop-doing list.” This is better than a to-do list, because it helps you see what’s bringing you down. Your to-stop-doing list is exactly what it sounds like: a list of things you simply don’t want to do anymore.

Over to you

You’re all set to make your own list now! Many thanks to Chris Guillebeau for the inspiring ideas behind this list. It’s been a joy to put one together each year (see below for my list for 2015).

If you end up trying out the list, I’d love to hear some of the things you’re working on! Feel free to share with me on Twitter.

***

My Life List of Radical Goals

Here’s my giant list of things I’d like to do 

  • Play in a Hearts tournament
  • Write a book about my dad
  • Learn to play the piano
  • Learn Spanish
  • Participate in National Novel Writing Month
  • See a U.S. soccer game live
  • Attend the World Cup
  • See a hockey game in Europe
  • Manage the family budget
  • Give to charity: Pets, brain cancer, Seattle Pacific University
  • Volunteer at the local animal shelter
  • Read the whole Bible in one year
  • Memorize the book of James
  • Play more board games
  • Visit Seattle
  • Kayak the San Juan Islands
  • Be involved with a local football team
  • Get a Master’s degree in something
  • Move to Boise
  • Write daily
  • Exercise daily
  • Pray/Bible/meditate daily
  • Build a draft board with Evan for a Madden game
  • Ski more
  • Mountain bike more
  • Go through dad/son activity books with Evan
  • Build a robot using an Arduino board
  • Be a one-car household
  • Meatless month
  • Attend a Presbyterian church regularly
  • Play on an organized sports team (e.g., city league)
  • Start a game/sports night at church
  • Catch up on Adventure Time
  • Contribute to Edward Jones retirement savings
  • Get a picture published on the Yahoo weather app
  • Write Lindsay a poem
  • Learn Swift code
  • Create a tool for Kindle Highlights
  • Build a WordPress theme
  • Build a Ghost theme
  • Read 52 books in a year
  • Take Demian Farnworth’s writing challenge
  • Observe the 7 sacred pauses
  • Play bridge with the elderly
  • Eat healthier
  • Watch more Adventure Time
  • See more concerts
  • Get DNA test
  • Take a parenting class
  • Climb a hill, watch a sunset
  • Finish reading Divine Conspiracy

Take the overall list and break it down into measurable goals with an approximate deadline.

  • Compete in a Hearts tournament (∞)
  • Publish a book about my dad (2015)
  • Play a song by ear on the piano (2015)
  • Listen and understand a Spanish soccer telecast (∞)
  • Participate in National Novel Writing Month (2015)
  • See a U.S. soccer game live  (∞)
  • Attend the World Cup  (∞)
  • See a hockey game in Europe  (∞)
  • Manage the family budget (2015)
  • Give to charity: Pets, brain cancer, Seattle Pacific University (∞)
  • Volunteer to walk dogs at the local animal shelter (∞)
  • Read the whole Bible in one year (∞)
  • Memorize the book of James (2015)
  • Have a board game night with friends once/month (∞)
  • Visit Seattle (2015)
  • Kayak the San Juan Islands (2020)
  • Coach special teams for a local high school football team (∞)
  • Get a Master’s degree in something (∞)
  • Move to a new house in East Boise (2017)
  • Write something new every day (2015)
  • Exercise five times/week (2015)
  • Strengthen my faith once per day by reading, prayer, or meditation (2015)
  • Build a draft board with Evan for a Madden video game (∞)
  • Go skiing at least 10 times a year (2017)
  • Mountain bike at least 10 times a year (2017)
  • Go through dad/son activity books with Evan (2020)
  • Build a robot using an Arduino board (2020)
  • Be a one-car household (2018)
  • Go vegetarian for one month (2015)
  • Attend a Presbyterian church regularly (∞)
  • Play on an organized sports team (e.g., city league) (∞)
  • Start an open gym night at church (∞)
  • Contribute to Edward Jones retirement savings (2015)
  • Get a picture published on the Yahoo weather app (2015)
  • Write Lindsay a poem (2015)
  • Create and publish an iOS app (2015)
  • Create a tool for extracting Kindle Highlights (2017)
  • Build a WordPress theme (2015)
  • Build a Ghost theme (2015)
  • Read 52 books in a year (2017)
  • Take Demian Farnworth’s writing challenge (2015)
  • Observe the 7 sacred pauses (2015)
  • Join a bridge group at a retirement home (∞)
  • Follow the food guidelines in Anticancer (2015)
  • Watch every episode of Adventure Time (∞)
  • See mewithoutYou play “Oh, Porcupine” (2020)
  • Attend a Listener concert (2020)
  • Get a DNA test (∞)
  • Take the a parenting class (Pizza & Parenting at local Montessori) (2015)
  • Climb the hill behind my house or my mom’s house, watch the sunset (2015)
  • Finish reading Divine Conspiracy (2015)

One-year goals: This list gets reviewed a few times a year, and I create next year’s goals each December. I break this list down into further specific categories. Some of mine are Writing, Health, Business, Friends, Family, Service, Travel, Income, and Giving.

  • Publish a book about my dad (2015)
  • Play a song by ear on the piano (2015)
  • Participate in National Novel Writing Month (2015)
  • Manage the family budget (2015)
  • Memorize the book of James (2015)
  • Visit Seattle (2015)
  • Write something new every day (2015)
  • Exercise five times/week (2015)
  • Strengthen my faith once per day by reading, prayer, or meditation (2015)
  • Go vegetarian for one month (2015)
  • Contribute to Edward Jones retirement savings (2015)
  • Get a picture published on the Yahoo weather app (2015)
  • Write Lindsay a poem (2015)
  • Create and publish an iOS app (2015)
  • Build a WordPress theme (2015)
  • Build a Ghost theme (2015)
  • Take Demian Farnworth’s writing challenge (2015)
  • Observe the 7 sacred pauses (2015)
  • Follow the food guidelines in Anticancer (2015)
  • Take the a parenting class (Pizza & Parenting at local Montessori) (2015)
  • Climb the hill behind my house or my mom’s house, watch the sunset (2015)
  • Finish reading Divine Conspiracy (2015)

Five-year goals: This list gets reviewed once a year and contains some of the “big things” you hope to do in the near future. Note that as some of the goals on the one-year list are completed, other goals from the five-year list shift down.

  • Kayak the San Juan Islands (2020)
  • Move to a new house in East Boise (2017)
  • Go skiing at least 10 times a year (2020)
  • Mountain bike at least 10 times a year (2020)
  • Be a one-car household (2018)
  • Create a tool for extracting Kindle Highlights (2017)
  • Read 52 books in a year (2017)
  • See mewithoutYou play “Oh, Porcupine” (2020)
  • Attend a Listener concert (2020)

Lifetime goals: This list gets reviewed once a year and includes everything that you want to do, but either don’t have a timeline for or will take a long time to accomplish.

  • Compete in a Hearts tournament (∞)
  • Listen and understand a Spanish soccer telecast (∞)
  • See a U.S. soccer game live  (∞)
  • Attend the World Cup  (∞)
  • See a hockey game in Europe  (∞)
  • Give to charity: Pets, brain cancer, Seattle Pacific University (∞)
  • Volunteer to walk dogs at the local animal shelter (∞)
  • Read the whole Bible in one year (∞)
  • Have a board game night with friends once/month (∞)
  • Coach special teams for a local high school football team (∞)
  • Get a Master’s degree in something (∞)
  • Build a draft board with Evan for a Madden video game (∞)
  • Attend a Presbyterian church regularly (∞)
  • Play on an organized sports team (e.g., city league) (∞)
  • Start an open gym night at church (∞)
  • Join a bridge group at a retirement home (∞)
  • Watch every episode of Adventure Time (∞)
  • Get a DNA test (∞)

To-stop-doing list, 2015

The best way to stop spending time on unnecessary distractions is to make a “to-stop-doing list.” This is better than a to-do list, because it helps you see what’s bringing you down. Your to-stop-doing list is exactly what it sounds like: a list of things you simply don’t want to do anymore.

  • Eating dessert

 

And here’s a look back at my one-year goals for 2014.

  • Participate in National Novel Writing Month (✓). I did it!
  • Work from home, remotely, be my own boss, etc. (✓) I am beyond blessed to have found a home with Buffer where I get to work beside an amazing group of people to build an incredible app and experience. And I get to do all this from wherever I’m happiest—which just so happens to be at home, surrounded by family.
  • Write a book – any book (✓). First draft is done!
  • See Scott and Hannah (✓). Yes, lots!
  • See Joshua and Lori (✓). Yep!
  • See Casey and Alyssa (✓). Yep!
  • Visit Seattle (✓). Yes, and I’d love to keep visiting.
  • Drink green tea at least once a week (✓). Yes, my new go-to hot drink.
  • Write 500 words daily (✓). Oh yeah! I write four 2,000-word articles each week, plus assorted other writing.
  • Pray/Bible/meditate daily (✓). I’m expanding this one to include some deeper reading as well. I got into several good books on prayer, Bible, faith, etc.
  • Substitute a smoothie for a meal every day during one month (✓). Yes!
  • Do not eat meat for one month (✓). Yes! A new tradition.
  • Do not eat processed food for one month (✓). Yes!
  • Cook Pad Thai (✓). Glad I did it. Probably not doing it again.
  • Contribute to Edward Jones accounts (✓). Just under the wire! Deposited money in December.
  • Exercise five times per week. As life got busier, this was one of the first things to slip. I exercised a lot, but I don’t feel right saying I exercised 5x per day all year.
  • Do five pull-ups a day, twice a week. Same as above.
  • Watch all available episodes of Adventure Time. Not yet. I’m getting a new season on DVD for Christmas. This one might happen one DVD release at a time.
  • Sell and donate all items in the bedroom piles. So close. Just a few more boxes to go.
  • See Nicholas. We talked lots, but no visit.
  • Check the budget/transactions at least once a month. I failed at this for most of the year but recently picked up the pace this last month once I got the Mint app for iOS.
  • Memorize the book of James. Coming next year, I hope.
  • Play board games with friends or family at least once a month. Might need to rethink this one or move to a different season of life.
  • Attend a Steelheads game. Getting less important as the years go by.

In addition, I was able to knock off a few items that were on my five-year list, too.

  • Get access to Boise State practices and skybox (✓)
  • Visit Park City, Utah (✓)
  • Teach at a college (✓)
  • Own an iPad (✓)

And here’s the to-stop-doing list of 2014:

  • Working in an office. (✓) I’m now a very happy remote worker!
  • Eating refined sugar and bleached flour. (✓) I eat much less; I could probably do even better.

Lindsay’s lists, 2015

First, a review of last year …

One-year goals: Get a master’s degree (✓), make at least one gift for everyone, paint/redo Evan’s play room, visit the Caribbean (✓)

+Bonus: Five-year goals: raspberry patch (✓), see a Broadway show (✓), travel to the East Coast (✓), 

To-stop-doing list: none

Lindsay’s updated life list, 2014

  • Own a dog
  • Watch a meteor shower
  • Pergola
  • Make at least one gift for everyone
  • Paint/redo Evan’s play room
  • Go paddleboarding
  • Cut her hair very short
  • Move to Boise
  • See more plays
  • Visit England
  • Own an SUV
  • Go snowshoeing
  • Do a snowshoeing/yurt getaway
  • Learn to swim
  • Visit Australia / New Zealand
  • Travel to exotic places (outside the U.S.)

One-year goals: Make at least one gift for everyone, paint/redo Evan’s play room

Five-year goals: Go paddleboarding, grow a raspberry patch, move to Boise, see more plays, own an SUV, go snowshoeing

Lifetime goals: Own a dog, pergola, haircut, move, visit England, learn to swim, visit Australia/New Zealand

Lindsay’s updated to-stop-doing list:

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