Goal Setting Tips: Looking Backward

Nurture Your Soul, Shape Your Legacy
goal setting tips

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you know I am a big believer in the power and importance of goal setting.  There’s no better time to think through your goals than when getting ready to kick off a new year.

Please note: I’m not talking about making resolutions but about setting goals. There is a big difference!


More often than not, making a resolution involves little more than throwing out some vague idea regarding how you’d like to do better in the coming year and hoping it will kind of, sort of, magically work.

Goal setting involves taking time to seriously consider what you want to accomplish and then coming up with a real plan to make it happen. Setting goals means coming up with an action plan that involves specific steps, strategies, and timelines for completion. It’s an activity I take very seriously and invest quite a bit of time in.

Why?  Because it works!

To quote an oft-repeated bit of wisdom that I’m confident was penned by a wise woman over 50, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.”

But, as I was recently reminded, before you start looking ahead and making plans for the coming year, you’re smart to pause and look back at the old year.



One of the big advantages of life beyond 50 is the wisdom that comes from experience. But no matter how old or wise we become, there’s always room for improvement and always more to learn.

At this point, I feel like I’m pretty up to speed on the ins and outs of successful goal setting. But I recently decided to take an online course on the topic, hoping to pick up a few additional tips.

One of the ideas I found most helpful involved looking over my unmet goals for the previous year and figuring out what went wrong by conducting an AAR – After Action Review.

The military came up with After Action Reviews to help identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement after combat missions.  Today, all kinds of organizations and corporations use AAR on a help drive structural improvements, but it also works well for individuals.

Conducting an AAR centers on asking and answering four simple but revealing questions:

  • What was expected to happen?
  • What actually occurred?
  • What went well and why?
  • What can be improved and how?



Responding to a prompt in my goal setting course, I looked back on my 2018 goals and assessed them according to the four questions of the AAR.

Flipping back to front section of my 2018 Living Well Planner, I read through the list of goals I’d set for myself at the start of the year.  Doing so brought a smile to my face. There were so many happy little check marks on that page! I’ve really accomplished a lot this year!

Not only did I launch this blog, write a novel, run a sprint triathlon, get to my goal weight, and reconnect with a few old friends, I was also able to reach an important personal financial goal. Not bad!

However, there were also a number of unmet goals on my list.  I didn’t finish a class I started, didn’t reach my hoped-for metrics in some areas of my business, didn’t read as many books as I planned to, and didn’t undertake an additional writing project I’ve been thinking about for some time now.

After conducting an AAR on each of those goals, both met and unmet, a very clear pattern started to emerge.

Almost without exception, when I reached a goal it was because I had a clear plan of action to do so, broken down into concrete steps, with clear measures of success, and timelines for completion for each step along the way.

What My Shortcomings Have in Common

My unmet goals held a common, but inverse, theme –  no steps for completion, no measures for success, no timeline for completion.

In short, those unmet goals of mine had no plan of action associated with them. So you know what that made them, right?

Uh-huh. Wishes.

Hey, I’ve got nothing against wishes. Dreaming is good for the soul. But since my Fairy Godmother seems to have lost my address, making those wishes come true is all on me.  And it’s not going to happen without a plan.

Food for thought as I start thinking about the new year.


Hello, 2019. I’m Ready For You.

What about you?  Would you like to make 2019 better than 2018? Are you ready to invest a little time and energy to make that happen?

If so, I highly recommend looking back at your 2018 hopes, dreams, wishes, and goals (even if you didn’t write them down – you know what they are!) and conducting a personal AAR for each.

In retrospect, what I learned through the process now seems pretty obvious but it was also very enlightening and will definitely alter my approach to 2019.

Taking a time to look back at the old year is an important first step in setting goals for the new year.

We’ll talk more about that in my first post of 2019!

Until then, Happy New Year! Here’s hoping (and planning) for the best year ever!


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