Big Picture Goal Setting: Mapping it Out in 6 Easy Steps

Big Picture Goal Setting: Mapping it Out in 6 Easy Steps

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Let’s talk big picture goal setting. There was a time when I thought setting goals was a waste of time. I didn’t care to think 5 years out — or even 1 year out. I wanted to be in the moment and respond to what was thrown at me. That route is fine for some. But it never actually got me where I wanted to go.

And since I became a mom, my time feels more valuable than ever. I constantly have more to do than I have time to do it, so I have to be crystal clear with my priorities. And in order to make daily or weekly priorities, I have to be able to see the big picture.

But where do we start?

1. Focus on the feeling

girl dancing joyfully in the road

It’s not the obvious first step. Many people rush to just listing out their goals without any thought as to WHY they are the goals. 

The intentions you are creating need to be in line with the feeling you want to create. Otherwise, you will either end up in a place you don’t really want to be, or you will have a hard time getting there at all. And you might come to the false conclusion that you aren’t good at something when really it’s just that you didn’t make the right objectives to start with.

So focus on the feeling. What does that mean exactly? At the start of 2019, I wanted to look at the year ahead and create real intentions — not empty resolutions. But as I thought about what the intentions should be, I felt lost. How do I choose? How do I decide what’s important? I realized that I needed to zoom out and identify the feeling I wanted to create more of in the coming year.

So before hammering out specific intentions, I identified that I wanted more connection in my life. I wanted to be more connected with my husband, my kids, my friends, and with my career. I also wanted joy, which meant saying no to some things that in the past I would have said yes to. Third, I wanted authenticity. I wanted my pursuits to enhance and align with my true self so that I could make a real impact and create more fulfillment. 

Before you choose your big picture goals, think about the year ahead of you. It doesn’t have to be January 1st to do this. It can be June 22nd. Or October 4th. Just look at a year from today. What feeling do you want to create in the next year? Is it peace? Joy? Growth? Adventure? 

The feeling you want needs to line up with the goals. For instance, if you need more peace, maybe this isn’t the year to uproot your life and make that big move. Or perhaps you will need to focus on saying no more often to projects beyond your scope of time commitment. If you are focusing on growth or self development, include that in your goals, whether it is reading a certain number of books or enrolling in a class. 

If you really want to solidify your feeling into something tangible, make a vision board. (I didn’t have any magazines to cut pictures out of, so I made a digital vision board that I use as the desktop wallpaper on my computer.) Creating a visual component to your “feeling” enhances your “sight” sense and will enforce your ability to keep all your decisions in line. 

big picture goal setting with a vision board
Photo courtesy of Shari’s Berries.

 2. Zoom out

Now that you’ve set the feeling you want more of, zoom out to a 5-year view. Visualize your ideal self in 5 years. Close your eyes if it helps. Write it down or speak it out loud into an audio recorder. What are you doing? How do you feel? Where do you live? What skills have you gained? What achievements do you want checked off your list? Picture a specific day, say a Tuesday in April, 5 years from now. What does that day look like in detail?

Whatever you envisioned is possible if you are willing to deconstruct your vision into goals and actionable steps and then do the work to make them happen. Are you willing? Okay, then let’s keep going!

3. Get real

Zoom back in to the 1-year view. That’s where you are going to focus your energy right now. Keep in mind the feeling you want to create in the coming year, and let’s get real about what you want to achieve in a year’s time. 

You’re going to write this stuff down, so open a blank document on your computer, grab a pen and paper, or get in front of that big whiteboard with a dry erase marker. (When finished, you’re going to want them posted somewhere for the year so if you use the whiteboard to generate ideas, know that you’ll probably want to type them out afterward if you plan on erasing the board.)

big picture goal setting on a white board

Okay, on to the goals. These can be business or personal. Do you want to start a business? Change careers? Write a book? Maybe you want to have a goal of 100 family hikes during the year (as a friend of mine did with her own family). Maybe you want to learn a new skill or buy a new house.

After you list out all your goals, make sure to check back in on alignment. Does anything on your list majorly conflict with the feeling you want or with your 5-year vision? If so, you should reassess if that goal is really necessary to have on the list. 

4. Make a timeline

Now that you know what you want to get done, you start breaking the goals into chunks on your year’s calendar. It’s super helpful to have a full year wall calendar (like this one I use) so that you can see all the months at once and so that its visible to you at all times, but you could also use a Google calendar or even grab a sheet of paper and just write it out. 

What are the approximate deadlines for completing each task? The worst thing to do is have 15 major goals all due on June 1st one year from now. You are familiar with my frenemy procrastination? (It acts like a best friend, “Aw, come on girl, just relax, you don’t need to work on that today.” But it is really the enemy keeping you from doing the things you really want to do.)

Space out the goals throughout the year so you can realistically achieve them and not end up so stressed by the expectation that nothing at all gets achieved. 

The act of deconstructing the goals is actually the very first step to making them happen. Knowing what will actually have to happen will give you a fresh clarity that will boost your action. For example, if you are shooting for 100 hikes in a year, that means about 8-9 hikes per month and 2-3 hikes per week. Knowing the facts, you can truly assess the achievability of the goal.

Once you block out the big goals on the year’s calendar, you’ll be able to zoom in and deconstruct each one even more into doable tasks, but for the moment, this is as far as you need to go. 

Make sure you’ve got your goals written or typed out, with a sketched out timeline and/or deadlines for the coming year. Post it where you see if often. 

5. Revisit quarterly

Goals and priorities are bound to change. It’s part of life. What is important to us one year may be trivial to us the next. (Sometimes even one month to the next!) Humans are flexible and changeable, and that’s a good thing. In fact it’s critical when it comes to dealing with challenges and setbacks that WILL occur on any journey you take. 

This is why every 3 months or so, you check back in. Grab the list and assess where you stand with each goal. What have you completed? What is on the list that is no longer relevant? Check back in with the feeling and the 5-year view to keep yourself in alignment with your true self. Do you have a new goal to add to the list? 

This happened to me with my 2019 goals. My husband and I made a list of business intentions at the start of the year, and by March, things had changed. We had completed some of our goals, and new developments had come up that changed the trajectory of other things. Upon reassessing we realized that the new stuff was way more in line with the feeling we wanted and more in line with our authentic selves, so — yay! We adjusted accordingly.

6. Stay on track

Making a list in itself doesn’t make the things happen. You know that. I know that. You have to do the work. However, making the list enables you to do the right work. 

Keeping your list visible in your workspace will give you that daily reminder of what you are working towards. Even the most sensible and organized people need a North Star to keep on the right path to get to where they are going.


You got this. Big dreams are just a list of smaller tasks. It takes organization, action, and the knowledge that you are capable of making a dream a reality if you are willing to just do the work.

Once you’ve got the vision of your year ahead solidified, you can start to zoom in on your first goal, deconstructing it into doable tasks.

What are your big picture goals for the year ahead? Share in the comments below! We’re rooting for you!


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Cyndi Harvell Lee

I'm an artist, musician, and mother of two boys. My goal is to help you keep your sanity, find your peace, and thrive on this wild journey called Motherhood.

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. I think making a plan and keeping track of everything is a great idea. This was a great read, thank you.

  2. Making a timeline is very important because you can always check your progress. Also, breaking the big goal into smaller goals makes it feel more achievable and real.

  3. There’s no dearth of creative planners and journals these days to get people motivated for planning project work! These tips summarize well, what should be done to stay inline with the objective in mind, while preparing for anything big!

  4. I try to make an annual list of goals and things to do. It is useful even if at the end of the year I did not complete everything.

  5. Great breakdown of accomplishing big goals. Love the advice about quarterly evaluation.

  6. Great tips on goal setting. Very detailed and organized way to get to these goals.

  7. I needed to read this. I feel overwhelmed in motherhood right now and I have so many goals. I need to write down my goals in a timeline fashion.

    1. Motherhood is such a challenge. Some days just being able to sit for 2 seconds feels like a great accomplishment! I totally get it. I just bought myself a new 2020 year calendar for the wall and I plan to timeline out my goals for 2020 tonight. It is so helpful for me. (That is, if I don’t fall asleep immediately after getting my kids to bed.) 🙂

  8. Valuable tips on goal setting. I will certainly apply them and see the difference.

  9. Goals motivate us. Inspire us. Drive us. Goal setting is of paramount importance in achieving what we aspire.

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