Do you start the year out with lofty goals, only to abandon them a month later? What if you could set goals that bring peace instead of added stress? And how can you include God into your planning?

Christa Hutchins | setting goals that bring peace

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Today, we are chatting with our friend Christa Hutchins about the idea of goals, planning, and dreaming. This is the time of year when we’re all looking forward to the next year, and we often start dreaming about the future or setting our goals or the New Year’s resolutions.

We invited Christa into this episode because she is so good at helping women take their big ideas and dreams and break them down so that they can follow through on them. Christa was previously on Episode 41 of the podcast, talking about the behind the scenes leadership, volunteering, and how women can move forward together. If you missed that episode, be sure to go back and hear more of her story.

For our past Goal Setting series episodes, click here.

Setting Goals That Bring Peace Instead of Stress

How do you feel about goals and planning?

  • [Christa] Obviously I love it, but I love it in different ways. Goals and planning can be very stressful, especially for people who are very much a visionary or creative. I want  to help people who are afraid of goals and planning to get a little more relaxed about it.
  • [Holly] I have a love-hate relationship with goals and planning because I am not great at following through on these things, so they feel a little bit restrictive and they feel really hard to accomplish. I am a dreamer, and on January 1, I decide I’m gonna be a different person this year, and do all the things. On the flip side, I love operations and business, and that’s all planning.
  • [Esther] I love goals, and planning. I’m very motivated by winning stuff, and I feel like if I hit a goal, I win. I’m a little bit competitive, and I’ve always been a motivated, “check the box” person, but the past couple years of life has been a big challenge for all of us who are pretty strict on our goals.

“We want to achieve something that’s a little bit of a stretch…we need a little bit more strategic way to look at it and have a plan for how we’re going to get there.”  – Christa Hutchins

Do you think that it’s important to set goals at a specific time of year?

  • [Christa] I think it’s really important to set goals in times of transition. The beginning of a new year feels like a transition, because otherwise you will just be floundering and you won’t be able to close out the chapter that you’ve been in.
  • [Esther] I love doing it at the beginning of the new year. It feels like a clean slate, but I also have found that it’s helpful for me to make sure that I set time throughout the year to check in, evaluate, and make changes.

“We need those intermediate opportunities to revisit our goals and ask God ‘Where are we headed now?’” – Christa Hutchins

  • [Holly] I read the book The 12 Week Year, and I think it feels so much better to make a three month goal than to make a year long goal. It feels so much more attainable.

What do we need to do before we set our goals? 

  • [Christa] I think we need to spend some time dreaming, because there’s a big difference between dreams and goals. Dreams may be way in the future, and goals are going to be the steps that are going to help us get to that dream. So in order to set reasonable, realistic, and meaningful goals that are in line with what God wants to do with us, we need to dream.
  • [Esther] I love that reminder to dream. I am such a practical and logical person that I don’t naturally dream those big dreams, I have to be intentional. I think it’s so valuable to take that time to dream and allow God to speak to us before we set those goals.
  • [Holly] I verbally process, so I sometimes need to talk about it with other people to really process how I’m feeling. Sometimes, I don’t even know how I’m thinking about it until it comes out of my mouth. 
  • [Esther] Reflecting on the past year is important. I tend to just set the next goal, and I forget to reflect on all the stuff that God has done. To actually put it on paper and to see what has already happened is huge.

How do we know that the goals that we’re picking are the right goals?3

  • [Christa] We’ve been conditioned to try to set SMART goals that are very specific, very measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. 
  • I set PEACE goals instead of SMART goals. 
    • Purposeful: Your goals should align with your deepest purpose 
    • Essential: Your goals should be the things that are the most essential for you in your life
    • Adjustable: We want our goals to be adjustable, so we’ve got a big broad range to shoot at
    • Current: Our goals need to be purposed on what we can do today to make an impact long term
    • Enjoyable: We have to have fun and find joy in them

“The biggest place I see people make mistakes with setting their goals or not sticking to their goals is because they’ve set them too tight.”- Christa

  • [Esther] A mistake that I have made a lot is setting too many goals.
  • [Christa] The all or nothing mindset causes you to quit. Make any progress that you can because progress matters, even if you don’t get all the way to the finish line.
  • [Holly] I don’t take a realistic look at the pieces and parts that I don’t like to do so that’s a great place for me to quit. I need to ask myself:
    • “Where’s the part where I’m going to give up?”
    • How can I walk myself through those pieces?”
    • “What resources do I have other than just my time and my brain to actually accomplish these things?”

We don’t have to accomplish our goals alone.” – Esther Littlefield

What role does community have in goals?

  • [Christa] The more people you have surrounding you, who can help you get past those quitting points, the better off you’re going to be. And it’s just more fun.

Why is it important to make realistic plans, and what are some tips?

  • [Christa] We get too wrapped up in the big idea… especially very visionary people.
  • [Christa] Start at that big picture and let it flow down to our to-do list for the week.
  • [Christa] Pay attention to what order we need to do things, and what resources we might need to do them, or where we might need some help to do them.

“If we start from the top down, instead of working from our to-do list up, then we make better plans that are in line with that vision–that goal–that God’s given us for the year.”

  • [Christa] Be aware of some things that may happen during the year that you kind of have to plan around such as weddings, vacations, etc.
  • [Christa] Have a plan that is increasingly detailed as you descend those levels (quarterly, bi-weekly, weekly).

“Focus on what you’ve got in front of you. But keep an eye on what’s coming up ahead.” – Christa Hutchins

How important is it in goal planning to have an ideal plan for your week?

  • [Christa] It depends on your personal preference. For some it’s important to identify blocks of time. I think you need to craft a week, but I don’t think the week has to be the same every week.
  • Consider flexible time blocking, and organize tasks by how long they will take, and when you get some open time during the, plug the task in.

When life goes off the rails, how do we deal with it? 

  • [Christa] In 2020, God knew there was going to be a pandemic. So when he inspired me to set those goals or make those plans, he knew what was going to happen. Now I can try to understand what he was thinking. Was he trying to help me focus my attention in a different area? Was he trying to make me make progress in a place where I would not have thought of before?

“He knew when he inspired you to set that goal, what was going to happen.” -Christa Hutchins


“If we set goals for things that God is not in, when those things happen to derail us, then we’re pretty much on our own  because we were out where we didn’t belong to begin with.” -Christa Hutchins

  • [Christa] Invite God into the goal setting process, and seek to find and meet him in that place.
  • [Holly] Depending on how closely held those goals are in my heart, and in my mind, I need to give myself the space to grieve it.
  • [Holly] Giving our goals over to God goes hand in hand with grieving what we thought was going to happen. Because the more that we hope in Christ, and more that we hope in God, the less that we’re hoping in these end goals, and the easier it is to move forward. But we can’t shy away from the fact that we are human.

“It’s okay to take a pause and just really feel your feelings” – Holly Cain

  • [Esther] Entrust our goals and the results to God, and also with all the things that might happen in between.

Christa’s resources:

Connect with Christa:

Christa Hutchins is a project manager and accountability coach who equips busy communicators and leaders with structure and strategy so they can turn their big ideas into a successful ministry or business. She’s the host of the podcast Just One Simple Thing.

She loves teaching women to find practical application of the Bible in their personal, professional and ministry lives. She helps women create plans that fit into their lives and keep moving forward towards their dreams and goals.

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