Make Your Life Purposeful: Set personal goals as a nonprofit leader

Kathy Archer
4 min readJan 9, 2023

If you are like most nonprofit leaders, you hit the ground running this January.

  • There is that proposal that still needs tweaking.
  • You need to try and fill staff vacancies and try is the key word as you know it won’t be easy!
  • And it already feels like yearend is looming.

and, and, and…

It feels like we don’t get to choose!

If you aren’t careful, you’ll default to spending this year chasing whatever falls onto your lap, your inbox or shows up at your door. But you can design your life this year rather than wait to see how it unfolds.

The problem is that too many women leaders in the nonprofit sector live in default mode. Whatever gets thrown at us, we take on. We are so mired in the tasks and meetings right in front of us we don’t even see that we have a choice.

​But you do have a choice

You can design your leadership and life experience with some , and you are worth the time it will take! Trust me!

Your indecision will leave you in default mode

If you don’t you live in default mode. Defaulting to others, lack of time, or the expectations set for you, means you don’t decide. Your indecision means you give up the ability to create your days and how you want them to be.

Put together day after day of defaulting to the world, and this is what you will find:

  • Overwhelm
  • You will spend your days putting out fires
  • You will feel stuck, stagnant, bored and frustrated
  • Most days, you will find yourself tipping precariously on the edge of burning out

I felt like I was a victim of my circumstances

I look back in my journals and see when I was in default mode. It’s easy to tell. It was when I felt I was the victim. I blamed my mess of a life on others, the job, the sector, society and life in general. I gave up control.

  • I can’t wait until this project is over.
  • If only they would change and see what I need.
  • How many days does one person have to go through this?
  • What a rough day with Sandy. God, I hope she quits soon!
  • Why can’t I have time to unwind and relax? No one ever gives me time!”

Women fit their life around everyone else

In default mode, women wait to see what everyone else around them does. Then women try to fit their needs, wants, wishes and dreams into the tiny cracks in the middle . That is, if there are any cracks to be found. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy taking care of the things that need doing that we don’t make time for ourselves.

Are you letting everyone else decide your life?

The problem is if you keep going down that path, you will never find what you want. If you don’t set goals for yourself, someone else will set them for you . Your organization and your boss or board probably have goals set for you. I bet someone else has what you will do at work and in your personal life. You follow the beat of the drums around you. It’s time to find your own beat!

Don’t get me wrong, your organization should have goals, and in addition to those goals, you should design your own personal goals for your career and your life.

Stop letting everyone else decide. Create your vision

Designing your life means you step back and determine how you want to experience it. It means you choose what you want and then make that happen. That starts with deciding on a vision and then developing goals to reach that vision.

Take back your power by making choices

In design mode, you take back control. You take back your power and make choices. You become responsible for the choices and the outcomes of your life. When you do that, you ensure there are time, resources and motivation to reach your goals and dreams, whatever those are.

I gained my power back

I can also see in my journals where I took the time to set goals and the shifts it made in my moods and my day-to-day experiences.

  • I made time for myself tonight.
  • I can’t believe how close I am to finishing my degree!
  • I feel at peace with my decision not to apply for the director’s position.

Your homework:

Prepare to design your life:

  1. If you have yet to review last year, grab this free worksheet to do that first
  2. Then, set aside time to contemplate what you want your life and leadership to be like this coming year.
  3. Finally, make notes about the feelings you want to experience and the things you want to accomplish.

Now you are ready to set your goals and design your life!

Live life in design mode

Make a choice. Decide to take back control of your life. Start by taking control of your agenda and setting aside time to plan . You’ll be glad you did!

Originally published at



Kathy Archer

Helping women leaders make it in the nonprofit world. Leadership Development Coach * Best-Selling Author * Wife * Mom * Grandma * Dog Mom to Max