Most nonprofit leaders miss this step critical step when setting goals

As a nonprofit leader, when was the last time you planned how you wanted to feel? That is a crazy notion, isn’t it? However, if you consider how you want to feel and attach goals to those feelings you desire, you will find that you have a way different year ahead of you!

In this post, I encouraged you to look back over the past year for the lessons you learned. Pausing and then pondering how things turned out in different situations allows you to collect ideas for what you want to do differently in the future.

If you want different results, then you need to do something else. The strategic review of the past year in this post will help you highlight areas of your life that you want to change.

Now that you have taken a look back, it’s time to pivot and look forward. The backward review and peering into the future are part of laying a solid foundation before setting goals for the new year.
As you inspect what might unfold in the new year, I want you to consider how you want to feel. Instead of starting by thinking about what you want to achieve or what you are hoping to accomplish, I want you to think about your feelings first.

Looking at the past year, you can identify what you don’t want, and it’s an excellent place to start. If you are like most women leading in the nonprofit sector, you know what you don’t want:

  • You are tired of feeling stuck
  • You don’t want to feel exhausted.
  • You hate the constant feeling of overwhelm
  • You are fed up with the repetitiveness of the same old hamster wheel

But if not that, then what? That’s the easy part. We complain, grumble and moan about what we don’t want. However, continuing that cycle of what you don’t want in your head keeps you stuck on the negative. Instead, it would be best if you look for something different.

Consider for a moment what feelings and experiences you want in the coming year. Here are some examples of what feelings you may be looking for:

  • Perhaps you want to feel more energetic
  • You may want to feel more at peace with yourself.
  • It could be that you are looking to feel a deeper sense of connection with someone
  • You want to feel more engaged in your work

If your mind keeps going to goals, step back from them for a bit. Setting goals are important, and we will get there. But the goal is only part of the picture. When we only identify the target, we miss the importance of attaining that.

When you ask yourself what you want to accomplish a goal or achieve, it’s about the feeling you will get as a result of completing it.

  • Why does it matter so much?
  • Why is that so important to you?
  • What difference does it make if you achieve that?

It matters because it’s doing or achieving something that will produce a certain feeling. So it’s that feeling that I want you to focus on now.

A goal that so many identify each year is to become healthier. So what difference does it make if you lose weight or change your eating habits?

  • You’ll feel more alert
  • You’ll feel more confident
  • You’ll feel increased energy

Imagine that you want to do something different at work, return to school, apply for a new position or start a new project. Consider that outcome for a moment and think about what the feeling is that you are longing for.

Changing jobs will make you feel what?

  • More aligned with your values?
  • Will it make you feel more fulfilled?

The second part of this exercise is to consider the list of feelings you’ve identified. Then, look at where you experienced those feelings now.

  • If you’re looking to feel happier, when was the last time you felt happy?
  • If you’re looking to feel more energetic, you noticed that was happening on the weekend when you had more sleep.
  • If you want to feel a sense of peace, you may see you felt it after you took a lunch break the other day.

These are clues about what you want more of in the new year. It is this information that will help you set goals.

Pulling these two concepts together (lessons + feelings) looks like this:

  • Perhaps looking back, you learned that late nights drag you down. You may realize that the lesson is you get sick when you work yourself to the bone.
  • A goal for the new year might be to create a full day on weekends with no work.
  • When you look at the feelings you desire, it may have been to feel more energized. You see, you feel that when you have more sleep or catnap in the middle of the day.
  • A goal for the new year might be to get more sleep.
  • If you looked back and realized that no matter what, you can’t connect to this job, you saw your commitment level drop and your desire to go to work each day fades. The lesson you learned was this organization isn’t aligned with your values and vision.
  • A goal for the new year might be to look at how to realign your work with your values.
  • Looking forward, you might crave feeling a deeper connection to your work. You see glimpses of that when you work on a specific project. That is a clue for you about the work you could cultivate in the new year.
  • A goal for the new year might be around exploring options in that area.

When you pull out lessons learned and pair them with the desired feelings you have for the future, you are in a great place to set goals for the future.

First, take the time to let these two ideas sit with you in the next few days.

Then, come back to them a few times. Journal some thoughts about them. Talk to others in your life about it as well. Slowing down to get a handle on your life intentionally will put you back in the driver’s seat.

Finally, you’ll be able to create goals that help you create your future rather than just watch it unfold!

Originally published at



Helping women leaders make it in the nonprofit world. Leadership Development Coach * Best-Selling Author * Wife * Mom * Grandma * Mom to one boxer named Zeus!

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Kathy Archer

Helping women leaders make it in the nonprofit world. Leadership Development Coach * Best-Selling Author * Wife * Mom * Grandma * Mom to one boxer named Zeus!