Heart Breathings

Set Goals You’ll Stick To In 2021

December 10, 2020 by Sarra Cannon

Planning And Organization | Writing Tips

It’s that time of year when we’re all looking ahead to our goals and what we want to accomplish in our lives and careers. I love this goal-setting time of year, because there’s a promise of exciting things to come, and I feel a renewed sense of potential in my life.

But it wasn’t that long ago when I would consistently set goals for the new year, get excited for all the changes I was going to make in my life, and then promptly fail and give up by the end of January.

Okay, fail is a harsh word, but I knew I wasn’t living up to my potential and my plans always needed major adjustments. I honestly believed there was something fundamentally wrong or flawed about me.

Then, a few years ago when I was pulling myself out of burnout and depression, I had an epiphany. There was nothing wrong with me. The problem was with the way I was setting goals and the types of goals I was trying to achieve.

What I did next changed my life.

Set Goals You’ll Stick To

Watch my video where I talk about how to make goals you’ll stick to 2021 here!

If you are looking to change your life in 2021 or just make things a little better, here are three ways to set goals you’ll actually stick to.

1. Set the right kinds of goals

So many of us are used to setting goals that are merely a statement of the thing we want to do or finish. Write a book. Start a newsletter. Create a website.

Goals like this are clear, but they don’t really give you enough information about what you’re ultimately trying to achieve. Sure, we’re stating WHAT we want to do, but we aren’t adding in an essential element of motivation: WHY we want to do it.

Basically, when we set goals like this, we’re just creating a to-do list of big-ticket items. Often, this becomes a hodgepodge of projects with no clear outcome in mind.

When my life really started to turn around is when I learned a new way of goal-setting from Todd Herman. He taught me to start thinking about the outcome I want to achieve, rather than just the thing I wanted to do.

When you start thinking about your goals and what you want to accomplish, then, start asking yourself these questions:

  • Why do I want to do this? (why do I want to write the book? Why do I want to start a website?)
  • How is completing this project going to change my life? What will be different about my life when I finish this?
  • Why does this change matter to me?

When you ask questions about why and what will change, you go deeper than just thinking about a list of projects you want to check off a list. Instead, you start to think about how completing that project will really affect your life.

What’s the outcome or change you’re really wanting to see?

When you’re writing a book, maybe what you really want to see in your life is a new source of income so you can quit your day job. When you’re starting that website, maybe what you’re really hoping for is to make significant progress toward your dream of impacting lives with your blog content.

Now, when I set goals, I am not just choosing a list of projects I want to complete and calling that my goal. Instead, I’m always thinking about the end result I’m trying to achieve.

Increasing my income, growing my community, changing lives, creating better habits, feeling more joyful on a daily basis. These are my kinds of goals these days.

I’m still completing the projects like writing a book and setting up a website, but now those projects have real motivation behind them because I know WHY I’m doing it and how my life can change when I get them done.

This shift in focus has made all the difference for me.

2. Go beyond the expectations of others

How often do you really sit and think about what you want? Are you letting the expectations of others (friends, family, fans) dictate what you do in your daily life? Or are you fearlessly going after your true desires?

So often, when we think about our goals and what we want to accomplish in life, we’re letting what others expect from us dictate what we do.

Sometimes it’s out of fear of doing the wrong thing or what others will think of us. Sometimes it’s a lack of confidence or feeling like we don’t deserve or could never achieve those big dreams (Or maybe someone in your life has consistently told you that you can’t achieve those things.)

Sometimes it’s just a sense of obligation that holds us back or makes us feel like we have to live the life others expect of us.

As you start thinking about planning for the upcoming year, I challenge you to set aside all those expectations and really think about what you want. If you had zero limitations, what would you do with your life? Who would you be?

It can be scary at first to dream like this, but you deserve to be happy and to go after what you truly want in life. You are worthy of your dreams, both big and small.

Allow yourself to dream without limits and see where it takes you. When you stop letting the expectations of others hold you back, you might be surprised at what comes up.

One exercise you might try to get into this place of freedom is to set a timer and journal for fifteen minutes about your dream life. If there were no limits on where you could live or how much money you could make, what would that dream life look and feel like to you?

Sometimes this can give you some good clues about what you really wish you were doing with your life and what will truly make you happy.

Maybe you’re already living that life and feeling free, but for me five years ago, I had no idea just how much I was living my life according to what others wanted and expected of me. Once I was able to break free of that, I found joy beyond my own expectations and have been able to set goals that make me happy.

And you know what? It turns out focusing on my own happiness has led to serving a much larger community of people in the process. Win-win.

3. Stop Letting Fear Dictate Your Goals

Fear is a pretty strong motivator when it comes to goal-setting. When we let fear take the wheel, here are the types of thoughts we might end up with:

  • “I’m not getting any younger! If I ever want to quit my job and be a full-time author, I have no choice but to write what’s going to sell the fastest!”
  • “These books just aren’t selling like I wanted after a few months. I know I’m already feeling burned out, but I have to force myself to write faster. My friends say if I’m not publishing at least six books a year, I’ll never get where I want to go, so I have to just push myself harder, even if it makes me sick.”
  • “Well, I really had my heart set on publishing this year, but there’s no way I’m good enough. My books are terrible, and I’m scared of what people will think. I’ll work on this other book instead.”

Any of this sound familiar?

If not, I bet there is some other version of fear that creeps up for you and your circumstances. We all have fears about what others will think or whether we’ll ever reach those big long-term goals we dream about late at night.

But here’s what happens when we let fear take control of our goal-setting.

We start to look for shortcuts and compromises.

Watch today’s video to hear about one way I did this early on in my own career. I took what I felt was a shortcut, because I was too scared of how long it might take to build a money-making career writing what I wanted to write.

In the end, though, that “shortcut” didn’t make me happy…And it didn’t get me where I wanted to go faster.

In fact, it made everything take longer, because I chose to go on a detour and had to find my way back home to my true joy and my true goals.

The same goes with compromising our health. It might seem like a good idea to push harder to get more done, but if you make yourself sick or burned out, guess what? You’re going to need a very long time to recover.

That’s what happened to me. By all accounts, I was extremely successful. I was making multiple six figures a year income and hitting Top 100 bestseller lists. But I was pushing too hard and focusing on the wrong types of goals, and I burned myself out.

It took nearly TWO YEARS to recover from that.

And you know what happened? During those two years of recovery, I lost all the momentum I’d worked so hard to build in the first place. My “hustle” attitude had been for nothing, and it had hurt me so much more than hustling harder ever helped.

Fear can also hold us back from doing what we truly want to do. We’re scared we aren’t good enough or what others will think of us. We’re scared we’ll fail. (Or scared as hell we’ll actually succeed! Then what? Can we keep it up? Or will everyone suddenly realize the “truth” that I’m not good enough?)

When you sit down to set your goals for the beginning of 2021 (I like to set 90-day goals. Check out my HB90 Method for more info on this), don’t invite fear to the table.

You’ll come up with better goals that actually motivate you to keep going, rather than goals that burn you out or steal your joy.

Motivation is key

When it comes to setting goals you’ll actually stick to, motivation is really the key.

The tips I’ve given you above are all designed to help build motivation into the goal itself.

  • Set goals based on the outcome you want to achieve and WHY you want to achieve it, rather than just focusing on the project you want to complete. This gives you motivation because you know the reason behind why you’re doing it, and you know exactly what change you’re trying to create in your life.
  • Take some time to think about what YOU really want, rather than what other people expect from you. It’s so much easier to stick to a goal when it is born from true joy and alignment with who you are, rather than just who you think you should be.
  • Don’t invite fear to the table when you’re setting your goals this year. Fear is only going to convince you to take detours away from your joy. Instead, get motivated by focusing on what’s really going to make you happy. Dare to believe in yourself and your dreams, and I promise, you’ll stick to your goals much better than if fear is ruling you.

HB90 Bootcamp Enrollment Ends Saturday Night!

If the content here resonated with you, and you’re ready to go deeper in order to set goals you know you’ll be motivated to stick to, I’d love to have you in my HB90 Bootcamp.

The HB90 Method is a 90 Day Goal-Setting System where I’ll walk you through my entire process for setting powerful outcome goals that stick.

I’d love for you to join us for this final round of the year!

**LIVE** 2021 Writing Plan Workshop

Before the Bootcamp begins, though, I’m also running a free live workshop this upcoming Saturday, December 12th, at 3PM Eastern Time, where we will plan our 2021 Writing Schedules!

I’ve done this livestream three years in a row, now, and it’s always really fun to plan as a group!

The Livestream is already set up on YouTube, so you can head over and make sure you’re signed up for notifications on my channel.

Want to get the Free 2021 Writing Plan Workbook? Download it free when you join my mailing list below!

I’ll see you there!!

Sarra Cannon


  1. ulrike says:

    Thank you Sarah, that was really helpful. I love your posts, because you are so honest with both your successes and failures, and both help me to find my own way

  2. carolynmcb says:

    I appreciate your honesty, candor and bravery, as well as your guidance. Thank you so much for putting so much of yourself out there so that you can help others. You are an inspiration!

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Sarra Cannon

Hi, I'm Sarra!

I have been self-publishing my books since 2010, and in that time, I've sold well over half a million copies of my books. I'm not a superstar or a huge bestseller, but I have built an amazing career that brings me great joy. Here at Heart Breathings, I hope to help you find that same level of success. Let's do this.


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