20 questions for planning New Year’s goals

bench overlooking the water
Photo by Khalid Almasoud

There’s been a growing trend of disdain towards New Year’s resolutions.  I can understand why, to some degree, but I, for one, really like them.  The trick is knowing how to pick the right resolutions, and then develop a healthy, realistic game plan for making them happen.

Some of you make resolutions, and some of you don’t – but many of you took the time to reflect on this past year.

Trust me when I say I’m talking to myself here – I can join the throngs of people who make resolutions in January with good intentions, and the lofty goals are long gone by February.

I prefer to make goals for the year instead of new year’s resolutions. With resolutions, you “resolve” to do something – and then hope for the best.  With goals, you set a marker in the distance and make plans to get there.

On Monday I’ll share an approach I like for creating permanent change.  I plan on approaching my 2009 goals with this method, because it provides room for both reality and challenge.

But today, I’m posing a few questions that might help spark some ideas for your 2009 goals.  Like before, either grab your journal and pen for some solace, or print the free PDF download at the end of this post with all these same questions. I heard from a few of you that you used the 2008 reflection questions as conversation starters with your spouse – I think that’s an excellent idea for these as well.

Vision Questions for 2009

1.  What skill do you most want to learn this year?

2.  What is one skill you already have that you’d like to improve this year?

3.  Name three books you most definitely want to read in 2009.

4.  In what specific area do you most want to encourage your spouse?  What are some ways you can do this?

5.  Think of one of your major life goals.  What will you do this year to make you one step closer to reaching that goal?

6.  Name your kids’ biggest strengths.  What are some ways you can specifically nourish those strengths?

7.  Name your kids’ most prominent weakness.   What are some ways you can encourage their ability to overcome it?

8.  What is one of your strengths?  Think of some specific ways you can exercise it this year.

9.  What is one of your weaknesses?  Brainstorm some ideas on how you can overcome this deficiency.

10.  Think of an important relationship aside from your spouse and children.  How will you nurture that relationship this year?

11.  Name a few ways your physical health could be improved.

12.  Name a few ways your family’s financial health could be improved.

13.  In what way do you want to draw closer to God?

14.  What is one area of home management that frustrates you?  Think of some specific ways you could improve your attitude about it.

15.  Have you ever created a family mission statement with your spouse?  If so, why not do one for this year?

16.  Name one specific thing you could do with your spouse this year that will deepen your intimacy.

17.  What is something that is continually undone in your life?  What will you do to fully complete it this year?

18.  In what ways will you be involved with your local community?

19.  What is one thing you’d like to accomplish by your birthday this year?

20.  Think of three words you’d like to describe your 2009.

Here are the 2009 Vision Questions as a free PDF to download and print.

Mull over these questions this weekend, and see what sparks. Perhaps your answers will point to one specific area in your life that you want to focus on, to change or strengthen.  Or perhaps your answers will reveal an overall theme, a burden within you that you’d like to see come to fruition holistically.

I look forward to hearing some of your answers!  And on Monday, we’ll talk about how to craft a blueprint for making these lofty ideas a reality.


  1. Kelly from Almost Frugal

    Interesting questions! For me at least, I’m just going to pick and choose a few to answer, as not all of them are relevant to my life or current situation. The choice of the question is nearly as important as the answer I think!

    I believe in New Year’s Resolutions too. I think they are important motivators to helping me move forward in my life. My resolution last year was to do something about my finances, and the end result, my blog, has been a huge success.

    Here are some answers:
    Question 1: I want to learn to really use Excel this year. Geeky, I know.
    Question 4: I want to encourage him in his music, without resenting the time he spends doing it.
    Question 9: I want to be less judgmental.
    Question 19: I want to have a job as an internet marketing consultant by November next year.

    • Christi

      I love this list! I’ll have to think about these questions & work them in with my other goals for the New Year.


      Christi´s last blog post…the new year

  2. Trixie


    I like to set goals instead of resolutions for the the new year too. It’s great to start the new year off with plans and hopes for postive things. I like to learn and grow as a person each year and look forward to learning some new skills, building better relationships and finding enjoyment in life.

    thanks for the great ideas,


    Trixie´s last blog post…Owl at Home

  3. Lucie @ Unconventional Origins

    Like you, I enjoy resolutions but I prefer to see them as goals. I just don’t like the word resolution, perhaps from studying it in the legal context for almost 3 years!

    I am excited to work through these questions. I used some of your reflection questions as well, and that turned out to be a lot of fun. On New Years eve I wrote them out for everyone in our family (I only used five questions so the kids wouldn’t lose interest). We all wrote out our answers and then read them out loud to each other (we record all of our new years at home with the kids so we have them on tape). I could tell the boys thought it was dumb at first, but by the time we were done and had reminisced about some of the biggest moments of the year, the were having a blast. And I know when they are older they will appreciate having a recording of that.

    Great ideas post as always!

    Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post…Ringing in the New Year Part II – an Alternative to Resolutions

  4. Dara

    Love the list. I find that I’m always busy doing “things”–but not necessarily always the most important things. It will be good to sit down and hopefully focus some goals on the things that are the most important in my life so I’m accomplishing things that really matter.

    Dara´s last blog post…A Fresh Start

  5. Kelley

    Wow, what a great list! I like it even better than the reflection questions for 2008. I love the idea of working to help other people strengthen their strengths and make their weaknesses into strengths, too. Thanks for posting all this great stuff this week. Your blog has become one of my favorites because it’s relevant, accessible and it makes me think.

    I’ve been thinking about making most of my goals for 2009 habit-related, but I think I’m going to throw in a few fun activities, too.

    Kelley´s last blog post…A mess! and a very cute little girl

  6. Martha

    I love these questions. 2009 is going to be a year of new beginnings for me, and the chance for me to start a new career or at least new employment, as I am going to retire from my current company for whom I have worked 29 years. I have so many things in my head that I would like to do, it is just a matter of what the economy and finances will allow me to do. I am going to ponder these questions! I answered the reflections questions and posted (with a link back to your blog) on my blog! http://www.thedailygrindbymak.com

  7. mandy

    Thanks for posting! I am still working on my new years “goals” and the questions are a big help!

    mandy´s last blog post…Christmas Breakfast!

  8. Becky

    I loved your posts – the reflections of 2008 and the visions for 2009. I have completed both sets of questions. The questions truly allowed me to think about where I was and where I am going. I had my husband completed the questions for 2008. I hope I can also convince him to do the ones for 2009. Either way, I truly loved your posts – I will be posting my answers on my blog. Thank you for keeping a truly wonderful and rewarding blog! Keep up the great work!

  9. Lauren fromNorthwest Cheapsleeps

    I’ve never made New Years resolutions before. I’m going to mull over these questions, though, and consider setting a few goals. I particularly like the positive bent to your goal questions, like honing a skill, or taking a small step towards a life goal. I plan to share this list with family. Thanks! And happy new year to everyone.

    Lauren fromNorthwest Cheapsleeps´s last blog post…Finding Vacation Rentals

  10. Melitsa

    I haven’t made NYR for a few years and instead I’ve chosen to think about goals. I love reading others ideas as they are inspiring. This year however I have tried to think of important goals that are tangible. I can check back in a few months and see how I’m doing.
    I neglected area for the clear and transparent resolution is play. This NYR include a play audit . Also, later this month there’s a chance to address deficits in a practical way.
    Happy New Year and thanks for the list.

    Melitsa´s last blog post…Have you completed yours?

  11. Mary

    I’m an action oriented goal freak. I almost didn’t read the questions thinking “yeah, yeah I could write the book.”

    But I struggle with relationship goals – to me, a relationship is something that is pretty hard to stick on a to-do list. I have to tell me, your list is amaazing! It takes your goals so much deeper than attaining a new income level or acquiring the lake house. I’m going to print out the PDF and spend some real time with these questions.


    Mary´s last blog post…Just for today …

  12. Mary

    I wish we could edit our comments! I’m sure everyone can see the big typo in my comment above – sorry! Maybe it’s a Freudian slip! Maybe I should tell me instead of you!

    Mary´s last blog post…Just for today …

  13. simplemom

    Glad you all enjoy the questions!

    @Mary – I’ll be happy to go in and edit your comment, if you like. 🙂 I understand how frustrating that is.

  14. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    Tsh, I know I say this at least once a week, but you are SO AWESOME. Thank you for serving this community of women the way you do with dynamic and meaningful resources like this. I am sure you pour untold amounts of time and thought into what you provide here at Simple Mom. Thank you, thank you for taking up this ministry. You are just so very, very awesome.

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog post…resolved: surrender

  15. Andrea

    I have never made a NYR before. I love these questions. I think going over them with my husband will be fun! Thanks.

    Andrea´s last blog post…Perspective

  16. Mary

    It’s okay Tsh – I just need to slow down! Thanks – your time is better spent writing great stuff here!

    Mary´s last blog post…Just for today …

  17. Turtle

    fantastic post and excellent questions! printing them out to take to the gals at work as well!!

    Turtle´s last blog post…Wow!

  18. Christina from GeekGirlfriends.com

    I LOVE New Years resolutions. I think of them more as a chance to plan my year than as a way to beat myself up for what I didn’t get done last year and I never put “Lose 10 pounds” on my list anymore. I sit down with everyone I work with –my kids, my husband, my blog partners, business partner — and come up with a dream for what we want next year to look like. No “can’t do that” allowed. That’s for later.

    Thanks for this post!

    Christina from GeekGirlfriends.com´s last blog post…Am I Smarter Because I Play Games?

  19. Harry

    Thanks, those are great questions.

    For a simple approach to setting goals and being more productive for the new year, you may want to check out http://www.GoalsOnTrack.com, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.
    .-= Harry´s last blog ..Tutorial: How to Use GoalsOnTrack Habit Tracker =-.

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