Stop Goal-Setting and Start Goal-Living

Whitney English

by Whitney English


I chased my first calling of being an interior designer from age eight (when I sketched little dollhouses) to age twenty-two, when my dreams of being an interior designer were scrapped due to the tragic events of 9/11. So, when I pivoted from interior design and founded my first little stationery business, I felt like I’d finally found my real calling. This must be what I was meant to do… right? How could that fail? Famous last words.

It did fail, and I found myself questioning if this was the life God meant for me. My goals just weren’t tracking with my plan. Have you ever chased a dream in the wrong direction? Have you meticulously planned out your life goals and then something implodes, or worse yet, comfort creeps back in and puts courage to bed?

One day I wondered, “What if I chunked this goal-setting thing and actually started goal-LIVING?”

Worth a shot. But how?

In Matthew 22, a guy (Pharisee/Sadducee/lawyer), tried to corner Jesus on his priorities: “Master, which is the great commandment?”

And Jesus replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, and all thy soul with all thy mind. This is the first of great commandments. And the second is unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

I set off on a mission to figure out what this would look like when applied to my daily life. Over time, five key things became crystal clear.

Whitney English - Pinterest Image

5 Principles for a More Beautiful Life

I suggest prioritizing with the acronym HEART:

H – Help yourself. Physical well-being comes first. Our bodies, as temples of the Holy Spirit, we are called to keep. By honoring our bodies, we lead by example.

E – Empower yourself. Renew your mind by capturing every thought, think only on good, true and lovely things, and allow this to transform you. Check in with your heart (your emotions), your mind (your intellect) and your soul (your spirit). Empowering yourself helps you make better decisions when leading, mentoring, and serving others.

A – All your people. By prioritizing your physical and emotional needs first, you are now in the best shape possible to love your people. We will love them. It will change them. You can’t come into contact with love and not walk away changed.

There are only two things in this world that are eternal: the word of God and the human soul. Every time you make it about a person, instead of about a dollar sign, you invest in the Kingdom. (I tell myself this when my order is wrong in the drive-thru, someone cuts me off in traffic, or my kids step on my toes in the kitchen: my reaction to the person in that moment matters for the Kingdom.)

R – Resources and responsibilities. This is the stuff that keeps emergencies at bay, the roof from leaking, and the car from running out of gas. It’s the stewardship or stuff and things and finances. To whom much is given, maintenance is required.

T – Trade and talent. This is the stuff of my work and career. Work might hog the most hours in my week, but that doesn’t mean it has to be first on my list. In fact, because it dominates the most hours in my week, it shouldn’t be a priority. And in the absence of a calling, Trade and Talent asks you what gifts and assets you might be called to share with the world.

HEART sets you up to be your best self so that you can share your gifts with the world. It’s easier to be brave, bold, creative and persistent when you organize your life with HEART. It’s a practical way to build a staircase, not necessarily to your dreams, but forward in life, maybe to the dreams God has planned for you.

What would it look like if you prioritized what matters most every day and focused on your calling, without worrying about things at home? How might re-prioritizing your day, week, month, and year make a difference? Of all the ways I’ve ever heard of setting goals, here is what I know: HEART is the only way that’s helped me live them.When the time is right and the world needs your gifts and talents, you’ll be ready to step into your calling, armed with courage and confidence.




Whitney English is the author of A More Beautiful Life: A Simple Five-Step Approach to Living Balanced Goals with HEART. She has a degree in interior design, has studied management at Parsons in New York City, and has had her work featured in O magazine and The Wall Street Journal and on the Today show. One of her favorite dreams come true, though, is her husband, David, and their three children.