In our last blog, “The Most Powerful Money Move You Can Make,” we introduced the power of harnessing your time, energy, and money to manifest the values-based vision of your life.

So how do you clarify that vision?  I didn’t know it, but I had that very same question about 10 years ago. Having started a career in financial services, I sought to be intentional about reaching financial freedom while being available for my daughter and not sacrificing career growth. I thought I had very clear goals.

I’ve been fortunate to have several impactful mentors over the years  (see our video about building a personal board of advisors). As I wrestled with how to navigate these seemingly competing goals, I met Sandy Shelton, the longtime owner of the first female-led CPA firm in Greensboro, NC. She agreed to be my mentor, and before our first meeting, she asked me to make a list of 20 life goals. Nothing was too big or too small to be on the list; the goals just had to be personally meaningful.

Over the last 10 years, this list has made me more intentional about how I spend my time, energy, and money. And steadily, I’ve been building a life I absolutely love.


Here’s how it works:

  1. Enlist a friend: You can make your 20 Life Goals  solo or with a friend or mentor. I recommend having a partner to instill accountability and present different viewpoints, ideas, and resources.
  2. Make Your List of 20 Goals: You should each make a list of 20 Life Goals that you’d like to accomplish. These goals should be items that add to you, not tasks to be accomplished. For example, “learn to sew a curtain” is a goal if you don’t know how to do this and it expands your horizons. But, “sew a curtain,” is a task if you already know how and you just need a new curtain for a window.  As Sandy said, the goals can be big or small, but they should be meaningful to you.
  3. Review this list each week: This step adds accountability. Whether you’re doing this on your own or with a partner:
    1. Set a dedicated time each week to review the list.
    2. Take turns reading your lists out loud and commenting on which seem like good candidates to tackle now and which are future goals. What resources are currently available to help you further a goal? How much time will it take and what might you rearrange to make the time? Which ones are most motivation? Pick one goal to begin working on now, and commit to the first step.
    3. Start slowly. It’s possible you won’t tackle any of them in this moment, but eventually, you’ll find that the time to address each goal presents itself. You’ll accomplish some rather soon, and others will be years away. And that’s OK!
    4. As you complete a goal, remove it from the list and replace it with another. You’ll always have a list of 20. What happens if after some time, a goal no longer appeals to you? It’s completely fine to remove or adjust a goal if it no longer applies. This happens from time to time.

My List Of 20 Goals

As an example, when I started this exercise, some of my 20 goals were:

Travel internationally.

Visit each of the 50 states.

Establish a scholarship fund for women overcoming challenges.

Teach or mentor someone in educational or personal development.

Further the area of financial literacy in a meaningful way.

Write a book.

Send my daughter to a reasonable college of her choice debt-free.

Achieve financial freedom by age 55.

Learn to sew.

Find 12 ways to repurpose, recycle, reuse to establish a habit of sustainable living.

As I embarked on this journey with Sandy, I didn’t fully appreciate the power of this process. At first, some goals, like mentoring, were attainable. I served as a mentor for a leadership class through Wake Forest University, and since then, have regularly found ways to serve in a similar capacity through organizations or independently. Occasionally, I removed a goal. For example, after about a year, I realized that learning to sew wasn’t going to bring me joy, so I removed it. And others took years to accomplish. I took my first international trip as an adult just a few months ago, 10 years after creating my list. Eventually, each goal will manifest. Some take more time than others.

My List Of 20 Goals

As I worked with my list, I noticed a few patterns emerging, and I believe you’ll find these to be true, too:

  1. You’ll begin to see themes. These themes will reveal your values. My list revealed that I value education/personal development, creating and building (for example, writing a book and establishing a scholarship fund), financial security, and philanthropy (through giving time and money).
  2. Your list will evolve. You’ll gain clarity on some goals over time, and you’ll adjust them accordingly.
  3. You’ll naturally become focused. Continuously being in touch with your list, you’ll notice the opportunities life brings that further your goals and you’ll accept them. You’ll also recognize which opportunities detract from your goals, and will more easily walk away from these. Over time, you’ll spend more time, money and energy furthering what fulfills you.

Set aside some time to make your list of 20 Life Goals. Even if you haven’t found a partner yet. Make the list. Put it somewhere prominent so you’ll review it on a regular basis, and start thinking about the first one within reach. This first step will lead to the next and before you know it, you’ll have developed a habit of intention when allocating your time, energy, and money to create a fulfilling life.