It’s the beginning of January, so it’s time to write out a list of annual goals and then get busy, right?

Yes, but maybe not just yet.

I heard a story a while back that perfectly illustrates what I’m trying to say. (If you know where it comes from, please let me know.)

A young priest was sent to a small town inItaly. The parish church was very old and additional rooms and connecting passageways had been added throughout the centuries. On his first Sunday there, the priest noticed that without fail, every single parishioner came in through a small side door, walked down a narrow hallway, stopped and genuflected (made the sign of the cross) by a blank wall, and then continued down the hall.

Confused, the priest studied the wall, but didn’t see anything unusual. He began asking people why they did this. No one knew. “This is what we were taught. We’ve always done this,” he was told, over and over.

Several years later a storm destroyed the roof and parts of the church building. As workers repaired and restored, someone came running to summon the priest. When he saw what the commotion was about, he couldn’t believe it.

Behind the plain whitewash, workers had discovered a beautiful mural of the Madonna and child, done by a famous painter centuries before. It had been painted over at some point, but parishioners throughout the generations had continued to pay homage—even though they didn’t know why.

I think we’re all guilty of that sometimes—in life in general and specifically, when it comes to setting goals. We go through the motions without thinking about what we’re doing.

If we set goals will-nilly and don’t count the cost or evaluate their purpose, by April, we feel like we’re running on a treadmill and don’t know why.

So, before you type up your goals for 2013, spend a few minutes evaluating your progress from last year.

  • What did you accomplish?
  • What didn’t you get to—but wish you had?
  • What tasks drained your soul?
  • Which ones made you excited?
  • Are you closer to your dream now than you were a year ago?
  • If not, what will you do differently? (Remember the definition of insanity?)
  • Is your list so long that you’ll be nothing but frustrated all year?
  • Did you add “do nothing” to create emotional rest stops during the year?
  • Did you leave room in your goals and plans for life’s unexpected opportunities (and inevitable interruptions)?

With those answers in mind, set new goals for 2013.

Make sure they’re achievable, doable and measurable.

One caveat: be careful they’re yours, though. Sometimes a guy named “should” tries to take over and highjack all our plans. Don’t let him.

Then forge ahead, intentionally.

As I plan for 2013, I’m trying to be extra careful about where I choose to spend my time. I’ve learned to be deliberate about scheduling time to breathe, to live and to laugh.

As you think through your own dreams and plans for the New Year, I hope you will check out an article I wrote for More to Life magazine called, “Be Brave This New Year.” Dream big dreams. Be Brave.

So, what will YOU change in 2013?