494: How Scott & Alyssa Leveled Up Their Goal Setting With A New Strategy

HTYC’s own Scott & Alyssa talk about how they accomplish big goals using learnings from the past 14 years of joint goal setting



Scott & Alyssa Barlow, HTYC CEO & Advisor

Scott & Alyssa are a husband and wife team who started HTYC together, in an effort to help others make successful career changes to work they love. They are both self-development nerds, parents, and love of travel as much as possible.

on this episode

Last year Scott & Alyssa were on a roll. They had been hitting all of their goals for many, many years. They felt great!

Until they realized they were likely hitting all their goals because they were thinking too small. 

So in 2022 Scott & Alyssa dreamt really big. And guess what?

They still crushed their goals!

They did so by coming up with a new strategy that allowed them to closely monitor their goals all year long. Today on the podcast they’re sharing that exact strategy and other takeaways from setting goals as a couple for 14(!) years.

What you’ll learn

  • How to think bigger when setting goals
  • How the Barlows accomplished goal setting as a family 
  • Goal categories you can use if you’re new to goal setting 
  • The importance of prioritizing goal setting time in your calendar

Related Episodes

439 – Goal Setting: How Scott & Alyssa Have Learned To Set Impactful Goals

386 – Top Lessons I’ve Learned From Screwing Up Goal Setting For A Decade

316 – Overcoming Failure Through Joint Goal Setting

Success Stories

I realized early on in that career transition that if I was going to be able to find a job that was rewarding and in an area I liked, even to just pay rent, I would need help because I wasn’t getting the results I needed I know how to get introduced to people and talk to folks. I’ve done this remote job search thing a few times. What made it different for me though is that it’s not just an opportunity to change location but to change position. It could be not just a lateral move from one city to another but it could also be a promotion. I was moving my career and experience to an area where I went from leading projects to potentially leading teams… Sometimes you can stretch yourself and sometimes you need a team to stretch you beyond your best. I think that’s the biggest value from coaching. You have someone in your corner looking out for your best interests. If they are doing their job as good as Lisa did they are pushing you to be the best version of yourself.

Mike Bigelow, Senior Project Manager, United States/Canada

They went from a total comp package of $165K to $359K. Wow! Wow! Wow! I’m over the moon right now and really in shock! They reiterated how I was worth every penny and said “You can find anyone with technical expertise, but someone with your disposition and DNA is hard to come by! We can’t wait for you to join the team and are so glad we could make this work for us.” I can’t thank you all enough for your coaching, encouraging support during these last few months! I’ve landed the role of my dreams along with the comp I wanted and knew that I deserved.

Jessica , Chief Learning Officer, United States/Canada

Alyssa Barlow 00:01

I feel like it is really hard to write big goals and goals that are different when you're sitting in your house that you sit in every evening, or you spend every weekend there or you're in your office that you work in every day.

Introduction 00:20

This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you feel like you were meant for more and ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:46

Over the past few years, we've had one episode that got so much positive feedback. So back this year, by popular demand, is another one of those exact same episodes where I bring on my wife, Alyssa, and we discuss our goals from the previous year– what worked, what didn't work, and our goals for the next year. Now, I have very much grown to look forward to these meetings and these episodes and the goal setting process in general. But that wasn't always the case. Our goal setting initially started from a place of fear. Fear that we weren't going to be able to afford the life that we wanted and fear that really pushed us to get very intentional and set some pretty big goals. And once we started hitting those goals, I realized, "hey, this actually works and it can be pretty fun." So now I get excited to have these yearly chats and go through this yearly process. And this year we sat down to have that conversation. We once, again, decided to let you be a part of it. My hope in doing this is that you can see what really goes into our annual planning, specifically the parts that went well and what we want to do differently and then use some of our tactics to make your 2023 year– the year that you hit some huge goals. Some, maybe, that you thought were impossible.

Scott Anthony Barlow 02:07

Lys, I am... I'm actually pumped to have you back on the podcast for two different reasons. Number one, for those people who aren't aware, we transitioned you out of the business in every single role that you were serving with the exception of advisor. So you're now in an advisory role, and everything else. You've moved on. You've moved on to your unicorn opportunity. And I'm really excited for that. But it also means that you don't always get to come back on the podcast. So welcome back.

Alyssa Barlow 02:39

Thank you.

Scott Anthony Barlow 02:40

Today, you and I get to share with everybody else, we've already had this conversation. Last year, we literally had this conversation on the podcast, which by the way, for those people who are interested, we've, over the last few years, done a goals episode at the end of the year. Those are episodes' 316, 439 is the most recent one, where Alyssa has come on to share. And last year, we actually, in real time, shared everything that we had learned and some of our biggest takeaways for goal setting for 2021. Now, we're going to do the same thing for 2022. And it's been a really interesting year. So I'm excited to share what you and I have talked about, but we've had some big changes. And I want to talk about how we've changed from the previous year to this year. What and how we'd do goals. So we're also going to talk about some of our biggest takeaways from this last year as well. What would you say is the biggest change that we've had?

Alyssa Barlow 03:45

I think the biggest change that we incorporated for 2022, and I don't remember if we talked about it last year as we were planning goals for 2022, but we decided this year for the first year ever to have the kids set goals.

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:00

That was huge. And that came about from us talking and saying, "Okay, we've done this for years of our life. Why are we not teaching this to our children?" Was that the same realization that you had?

Alyssa Barlow 04:13

Basically, yeah. I mean, we were asking ourselves to think bigger and do bigger and harder things. But we weren't asking the kids to do it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:21

Yeah. Which seems crazy. So we decided we had to remedy that. Now, here's the thing, we started by saying, "Okay, we don't want this to be another thing" like, us asking them to clean their room or asking them to do chores. We want this to feel very, very different. And I thought you had such a wonderful suggestion at the time. Because you had made the point to me that, if we just try and tackle this, like, many other things we're trying to tackle in our lives, then the kids are probably going to end up hating it. And that seemed to defeat the purpose. So it would require a very different set of thinking. So what did we end up doing? What did we end up coming up with?

Alyssa Barlow 05:02

Well, we kind of, we had tried to do family meetings in the past and family meetings always ended up being a negative thing. And somebody ended up leaving the table or couch or wherever. We take family meetings in some sort of a huff or tear. So we didn't want it to look like that. And actually, a different friend had mentioned that her and her husband had set goals in the hot tub before. And we had just recently gotten a hot tub that we had worked really hard to get. And so we decided that for the first goal setting of the year, why not do it in our brand new hot tub in a super different environment than we had tried to do anything else before. And just have fun talking about what we wanted for 2022.

Scott Anthony Barlow 05:48

Along with the hot tub, came a rubber ducky. For whatever reason, the company that we purchased the hot tub from, had decided to include a rubber ducky, which I thought was a nice touch. So we took that rubber ducky. And we said, "Whoever is holding the rubber ducky is the person who gets to talk." And we pass the rubber ducky around. And everyone got to take a little while and be able to set their intentions and goals and what they were really interested in accomplishing for the next year. And it was very, very different than any of those other family meetings that we talked about that it didn't tear or fit or anything else. And it really took that very different environment. Okay, so fast forward, I thought this was super fun, because we just wrapped up a review with the kids for the entire year. And oh, my goodness, first of all, it was really very fun to see what they had accomplished. That was... That felt like a huge win as a parent. But also, I was really surprised and pleased when we went through and took the kids and said, "Okay, well, here are the things that you accomplished this year." We had things all over the board. What were a couple of those?

Alyssa Barlow 07:01

Well, we asked them to start with a fun goal. So something that they thought it would be fun to achieve. A hard goal, something they thought would be hard to achieve for the year. And then I think the way we worded the last one was something that they wanted to improve. So either a subject in school or like a health improvement, or something like that. So that's where we asked them to start with three goals. So something fun, something hard, and then something they wanted to improve. And they were all over the board for all three of them.

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:33

Yeah, we had Camden who set some goals in hockey around the number of saves. He's a goalie. So number of saves that he was making for the remainder of the season last year. We had Grayson who decided he wanted to set a world record. And this very much felt like, we've had this conversation several times amongst you and I but we both had to sort of say, "okay, all right" and hold back that parental, maybe we start with something a little bit lower, but I'm so glad that we didn't say that to him. Because he then did go on to decide and research a world record that was really important to him and really fun for him. And he ended up doing it. He ended up actually speed running, which means that you complete an entire game as fast as you possibly can. He set the world record at the time for a brand new game that had come out on his Nintendo Switch.

Alyssa Barlow 08:32

And ironically enough, that actually was one of the hard goals. That was Grayson's hard goal. And that was the first one he accomplished.

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:41

What I think was fascinating is that the kids were learning this, but it was also teaching us at the same time because first of all, what if we had said, "You know what, Grayson, we think you should set your sights on something a little bit lower than a world record." Instead, I thought you did something really wonderful. You said, "Okay, Grayson. Well, what would that look like?" And then from there, he said, "Well, I don't know. But I will figure it out." And then the next month rolled around where we did a monthly check in with him, and all the other kids too, and we ended up just having a super simple for the first year, we said, "We just want to make this fun. We want to incorporate this into our lives. And it's less important that they actually hit the goals and more important that they have fun with it and begin to learn the process and incorporate it into their best way of being." And month two, he had still not identified a goal, if I remember correctly, so we said, "Okay, Grayson, well, what would that look like? How could you identify a goal, what activities would go into that? And then it was only a couple of weeks later that he had identified, "Well, I want to speed run a game." He had thought it through and said, "Well if it's a new game, then I have probably the highest opportunity to be able to speed run that game and set the world record before everyone else on the planet goes and has experiences with it." So that was strategic. But then he did it.

Alyssa Barlow 10:08

I think for setting goals with the kids this year, like you mentioned, we just wanted it to be fun, we really weren't concerned about what the goals were or what they accomplished, honestly, we just wanted to start the process somewhere. I think what we realized, though, is that in having them, set them and then setting time aside on the calendar to check in with them consistently about them, it kept those things on their mind and in the forefront and then working towards them, which I think kind of leads into our next thing that was different for us as a couple and a family this year as well.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:46

Absolutely. And there was one other thing that was very different from how we've done it in the past. I think we've conventionally done a great job with setting goals, making them specific, even having good verbiage, turning them into whether use a SMART goal format, or some other type of great goal setting format, we've done pretty well with that. And also every single year, we have found that we've achieved most of our goals. So last year, if you go back to the episode, one of the things that we said we wanted to do differently was set bigger goals. Well, we did that this year. But we also ended up checking in much more frequently and much more regularly than we ever have before. That was very different.

Alyssa Barlow 11:30

In the past, it had always been we, in December, sat down to review our goals from the year and then rewrite them for the next year, or write new goals for the next year, not really rewrite them. But every year, we always seem to be surprised at the end of the year when we went through the goal list, and we're like, "Yeah. We did that. Wow, we did that. Oh, I forgot we did that." Where this year, it was different because we had those goals for ourselves, the family and the kids in front of us every single month. So we knew the whole year long where we were at if we were not achieving them, or if we were overachieving on them, then what came next? What did we earn the opportunity to work towards next?

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:13

So here's a couple examples of some of our goals or goal areas that we had. So we'd already mentioned establishing the habit of meeting monthly with our entire family about goals. That was literally a goal of mine personally, and Alyssa shared that as well. So with our relationship we had, through one of these, this goal actually evolved through us continuously checking in and us assessing, is this goal still accurate? Is it still achieving what we want it to achieve? This one actually evolved, and it evolved to planning relationship time first, every single week. And for us, relationship time meant keeping the time or space sacred for our relationship to do one weekly thing together. So sometimes that was date night, other times that was a simple out of normal activity on a monthly basis. So those are a couple examples of goals. But I think in the past, we really just had, we did a great job setting all the groundwork so that that goal couldn't be achieved. This year was the first time where we layered in, how do we continue to check in. So let's talk a little bit about what that check in looked like and what some of our biggest takeaways were with those differences.

Alyssa Barlow 13:35

So you already mentioned the monthly check in with the kids. So in addition to, or at the same time as the monthly check in with the kids, we were checking in on our own personal goals at that time, because we wanted to show the kids, we had our own goals, we were checking in on them at the same time that the kids were checking in on their goals. So that brought it to us monthly. And then this year, we also incorporated a quarterly check in or refresh if you want to call it. So quarterly every three months, we sat down as a couple and assessed our personal goals that we wrote, and then our goals that we had written together like our financial goals, some other things like that. Talked about them in a different format, I feel like then what we've talked about them before, we talked about kind of just how to simplify the way we were thinking about them. And the words that really stood out to me were– delete, delegate, or delay. So looking at every single goal and deciding, "Is this still a goal that we need? Or do we need to adjust the goal, or do we need to delay the goal?"

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:37

Yeah. And I think that was really powerful for both of us. Because in the past, we felt like when we set these goals, we needed to hit them at all costs, which interestingly enough, was one of the learnings that we had going into this year as well. And that was, stop trying to force it. Stop trying to hit the goal at all costs. And in some ways in the past that served us really well, certainly served us really well, when we were getting out of debt forever ago when we started goal setting way back when, almost what, 13 years ago now, 14 years, it's been a long time when you can't remember the number of years. We're starting to use this more and more like, "wait a minute, hold on, how long have we been married? Okay, well, let's count it back, do the calendar math." Same thing for goal setting. It's been over a decade now, and it's been a long time. And it no longer makes sense for us to hit the goal at all costs. So stop trying to force it. This is something we were just saying even before we hit the record button on this episode, that one of the things that we feel like the universe is trying to teach us over and over again, because we are both maximizers trying to squeeze every moment out of every hour, in all hours of the day. We need to stop trying to force it. And instead, how can we find ways to have fun with it? How can we go with the grain rather than against the grain? And I think the kids' goal setting was a wonderful example of that. Haven't always done that well. In a different year, we might have accidentally destroyed a really wonderful thing.

Alyssa Barlow 16:13

I think also, I mean, I know we've talked a lot about the kids' goal setting now. But I think we learned a lot about our own processes, and developed some things and pulled out some things that were takeaways or things that needed to be changed in our own goal setting process by going through the process of setting goals with our children. And I think one of those things, like you said, with having fun, one of our takeaways was creating time and space for the quarterly refresh, for the monthly goal review. And holding those times sacred on the calendar. I guess we didn't write that down what was different, but that was something we did differently last year, as we time blocked in January for those specific things. We time blocked for that monthly goal review and our quarterly refreshers, those were already on the calendar. I think something we did good is that even though it was on the calendar, we didn't necessarily, some of them, we had to move or adjust. But we always kept it on the calendar, it wasn't like it came up and we were like, "Oh, don't have time for that. Delete it off the calendar." We moved it to where it could fit in. And so I think that was something that was a big takeaway that we need to create that time and space in order to make this fun and enjoyable, and still accomplish big things.

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:29

And by time blocking, we mean that we looked ahead on the entire year's calendar. And before we added anything else, we added the time we wanted to take off, which we've done pretty well in that area before, that's part of how we were able to take and have been able to take really pretty lengthy time away from the US or take the kids to other countries and having those, you know, three to six week time periods by blocking it, sometimes 18 months in advance. But we haven't necessarily done that for other years. And this is the first year where we started to do that for other areas where we said, "Okay, we want to have mid year, we want to have a day away or four hours away, or a weekend way to be able to assess the goals and what we're learning from it. Are we on track? Do we want to change all the things that we just got done talking about?" But then when we also went through and blocked out all the holidays, and we blocked out all of the kids' time out of school and everything that we wanted to make sure we didn't lose as the year went on, and as it got really, really busy. So both on the gold side, but also with the family side. One other thing that was a huge takeaway for us was when we experienced an inconsistency. We just got done talking about we did a better job with checking in. Well, one of the things that we found is that sometimes our priorities had slightly changed mid year, and our goals didn't necessarily or hadn't necessarily adjusted along with it. What's an example of that?

Alyssa Barlow 19:07

I mean, I think the easiest example, with any goal setting, or maybe it's just me, but financial goals are always the easiest to show those inconsistencies or things where priorities changed. So we have been setting aside some money for some specific things. And about halfway through the year, we realized we had money set aside in the amount that we wanted set aside but it didn't necessarily match our priority anymore.

Scott Anthony Barlow 19:33

Yeah, so a great example of that. Every year, we've done this part for years where we go through and say "Okay, here's the money we plan on earning this year. Any extra money that we have is contributing to a particular area" and then we'll go through and say, "Okay, here's area number one, travel expenses. Here's area number two, the amount that we want to contribute towards passive assets. Here's area number three, kids' college savings fund. Here's area number four, on and on and on all" we'll go through and do that. Well, this year, we had set out that entire prioritized list, and then realized midway through the year, that that prioritized list, even though we were executing on that, didn't actually match up with our priorities any longer. So specifically, I think it was, if I remember correctly, we had prioritized purchasing an Airbnb and saving for that, and a vacation house, we had prioritized that slightly higher compared to another area, and we never adjusted it along the way.

Alyssa Barlow 20:30

Right. So we had contributed a lot of money to things and had set aside a lot of money, but then realized it wasn't consistent with where our goals were written. And so I think that's something going into 2023, that we need to make sure that we are more clear on our priorities and goals match the priorities, or we need to adjust them when we get to that quarterly review, when we have that time and space created to do those reviews, rather than just being like, "well, this is the goal we wrote. And this is where the money went." So now we're kind of stuck there.

Scott Anthony Barlow 21:06

So here's my wrap up question. For those people who might want to do goal setting with a partner or as a couple, what piece of advice would you give them as they're getting started?

Alyssa Barlow 21:18

So getting started, I think the biggest thing that we have learned in the last couple of years with kind of adjusting our own method of goal setting is that creating the time and space to get away from the norm. I feel like it is really hard to write big goals and goals that are different when you're sitting in your house that you sit in every evening, or you spend every weekend there or you're in your office that you work in every day, it's harder to think outside of that normal realm when you're sitting in those familiar comfortable places. When you get yourself outside of that, it's a lot easier to think differently and bigger and to set different goals than what you would have.

Scott Anthony Barlow 22:07

Yeah, completely agreed. And two things I would add on to that. Number one, if you've never set goals as a couple before, then some of the things that we talked about might be in the future, you don't necessarily have to go all the way year one. We were really bad at this 13 or 14 years ago. Really bad. And we were only focused on goals in one area of our life at that time. That's just how we started way back when. We were only focused on this one thing of removing our debt. And that was it. We were putting all our money to remove our debt and 100% of the goals that we came up with had to do with that. And I think the thing that I learned through that is it allowed us and gave us a simple place to start and build good habits and routines around year after year after year. So feel free to start on just one focused area, build the routines, build the habits, and get used to setting goals with another person. And then the other thing I would encourage you to do is go back and listen to those episodes we mentioned at the beginning of this episode, Episode 439, we do a really wonderful job. And we'll have all the links to 439 and 316, and any other areas where we've discussed goal setting in the past, go back and listen to those episodes. And we have some wonderful questions in there to use as you're getting started goal setting with a partner, goal setting as a couple.

Alyssa Barlow 23:37

I think if I remember correctly, this is either our fourth or fifth year doing a goal setting podcast of some sort. And I think the very first one we did go over, it was like a basic how to get started writing goals. So like Scott said, if this is new to you, and you're just getting started writing goals, we will link up some of those episodes so that you can go back and listen to the getting started on goals.

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:06

You'll find those in the show notes inside your podcast player or you'll find them on the blog post with this particular episode– episode 497. Can't find them? Just email me Scott@happentoyourcareer.com and put 'Goals Episodes' in the subject line and we'll send them out to you.

Alyssa Barlow 24:25

Happy goal setting 2023.

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:27

Happy goal setting 2023.

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:29

Hey, something I don't want to let you know the seemingly impossible career change stories that you hear on the podcast are actually from people just like you who are listening to this podcast and decided to take action and have a conversation with our team. If you want to implement what you heard, and you want to completely change your life and your career, then let's figure out how we can help. So here's what I would suggest, just take your phone right now. Open it up, go to your email clap and type me an email Scott@happentoyourcareer.com just put 'Conversation' in the subject line. And when you do that, I'll introduce you to the right person on our team and you can have a conversation with us. We'll try and understand your goals and what you want to accomplish in your career no matter where you're at. And we can figure out the very best way that we can help you and support you in your situation. So open that up right now and send me an email with 'Conversation' in the subject line to Scott@happentoyourcareer.com. Here's a sneak peek into what we have coming up in store for you next week.

Speaker 3 25:36

I never really stopped to listen to myself, or to ask myself, "what is it that you're passionate about?"

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:44

Chances are high. You've probably heard the question, "what would you be doing for work if money were no object?" I know it's a pretty common question. It's also a pretty big question. And I don't expect you to have the answer right away. But thinking on that, and being honest with yourself about that, is one way to begin figuring out what you truly want. Often, our goals are so clouded by society standards, and what everybody else thinks you should do, or what a good life looks like, supposedly, or a great career looks like that we never really drill down and figure out what we truly want and what we want to spend our time doing. Even the crazier part, many times, it's our own limiting beliefs that prevent us from seeing how great we already have it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 26:36

All that and plenty more next week right here on Happen To Your Career. Make sure that you don't miss it. And if you haven't already, click Subscribe on your podcast player so that you can download this podcast in your sleep, and you get it automatically, even the bonus episodes every single week, sometimes multiple times a week. Until next week. Adios. I'm out.

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