How To Set Goals That Work for 2022

A pocket watch hanging above a leafy path
Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

This is a time of year when people tend to make goals for the coming year. As I’ve spent the past year writing about how I’ve come to redefine goals, I thought it would be worth taking a look at some tips for pursuing goals differently and more effectively this year.

These steps are ones I’ll be using as I look to hone my system of “sustainable life goals.” The key is not to think of goals as moments in time or points on a graph, but as ways of living. This shifts away from so many of the things that serve to undermine so many attempts to set goals. Rather than feeling one has to chase a target, the process instead becomes one of feedback and improvement.

Instead of wondering, “what comes next?”, every day becomes an opportunity to live a certain way.

Instead of thinking, “I have to do a workout today” or “I can’t have chocolate today” and risking getting injured, or just being miserable, or pursuing specific targets that bring little joy even if you get there, decisions become both more responsible and less demanding, of the “am I travelling a path I’m happy with?” kind of way.

So as you enter the New Year, rather than setting goals or resolutions, how about doing these things instead.

  • Identify about five areas in your life that are really valuable to you — these could be things like family, money, health, friendships, intellectual satisfaction, creative satisfaction, doing well at an interest you love, learning.
  • Write them as headings on a blank page in a journal, or columns on a spreadsheet, or a bit of paper you pin to the wall
  • Spend some time daydreaming — imagine the kind of place you’d like to be in each of those 5 areas
  • Then spend some time with your feet on the ground and in each area think of tiny things that would take you just a little bit closer to where you want to be in that area. Write them all down as a list you can add to
  • Every day next year, aim to take one of those tiny steps. Just one. Not one in each category but a single one. When you do, record it. And make a tally mark under the heading of that area where you’ve written the headings down.
  • At the end of each month (or at any time providing it’s regular), take a look at what has become your progress map — your illustration of the space under the curve. It will give you a lot of very useful information very quickly.
  • Is it almost empty although you feel like you’ve achieved a huge amount? In this case, maybe you’ve ended up doing lots of things that seemed great at the time but didn’t really help you towards the things that really mattered to you. Take this awareness into the decisions you make about your time from this moment on. And keep doing that as an iterative process.
  • Are some areas looking more densely populated than others? That’s fine, but you may want to think about some of the areas that have been getting less attention over the next chunk of time. You may even find that some areas are feeling stale, which may be because you’ve been focusing on them too much. In which case leave them for a while and come back fresh.
  • For reference, go back to the list of things you have recorded. Copy each accomplishment out under the relevant heading. This can be a really mindful activity. On the one hand it will reinforce just how far you have come towards your goals. But it will also help you reflect — are there other things you could be doing? Could you tweak these actions to make them even more effective? Could you tweak some of them so they actually help you achieve two things at once?

I would love to hear whether any of these works for you over the year, and how you approach goal setting. I hope you succeed whatever your goals are in 2022.

A version of this appeared in my last newsletter. If you would like to get this kind of content early on a very occasional basis, please do subscribe here.

If you are interested in setting better goals, you might enjoy

Our Dreams Make Different Shapes, my book about creativity




CEO & founder of Rogue Interrobang, University of Oxford spinout using creativity to solve wicked problems. 2016, 17 & 19 Creative Thinking World Champion.

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Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway

CEO & founder of Rogue Interrobang, University of Oxford spinout using creativity to solve wicked problems. 2016, 17 & 19 Creative Thinking World Champion.

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