Creative Goal-Setting Techniques

Having goals is a part of being human. It helps us feel like we have a purpose and creates structure in our lives. The year’s end is a popular time to consider what we want to accomplish in the following year.  The good news is that if they didn’t get set at year’s end, they can be set ANY time of year!  Actually, the best time to develop a list of goals is when we are convinced, we can reach them.

While I don’t limit myself to establishing goals only once a year, I’ve found the traditional process of creating them to be rather uninspiring. This year I set off to find some alternatives and creative goal-setting techniques to brainstorm and determine my focus.

Four alternative options are:

  1. One Word
  2. Aim for a feeling
  3. One question
  4. Defeat self doubt


  1. Simple is better – One Word

Years ago, I discovered the “Sorta Awesome” podcast when I searched for “The Top 10 Positive Podcasts”.  It’s mostly directed toward women’s interests, but it has an amazing array of shows related to the way we think and function as humans.

Episode 41 from January 2016 is still relatable and offers advice for setting goals in a way I had never heard. Meg Tietz, the host, selected a single “goal” word for her year. How she selected the word was interesting. Previous year selections included: Open, Reading and Surrender. She shared how her focus on the word in all its connotations became a guidepost for her decisions throughout the year. It established a kind of energy for her. The conversation about goals starts 11 minutes into the podcast.

  1. Chase the feeling of the goal not a specific goal

The popular book The Desire Map Experience by Danielle LaPorte introduces another way of inspiring ourselves when goal setting. Note: the book is also available on audio.

Her experience with writing down goals such as “paying off credit card,” “getting a new dining room table” and “going to Hawaii” was so uninspiring one year she looked for alternatives.  She found if she considered the reasons she wanted these things, if she began thinking about the feelings she wanted to achieve, such as freedom or confidence, she was energized because she was chasing a core desire.  She was no longer chasing the goal, she was chasing the feeling that achieving the goal would give her.

  1. Eliminate overwhelm by asking questions to create task lists

Natasha Marchewka, a successful voice over artist and friend, is the queen of To Do Lists.

She appeared on Voice Over Body Shop TV on 12/30/2019 explaining her process for creating goals and To Do lists.  The discussion about her process begins about 9 minutes into the show.

Asking herself “How am I going to do that?” repeatedly is the way she creates the list of tasks needed to reach her goals.  I often get stuck somewhere along the way saying: “I don’t know what the steps would be after 2 or 3.” That’s okay. As I proceed, new things and resources will be revealed that will help me complete my list.

Natasha also believes writing goals down and looking at them frequently creates success. She offers Master VO To Do List courses, but I think they would work for any self-employed person. They include the creation of Goal and Priorities for the day, week, month and year. I’ve taken her course and found it to be very helpful. You can learn more about these here.

  1. Deal with and conquer doubt

The “Father of all Goal Setting” in my opinion, is Michael Hyatt, a former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  He is a best-selling author and speaker to high achievers. He helps clients work through their emotional roadblocks and limiting beliefs. Our doubt about our ability to reach a goal is “toxic” according to Michael. His popular book “The Best Year Ever” is another wonderful source of empowerment to goal setting.  I was inspired listening to him narrate the audio book.

There are so many nuggets of inspiring information, but the one I related to right away was doing an “After Action Review” or autopsy everything that didn’t go as planned with your old goals prior to setting new goals. Closing the feelings of failure from efforts attempted but not reached is critical to increasing confidence and figuring out how to reach them if you choose to again.

To review “failures” and purge any doubt in our abilities to reach future goals, he suggests writing the answers to the following questions in a journal:

  • What did you want to happen with that goal?
  • What actually happened?
  • Why did it happen?
  • What has to change in the future to reach that goal?

Additionally, it’s important to ask yourself what went right in the last year.  We are programmed to remember and hold onto the negative, but there are many positive things that occur we can lose sight of.

Michael has an array of blogs and podcasts about goal setting.  He shares a detailed list of steps to reach goals in this podcast.   He was interviewed by Shawn Stevenson of The Model Health Show (fitness and nutrition) video podcast about his goal setting process which includes a lot of references to research and studies you may find interesting.  He starts about 5 minutes into the video.

Lastly, while setting goals for the year may be challenging, there are benefits to setting goals further out.  Reading the article Why You Should be Planning for 2021 not 2020 inspired me.

I hope you find these resources to be helpful. If you know or use other ways of setting goals, please let me know in the comments below. I wish you the best of times in your journey and hope these creative ways of thinking about goal setting set you on a course for success!