7 big things I learned about goal setting A.K.A. tough love for your 2022 resolutions

By Geana Sieburger |

We talk a lot about rituals and the important role they play in helping us reach a shared goal–to slow down in the face of an ever speeding up society. We also encourage habit changes, such as using our reusable coffee filters rather than single-use paper filters. It occurred to me recently that establishing rituals and changing habits are a lot like setting goals, which is something I learned quite a bit about after years of running GDS. In this post I’ll share my most memorable goal setting learnings in the event that they might help you with your new year’s resolutions and beyond.

But first things first. You’ll need to check the self-judgement at the door (whatever door, walk into a room if you have to). This is your only job right now. Much of what I learned about goal setting was rooted in acceptance, letting go, and compassion. So if you hear thoughts of self-judgement up in that noggin, please kindly ask judgy-pants to wait outside.

Let’s get to it!


1. Goals aren’t wishes

The first thing I had to learn about goal setting is that goals aren’t wishes. Having clear achievable goals takes intentionality and achieving goals takes planning, effort, and commitment.

2. It’s OK that I don’t yet have these skills

I also had to accept that it wasn’t my fault, or anyone’s fault, that I didn’t already know how to set and achieve goals and had to learn as an adult. This isn’t the stuff most of us are taught in school or anywhere. This level of acceptance allowed for some genuine curiosity, which opened me up to learning.

3. Don’t blame the tool, keep going

Different tools work for different people. I tried it all–notebooks, calendars, Trello, Notion, etc.–and I definitely blamed a few along the way. Keep trying different ones until you find the one that shows the most potential for you. But you don’t have the option to not like any. It isn’t the tool’s fault if you stop trying.

4. No self-loathy goals in disguise allowed

Choosing or creating the right goal is not always intuitive or the first thing that comes to mind. It’s easy to think that all goals are good and where we currently are is bad. If your goal comes from a place of self loathing (or doing what you think someone wants from you), that goal might cause more harm than good. The trouble is that sometimes these self-loathy goals hide behind facades. Goals should come from wanting to see progress, not from feeling insufficient.

5. Reinforcement & reduce friction

Reducing friction is your friend. In many cases, resolutions/goals are about habit changes and changing a habit is hard. One of the ways I’ve been able to support change in my life is by removing temptation and by making it as easy as I can ahead of time, before I am in the moment of making a decision. 

Another trick I keep handy for those make-or-break moments (should I exercise today? I’ll just do it tomorrow) is reinforcement. Reinforcements are preplanned messages I deliver to myself at those critical moments (remember how proud and glowy you feel after you climb? And you love it!). The most helpful reinforcements for me have been those that remind me of why I’m doing this in the first place–they typically tug at some big emotion too.

6. You can’t have too much compassion   

You won’t get as far as quickly if you’re not your friend. It pains me to write this because I’m reminded of how hard I’ve been on myself and can still be at times. I tried the bullying method for years and saw very little progress. It wasn’t until I started referring to myself as baby girl that I saw the most growth–you can borrow that if you think it might work for you!

7. Celebrate your wins

I’m notoriously bad at this so this is one I’m in the process of learning. Giving yourself a treat for good behavior encourages good behavior–a human is an animal after all. So tell a friend, your partner, your co-worker. Order yourself a very special coffee. Ask someone who loves you to cook you your favorite dish. Make a pizza from scratch. Whatever it is, make sure everyone, including you, knows what the occasion is.

Here are some questions that might help you process, plan, and achieve your goals/resolutions/rituals:

  • What is your goal? Be as specific as you can possibly be. When will you know you really achieved it?
  • Why do you want it? Be ultra honest and vulnerable with yourself. No self-loathy goals.
  • How will you reduce friction? What’s a possible reinforcement statement?
  • What tool will you use for reminders and keeping track of your progress?
  • How will you celebrate your big wins? Connect the celebration back to your win.

I hope these learnings will help you make 2022 rich with meaningful rituals and that you can finally turn that oh-so-dreamed-of habit into a lasting part of your everyday life.

Now go make them happen!


P.S. Fellow small business owners and freelancers, if you're looking for additional inspiration and direction, Ariana Wolf of Flight Design is co-facilitating a visioning workshop in Oakland on January 16, 2022. The best goals come from strong visioning exercises. If you're not able to attend, Allison Ball offers some great tips on goal setting on her podcast Food Biz Wiz. As the name implies, the podcast is for food business founders, but the goal setting, 5 episode mini-series is worth a listen by any small business owner.