Are your 2024 goals lagging? Time to try a Personal Strategy Map

News | April 3, 2024
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By Chris Taylor

NEW YORK (Reuters) – It is April and the first quarter of 2024 is behind us, so there is a good chance your well-intentioned resolutions for life and money are failing.

Which means it is a great time to try a Personal Strategy Map.

The brainchild of Columbia Business School professor Sheena Iyengar, the “PSM” is something she draws up every year on her birthday.

“A Personal Strategy Map can help you make the big choices in life,” says Iyengar, author of the book “Think Bigger.”

“You want to be strategic about choice, because it is the only thing you have that enables you to create the person you want to be in future,” she says.

Why we should pay particular attention to this method: Iyengar, who is blind, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the psychology and power of choice.

The idea that when people have way too many options – a huge number of mutual funds in their 401(k) retirement plans, for example – they tend to get paralyzed and end up choosing poorly or doing nothing? That derives from her research.

Instead, a smaller number of curated choices is what can get people focused and motivated to take action – and that is where the Personal Strategy Map can come into play.


First, do a thorough review of the previous year – an evaluation of what worked and what did not. Think of it as a performance review.

Next, turn off your devices and get out a piece of paper or a whiteboard.

“The act of writing it down helps you to be focused,” Iyengar says.

Then jot down everything that you would like to see happen in the next year, whether related to your finances, relationships, work achievements or personal development. This might produce a list of 15 to 20 items.

“I have a huge amount of things that I wish I could do in the next year,” Iyengar says. “Like learn how to swim better, or do Pilates, or learn how to draw, or spend more time with my mother. I can come up with a big list of things that I care about.”

That is why the next step is so important: Cut the list down. You cannot make progress on every possible front, since there is a limited amount of time in the day.

Narrow your goals down to approximately five to seven “buckets” to focus your energy and make real progress.

To do so, create three different columns. In the left-hand column, write down the subject you are passionate about. In the right-hand column, write down what success in that area looks like.

Then comes the most crucial column, the middle one: The pathway to get there. Fill in the small, actionable steps or connections that will get you where you need to go.

“I only pick a goal if I am able to fill in that middle column,” Iyengar says.

Once your Personal Strategy Map is concrete, revisit it occasionally throughout the year to monitor your progress.

Here are a few more thoughts for creating your own map:


Do not throw something together at the last minute. Iyengar goes through what she calls a “month of reflection.”

“I keep reviewing. I keep making assessments. I keep changing my mind,” she says. “I don’t actually sit down to write those final goals until the last couple of days.”


A Personal Strategy Map is a snapshot. Over time, goals may change – and that is okay. If you cannot tick off everything on that list, that is not a personal judgment on you.

“You might end up doing some things that you weren’t expecting, or other things might turn out to be not as important as you thought,” Iyengar says. “By and large, I might achieve 60%-70% of what I write down.”


Do not get so fixated on a particular goal that you are setting yourself up for failure.

“I don’t want people to get too attached to goals, which are such moving targets,” Iyengar says. “If you understand your purpose, then you will have more flexibility in terms of options.”

In her view, the Personal Strategy Map is superior to New Year’s resolutions, which famously fall apart quickly.

“My problem with New Year’s resolutions is that people come up with nonsensical goals, and they don’t even have a pathway to get there, or they come up with so many that they burn out,” she says.

(Editing by Lauren Young and Paul Simao)