Happy New Year! Let’s make a Ten-Years’ Resolution

Institute For The Future
4 min readDec 16, 2022

By Jane McGonigal, Director of IFTF Urgent Optimists

At Urgent Optimists, we’re celebrating the holidays and we’re thinking longer than just the new year.

This is your invitation to make a Ten-Years’ Resolution.

What changes, hopes, and intentions could inspire you into 2023 and all the way through the year 2033?

Here are some creative prompts to get you started. Your ten-years’ resolution could be a word, a phrase, an intention, a mantra, a goal, or a commitment to spend time on a global challenge. What word or phrase would you choose to sum up your hopes for the next ten years?

  • What mantra would you like to keep for the next ten years?
  • What is an intention you would like to set for the next ten years?
  • What is a new habit you want to spend the next ten years practicing?
  • What is a skill you want to spend the next ten years developing?
  • What change in your life, your community or society would you like to spend the next ten years creating?

Why a ten-years’ resolution, instead of just planning for the year 2023? Ten years is a magic number for the mind.

Things that are small experiments today in ten years can become ubiquitous and world-changing. Newly invented technologies are often much more accessible and widely used a decade later. And social change that seems improbable or unimaginable — well, in ten years that can change too.

Ten years helps unstick our minds. Ten years helps us consider possibilities we would otherwise dismiss. Ten years even relaxes us a bit as we try to imagine preparing for dramatic disruptions or for a radical rethinking of what’s normal — because ten years gives us time to get ready.

When we think on a ten-year timeline, it’s not just that we are more likely to believe that dramatic change can happen in the world. We become more optimistic and hopeful about what we can change through our own efforts. This has to do with a psychological phenomenon known as time spaciousness. It’s the relaxing and empowering feeling that we have enough time to do what really matters — to consider our options, make a plan, and act more confidently to create the future we want.

It is almost impossible to create a sense of time spaciousness when we’re thinking in a matter of days or weeks. But when thinking ahead ten years . . . ah, it’s so much time! on a ten-year timeline, we don’t feel rushed. We have plenty of opportunity to develop new skills, collect resources, recruit allies, learn from our mistakes, bounce back from setbacks, and do whatever else we need to do to get the best possible outcome. This feeling of abundance makes us less risk-averse and therefore more creative. We have all the time we need to play with ideas, try new things, and experiment until we figure out what works.

Interestingly, brains respond to abundant space in the same way as they do to abundant time. Studies have found that we also think more creatively and set higher, “maximal,” goals for ourselves when we’re in rooms with higher ceilings or outside in a wide-open environment.

With maximal goals, we focus on the upper boundary: What is the highest and best possible outcome we can imagine? So I like to think of a ten-year timeline as a kind of cathedral or Grand Canyon for the mind. It lifts the ceiling on our imagination.

When we feel time-poor, on the other hand, it’s like being stuck in a tiny, depressing room with no windows. We shrink ourselves and imagine less. We adopt “minimal” goals, which means we try to do just enough to avoid a bad outcome. As one team of expert psychologists put it: “A maximal goal reflects the most that one could wish for, whereas a minimal goal reflects bare necessities or the least one could comfortably tolerate.”

Do you have a sense of whether you’re waking up each day focused on maximal or minimal goals? Whether you’re feeling time-rich or time- poor? Setting goals for yourself (or your family, or your community, or your organization) on too short a timeline usually creates the feeling of being time-rushed. So does being too busy, but that’s not something you can always control. So rather than drastically reduce what’s on your schedule, it’s much easier to control how far out in the future you’re imagining when you think about changes you’d like to achieve.

You may not be used to goal setting on a ten-year timeline. We usually think about making personal change year by year, most commonly by making resolutions at the start of the New Year. But a one-year resolution won’t help you think maximally, and you won’t feel a sense of time spaciousness if you’re trying to achieve a big goal in just one year. So next New Year’s Day, why not try a new tradition? Make a ten-years’ resolution. What could you (or your family, or your community, or your organization) accomplish if you had ten years to do it? What would the long-term impact of a new habit be if you practiced it for ten years? Let your mind play with some bigger possibilities. The future, and your next decade, is wide open.


Share a word, mantra, intention, goal, or commitment to inspire and motivate you for the next ten years.



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