“Impeccably well-written, thoroughly researched… this book made me want to stand up and applaud”
— Sarah Peck, founder of Startup Parent

A Radically Different Approach to Setting Goals

What Works: A Comprehensive Framework to Change the Way We Approach Goal-Setting is not really a book about goal-setting. It’s not a book about achieving anything. It’s a systematic deconstruction of the stories that keep us hustling, striving, and always looking for more. It’s also a guide for reconstructing an approach to personal growth, planning, and productivity once we’ve shed those stories.

I feel confident that this book is unlike any other book on goal-setting you’ve ever read. It leverages 14 years of working with small business owners, almost 400 interviews, my personal story, and the work of a wide range of philosophers, sociologists, and psychologists. 

    "Nuanced, rigorous exploration."

    “What Works is a thought-provoking antidote to the overhyped productivity narratives keeping us stuck in shame and validation spirals. This book, and Tara’s oeuvre more broadly, serves as a brilliant guide for emphasizing presence and process over rigid metrics and external markers of success. A rich, hearty meal for the mind, I was only sad to put this book down when it ended.”

    — Jenny Blake, podcaster and author of Free TimePivot, and Life After College

    "I've broken up with goal-setting as usual."

    “Thanks to What Works, I’ve broken up with goal setting as usual. Tara has laid out a liberated way to identify what matters to me and move towards it without striving, suffering, or burning out.”

    — Annie Schuessler, host of Rebel Therapist

    "Made me want to stand up and applaud"

    Tara McMullin is a straight-up research and writing genius. This book is impeccably well-written, thoroughly researched, and she brings together the context behind why our modern framework of setting goals and being successful is not going to work for most people. I’m a huge nerd, a huge fan of books, a skeptic of hustle culture, a lover of doing way too much, and an exhausted parent of two kids and this book made me want to stand up and applaud from my living room.”

    — Sarah Peck, founder of Startup Parent

    "This is a top 10 productivity book in my mind."

    “Her book is amazing. You need to grab it. And I really do think this is a different enough approach on goal setting that it was refreshing. It felt easy to understand. It definitely feels like a holistic approach to goal setting, which I think is different than I’ve ever heard before.”

    — Erik Fisher, host of Beyond the To-Do List

    Order What Works on Amazon

    Read an Excerpt from What Works

    Why does satisfaction seem so fleeting? And how might our goals and achievement-oriented work culture produce dissatisfaction? Read this excerpt from Chapter 4: The Satisfaction of Practice in an Achievement-Oriented Word.

    Table of Contents


    1. The Validation Spiral

    2. Why are we so obsessed with goals?

    3. Who am I without the doing?

    4. The Satisfaction of Practice in an Achievement-Oriented World

    5. Calculating Capacity

    6. Growth without Striving

    7. Choosing Your Destination

    8. Choosing Your Direction

    9. Buying In

    10. Planning Projects

    11. Follow-Through, Self-Sabotage, Margin


    Writer. Podcaster. Producer.

    Tara McMullin

    Tara McMullin is a writer, podcaster, and producer. For over 13 years, she’s studied small business owners—how they live, how they work, what influences them, and what they hope for the future. She’s the host of What Works, a podcast about navigating the 21st-century economy with your humanity intact. Tara is also co-founder of YellowHouse.Media, a boutique podcast production company. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, The Startup, The Muse, and The Huffington Post.

    She lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter, and two lovable cats that showed up in the backyard one day. Her heart is always in the mountains of Montana.

    Order What Works on Amazon