If 2020 taught us anything, it taught us to be flexible and to adjust when things don’t go as planned.
Many of us may wonder what the point of setting goals at all during a time of such upending is. Is it worth planning anything, since it may change due to coronavirus? I, too, have experienced bouts of feeling paralyzed during this pandemic. Should I plan ahead for my future even though things are more uncertain than ever, or should I just stay in this indefinite holding pattern and live day to day? These are all valid feelings.
However, it’s important to still make plans for our lives and futures because someday things will be more normal than they are now and because routines make us feel grounded.
So what can we do as we approach the new year to spur us forward and out of the doldrums we’ve been in for the last 10 months and counting?
We can make a plan.
Studies show that most people abandon their New Year’s resolutions by the end of March, and because of the uncertainty of our current lives, resolutions may be even harder to keep. There are some ways to shore up our resolve and give us a better chance at being successful.
1. Understand your why
Why are you setting a particular goal? Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want a new job? Go beyond the surface of your answer. Instead of just saying, “I want to lose 20 pounds,” list the why of your desire to lose the weight. Write down “I want to lose 20 pounds because I want to lower my blood pressure and be able to have my medication dialed back by my physician.” You are more likely to keep your resolution when you frame it this way. You must understand the true reason for a goal so that when things get challenging, you know why you are doing a particular thing. It will help keep you going.
2. Don’t get caught up in achieving a goal by a specific date
Inevitably life will happen, and we need to allow room for adjustments. The most important thing is to do something consistently to work toward a particular goal. Reframe your thinking. Don’t just focus on the end date; focus on the action. For example, I’m training to run the Milwaukee Marathon half marathon in April. I have a goal to run a nine-minute mile. I’m currently running a 10:23 mile. With a little over a hundred days left, I’m nervous about achieving my goal by race day. However, I know that logging 20 to 30 miles a week and staying consistent will get me much closer than if I did not train at all. Be flexible and allow yourself some grace.
3. Write it down and place goals where you can see them
Whether your method is more rudimentary, such as notebook paper, or more creative, like a vision board, place your goals where you can see them daily. I place my vision board above my mirror where I have to at least glance at it once throughout the day. Along with writing your goals down, break up your goals to get them down to size. Write down an estimated date for what you would like to accomplish, then break it down by the things you need to do to reach it. Say your goal is to apply for an upper-level position at your current employer, but there is a class or training you need to take before doing so. Your goal is to be able to apply in three months. In that three-month period, you may write your goals down like this:
- Month 1, April: Register for manager training class by April 10. Class is six weeks and begins first week of May.
- April, week 3: Secure all training materials needed for class. Set up home study space.
- Month 2, May: Start classes May 6.
- Attend virtual study group every Thursday at 6 p.m.
- Month 3, June: Study for final exam.
- Final exam June 17
- Retool résumé by June 25 to reflect new training
- Apply for new position June 30
Breaking larger goals down into digestible bits of information helps us to be more successful and we will feel less overwhelmed.
4. Find a trusted accountability partner
Pick someone you know will hold you to your resolutions. Send them a copy of your goals with check-in dates. Accountability partners may have to correct you at times. Don’t take it personally! Remember, when you slack, these accountability partners help you get back on track.
5. Allow room for adjustments
Now is not the time to be hard on yourself. We are all dealing with a lot, and some days, simply getting out of bed will be an accomplishment. Understand that there may be some slowdowns in reaching goals, but that doesn’t mean we won’t achieve them.
In the words of Indira Gandhi, "Have a bias towards action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away."
As 2021 nears, go ahead and set your resolutions while allowing flexibility as things change going forward. May the new year be kinder to us all.
About this column
I will share stories of those who have taken a nontraditional approach to employment or an unusual career path. I will also list employment information such as job fairs, resource fairs and job training events. I encourage organizations to email me at email@example.com with career information