Goal setting when everything is up in the air
This year, it’s time to recapture our dreams and take a new approach to goal setting.
On so many levels and for so many reasons, 2020 will be one of those years we’ll never forget. No surprise that the People’s Choice 2020 Word of the Year by Dictionary.com was “unprecedented.” For many of us, the goals we set for the new year at the end of 2019 were pretty much obliterated by March 2020. This year, it’s time to recapture our dreams and take a new approach to goal setting.
For a year spent in flux and mired in uncertainty, it was a time for many of us to reevaluate our goals and get back in touch with the values that drive them. There were more than a few lessons learned in 2020 that should help us approach 2021 with less naivety and much more promise. If anything can be taken away from 2020, I hope we have all learned more about resilience, adaptability and flexibility. My own personal takeaway is that when everything is up in the air, the stress causes the accomplishment of even simple things to take more time.
“Instead of giving up on your goals, reprioritize and get clear about what really matters.”
That said, I encourage you to return to your goals with renewed energy and commitment while also allowing for more realistic timelines for achieving them, based on all that has transpired and changed in your life. Instead of giving up on your goals, reprioritize and get clear about what really matters. Then approach them again, and this time, with more intent. Rely on what you have learned about your personal values to motivate you.
This year, replace your resolutions with specific actions and timelines for accomplishing them. No matter what your dreams are, change your thinking from “it’s not possible” or “it will take a miracle” to “I can do this if I know what it takes and I allow more time.” Long-term goals tend to look impossible when they are undefined and there are no identifiable steps to get there. You can break down the really big, long-term goals into more manageable objectives that will serve as your stepping-stones each year until you achieve the longer-term goal. Mapping out each and every single thing you need to do towards each objective will make it easier to see what has to be done. Make sure to include the time it takes to research every aspect and learn what the actual costs might be (time and money) for accomplishing your goals.
Once you know what it will really take to get from where you are to where you want to be, you can start to map out the steps to get there. Factor in the time for talking with people in a new industry, learning new skills, saving enough money to make a purchase or investment and addressing unforeseen obstacles that could set you back. Be realistic about what you are really ABLE to accomplish each day, week or month. With 2020 fresh in your mind, you now know that many things can interrupt a plan, so avoid overcommitting. By keeping things very simple and doable, e.g., planning 30 minutes per day to achieve one aspect of the objective set for that month and being committed to getting it done come hell or high water, you will still be able to move closer to your longer-term goal.
If you had thought you wanted to start a new career last year, you may have found that this year it is necessary. It may not be immediate and there may be several ways to approach a desired or needed transition. Your approach has to be different than what you may have done in the past. Assuming a fresh resume will be the key to success is dreaming. A resume is just one step or one component of the process. There is a lot to know (required skills, what it takes to be competitive and the companies most likely to hire you) before you can dive into the middle (creating a resume and applying). Even then, applying and being ill prepared for an interview will be a showstopper. Each of these steps requires time. Before you establish your plan, you must become acutely aware of how you are currently spending your time and know what can change. The reality of your daily schedule will be what dictates how much you can invest each day. Your motivation may be strong, but without the commitment to make a small step or small change every day, your perfect job will remain a dream. And a commitment requires a reality check — for you, your family and anyone else who requires your time and energy. You have 24 hours in a day. No more, no less. Overcommitting will set you up to fail.
If you have broken everything down to the smallest possible steps, then you can look forward and plan the time to knock a little bit out each day. Use a calendar to fill in already committed time, see what spaces of time are actually open, then plan the specific time to work on your goals. If you are not working, then you must build your own structure. If family commitments have changed, then be realistic about what you can devote to work. If you can’t devote 40 hours per week to your transition process, then you certainly can no longer expect to devote 40 hours to a new job. It may be that part-time work is the best that you can expect to commit to, in which case your goals may need to be adjusted.
When everything is up in the air, you’ve got to start with what you know and factor in contingencies. Build timelines that are realistic, and don’t overcommit. Keep in mind that the knowledge you gain along the way will continue to change your objectives or timelines. The structure is to help you to get started and give you something to rely on when things get whacky.
Changing your approach to goal setting won’t be easy, and you can expect to feel uncomfortable. The changes you adopt can make all the difference in your expectations and, more importantly, in the end result.