A few years ago, I wrote a blog entitled Why I don’t Make New Year Resolutions. It was surprisingly popular and seemed to resonate with many. I realised that there were many people who like me, had discovered that New year resolutions don’t work as well as we hope they will and can instead leave us disappointed and feeling like failures. If you never read that blog, you can still read it here – it makes for good reading even if I say so myself. In that article I offered up an alternative to making New Year resolutions – setting goals.
Setting goals is still a powerful way of starting a new year or season, but it seems that due to the incredibly challenging last 18 to 20 months we have had, goal-setting does not appear to be the favoured alternative to resolutions that it once was. Many people are loathe to verbalize let alone put any concrete goals on paper. Why is that? What has changed?
One of the biggest things we are having to deal with as a people is the certainty of uncertainty. With holidays cancelled at the last minute, plans to socialise ditched when the people involved either become unwell or need to isolate, or venues that have been booked suddenly become unavailable for any number of reasons and jobs that were once secure are at risk, no wonder many of us prefer not to plan. The truth is, we are so afraid of being disappointed that we chose to make last minute plans rather than risk preparing in advance for events that have to be cancelled.
Some of us are so tired of having our hopes dashed that it is easier and less painful not to hope at all. We wake up each day and go through life like robots programmed to do a job, glad when we make it through the day unscathed; and wake up the next day to do the same – rinse and repeat. Setting goals takes a degree of effort, often preceded by some reflection on how well (or not) we have done in the past, before we can begin to dream of what we would like to achieve in the future. Reflection can mean recalling to mind events and occurrences we would rather forget. Dreaming only happens when there is hope of a better future, not when we are so wearied by the present that tomorrow seems like a long way away.
None of us thought this pandemic would last so long, or have such an impact on our lives. No-one has escaped the impact however small. No-one. Whether it is the loss of loved ones or loss of freedom, or income, or health – we have all felt the pinch of these last 2 years. And for all we know, it may be a bit longer before we can say a final goodbye to Covid 19. So, what’s the answer? Do we just drift through life because of the uncertainties it poses? Allow the currents to carry us where they will even if that’s not where we would like to go?
I think not. I believe goal-setting is still one of the most powerful ways of taking charge of our future. What I have discovered is that in seasons like the one we find ourselves in – the most effective way of utilising the benefits of goal-setting is to have shorter term goals. So instead of setting goals for a 1-year period, I focus on the next 3 months. I now have my goals in 3 monthly blocks. I may not be able to plan for 12 months but I can plan for 3. I make sure I put some fun things down as well as ‘work’ stuff. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that there are more important things in life than work. Relationships, our physical and mental well-being and contributing to the well-being of others are just a few of the things that matter.
Secondly, flexibility has to be an integral part of my plans. If I can’t do this, then perhaps I can do that. Just like there are many ways to get travel to any destination, there are several ways of achieving any goal. Don’t be so rigid that you get stopped in your tracks just because things didn’t happen like you expected them to. Become creative in the way you find alternative ways of doing things. Your brain loves it when you challenge it to find new ways of doing things. In fact, new neural pathways are formed every time you do something you’ve never done before or learn a new skill. Keep that brain working because that’s what it was created to do.
Finally, I have learned to celebrate even when I achieve what I would previously have considered small or insignificant. Instead of constantly focussing on what you haven’t achieved, spend more time being thankful for what you have managed to do. Let that be encouragement to keep going forward, one step at a time. It may take longer than I imagined to get to my destination, but get there I will. And in the meantime, I intend to make the most of the journey, however long it proves to be.
If you would like help in crafting a vision for yourself this year, please join my event – Creating a Compelling Vision and Strategy for Growth in 2022. Click here for more information and to book your place.