The last year has taught us all so many things. Company is important (even for introverts), working in pyjamas isn’t quite as great as we all hoped, and we all need structure in our lives.
However much we always complained about our daily tasks, they helped to keep us moving and made it clear that progress was being made. During lockdown, the days have blurred together, and it’s really hard to get anything done when you feel so disillusioned and anxious.
I’m not saying that you need a return to the grind of commuting, or that lumping more tasks into your schedule will automatically bring you peace of mind — but you do need goals. If some part of every passing day contributes to something larger and grander, you won’t just feel like you’re treading water until things go back to normal. You’ll be moving forwards.
But how are you supposed to set and achieve worthwhile goals in this challenging time? It’s tricky, yes, but far from impossible. Here are five positive steps you need to take:
Take stock of your situation
How are you? It’s a question you’re probably asked somewhat often, but do you usually answer it with total honesty (even when you’re asking it of yourself)?
Probably not: it’s generally easier to say you’re fine and avoid addressing things that you’d rather not think about. But you should think about them now — what’s right in your life? More importantly, what’s wrong in it?
Once you’ve identified the ways in which your life isn’t what you want it to be, you’ll have the raw ingredients needed to start setting some goals. The first step is always identifying the problems, of course. You can’t come up with solutions otherwise. Maybe you’re feeling acutely lonely, in which case you could set a goal of joining a club of some sort.
Accept what you can’t control
There’s only so much we can change about our lives, yet we spend so much time worrying about things we can’t change. Due to this, we can fall into the trap of setting goals that we can’t fully deliver: goals that rely on the perfect circumstances arriving. When you set this type of goal and don’t reach it (as is very likely), it can make you feel like you failed (when you didn’t really).
So accept these things. Don’t set a target of becoming a Hollywood megastar when the world is full of talented actors just waiting to be noticed. Instead, set a target of becoming a better actor. That’s something that you alone can deliver — and if you manage it, you’ll know that you deserve all the credit for getting results.
Think about how far you’ve come
Before you think about where you’re going, you need to appreciate how far you’ve come, because it reminds you of what you can achieve.
When you’ve done something once, you know that you can do it again. This is why the cycle of reaching goals and setting new ones can be so powerful. Every time you tackle a new goal, it’s with more successes behind you.
You should also think back to all the times you were convinced some things wouldn’t change and you’d always be stuck in particular situations, because there’s a good chance that many of those things did change and you weren’t ultimately stuck. If you’re inclined to be negative about your prospects now, remind yourself that the future is full of possibilities.
Form a positive feedback loop
When you’re trying to make a major change, there are two reasons why you should start small and work up. The first is that it’s sometimes necessary to avoid injury or account for a learning curve. Someone who’s never jogged before shouldn’t go directly into running marathons. The other reason, though, is that it allows you to form a positive feedback loop.
Any meaningful goal you pursue will surely involve a lot of hard work, and you only have so much willpower to deal with (though you can work on that) If you try to do too much too quickly, you’ll have a difficult time feeling overly enthusiastic due to your lack of progress — but if you start with a really small goal and nail it, it’ll make you feel good about yourself, and the next goal will seem easier.
Stay focused on the process
The positive feedback loop is all about the process of pursuing your goals. It isn’t about any specific goal. There will always be goals that you ultimately don’t achieve for whatever reasons, and you can’t let that bring you down. What matters is that you set sensible goals, put in the effort to move towards them, and continue to do your best.
In the end, it’s that dedication to embracing new challenges that’ll fuel the biggest changes in your life.
Once you’re in the groove of refusing to be intimidated by even the toughest goals, you’ll be able to proceed without fear of failure or embarrassment. In fact, developing that ability should be your ultimate goal for 2021!