If You Don’t Have Goals for 2021, You’re Playing a Risky Game

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By: Karen Nimmo

Photo by Julia Volk from Pexels

If 2020 messed with you, you need to set goals.

“At first glance, it may appear too hard. Look again. Always look again.” Maryanne Rodmacher

Reluctant to set goals this year?

I hear you. If pandemic-smashed 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the best laid plans can go belly up.

So it’s tempting to toss 2021 resolutions and goals aside. To say: why bother? I’ll just go with the flow. Stay Open. Flexible. Be ready to pivot.

Fair point. Being adaptable is the hallmark of resilience. It’s especially important in difficult times — it got a lot of us through 2020.

But there’s a difference between “going with the flow” and handing your personal power to fate.

Life will always deliver events and circumstances beyond our control. But there are always things we can take charge of — and we need to keep hold of those.

How Goal-Setting Can Help (Or Why It’s Vital This Year)

The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.”– Benjamin E. Mays

When people are struggling mentally, it’s often because they feel lost — they don’t know where they’re heading. And that’s a risky game because it can significantly impact their mood and anxiety levels.

The global angst of 2020 has left a lot of people feeling rudderless, so it’s more important than ever to do what we can to get back on track, to do things that fuel hope.

One of the best ways to reset yourself is to lay down some goals. These don’t need to be Set-the-World-on-Fire goals (going too big may put you off ); just things that give you a sense of moving forward.

Here’s how to hit the reset button.

1. Separate your life into red and green.

Write down the various aspects of your life — then divide them in half. Most things will fit into these two camps.

Red stands for all the things you can’t control (e.g. politics, the economy, who’s running your country, being in lockdown, the weather, other people’s vitriol on twitter, being turned down for a job).

Green stands for all the things you can (e.g. My health/nutrition/fitness. My unhealthy habits. Seeking/applying for a job. Finding a better job. Reducing debt. Tidying up my house. Visiting my mother. Starting a craft project. Writing/drawing regularly.)

2. Zero in on your green list.

Put the red list aside. Obviously, those are the things out of your control. Dwelling on them will only make you miserable.

Choose something from the green list that would make a difference to your life (and happiness levels) if you achieved it. That’s your goal. Maybe it’s to improve your fitness. Lose weight. Have a better relationship with your parents. Spend more time on your favourite hobby or project. Spend less time with that super-negative-friend. Save money or reduce debt. Quit drinking. Get my home organised.

Warning: start with just one thing or you’ll be overwhelmed.

3. Wrap a routine around your goal.

Daily or regular routines are hugely helpful for a person’s mental health, especially in uncertain times. Knowing what you do every day takes away the angst of decision making and it makes you feel grounded, more anchored.

Wrap a routine around your chosen goal, preferably daily — but do what you can. Even if it’s as simple as making your bed every morning, doing the dishes every night, spending half an hour for reading or a creative project, catching up with your parents every Monday night, going to the gym three times a week. The key is to establish a regular routine — and stick to it.

4. Get boringly predictable.

Be boring with your routines. Don’t skip or break them or give them up. You’ll come to rely on them; they’ll be comforting. When you have a bad day, or “fall off the wagon”, you’ll have a sound base to return to. Be consistent and everyone will know that you’re serious — including you.

5. Dream small. Big can wait till later.

Sure, it’s great to dream big. And aligning goals with your values, or what matters most to you, helps to make them stick. But if you’ve been struggling, don’t be too heavy about making everything match. Or seeing the big picture. Just set a goal that takes you in a helpful or healthy direction. Start small. Show up every day. And you’ll be on your way.