This article shares practical insights about setting goals in ways that enrich your life. It is especially relevant for those who:
- face difficult times ahead and worry setting goals may just be demotivating,
- who think setting goals creates pressure that is counter-productive,
- individuals who are not sure what goals to set.
The insights below will also benefit regular goal-setters.
Setting goals can be hard
I’ve recently met up with my students and recent alumni of our Grid Training for Successful Ph.D. course. They were my first group of students and I wanted to check in with them. We decided to concentrate on goal setting Grid-style. Setting goals across our personal life, how we self-care, our work and our career is both relevant and super useful, especially in these unprecedented times.
First, it was clear that the low morale of Covid and winter made goal-setting hard. With so much out of our control, another lock-down and uncertainty, goal-setting seemed a tad pointless. Most of the class was happy to just take things day-by-day. And that’s what makes things risky. What if one day is a write-off? And then another? Having clear goals anchors us in success because it helps us focus on something we want to achieve and attend to it.
During uncertainty, setting 12-week goals is best
During uncertainty and volatility setting goals is not only healthy and productive, it is essential. Imagine, I may not get anything done towards work, but if I have a fitness goal, then I am more likely to exercise. Working out can lift the mood. I face the next day with more energy and self-belief feeling good I did something towards a fitness goal. What seemed hard to tackle yesterday, becomes doable.
Rather than thinking in terms of year-long goals, uncertain times call for goals we can achieve over a shorter time-frame. I recommend setting goals in 12-week spurts. Consider what is feasible to achieve or create in the next 3 months and keep things balanced across multiple fronts. Here’s one way to do this.
1. Focus on safety
Our nervous system pays attention to the surroundings and itself. This is core to human empowerment and helps us meet our key needs. Think of a little baby and how it wants to be safe, dry, warm, and calm. If it is unhappy, it cries. The need for safety is so deeply woven into our sense of balance and wellbeing, we seek it in many ways. Here are just a few.
- Feeling included.
- Being seen and/or affirmed.
- Feeling connected to others.
- Being able to pay our way and afford the basics, and then more than the basics.
- Having a job or a career.
- Creating a vision of a future we can look forward to.
- Knowing we’re doing a good job.
- Feeling needed.
When I work with clients, safety is where I often start. Lack of safety creates problems in how we think, the way we make decisions, and what we prioritize. When it comes to goal-setting meeting safety needs comes first.
2. Focus on satisfaction
Much of what the pandemic took away from everyone are simple pleasures. Things like the freedom to go out to our favorite restaurants and cafes, being able to travel, see our friends and loved ones, being able to go on dates or try out new experiences. Even going shopping when shops are closed makes us miss them! The loss brings us down.
Goal setting is an excellent way to take back control. Begin to think creatively about pleasure and satisfaction, joy and fun! Without it, we’re all a tad less motivated, bored, and lackluster. Consider what sort of goals you can set for the next 12 weeks that will give you more joy, fun or pleasure. Do more to return that sweet feeling of satisfaction.
Goal setting ideas from my life
- Having food that helps me feel good and connects me with sweet memories. Last weekend we ordered some whitebait and fried calamari and cod croquettes along with some beers. For my family, this meal connects with visits to Portugal which we dearly miss.
- Re-creating cocktails with a theme. We learned to make home-made margaritas and organized a Zoom happy hour with friends. Someone plays a record in the background and while we’re not exactly in some swanky bar or venue, we can easily all meet together and catch up. This was actually hard to achieve in London in person.
- Making workouts and fitness less about targets and more about silly fun has made me take up my winter funny hat and silly T-shirts. These make people smile when I’m out.
- Exercising creativity by coming up with new recipes, creating games and stories.
- Indulging in cozy movie nights, reading books we always wanted to read. We may not have the crackly fire of a cabin but we can still have a cozy blanket, tea mugs, few candles, and good times.
- Sending pleasant little cards, letters and gifts to other people. It’s always nice to create small surprises for others.
Goal setting – Your turn!
Consider how you can add some joy and pleasantness to:
- the people in your life?
- how you feel on a daily basis?
- how you work?
- what sort of work you choose to do.
I have seen many people reconsider their career in the last year and switch to something that warms their heart not just their wallet.
3. Focus on connection
What makes us sad is feeling disconnected. Think about how vulnerable one can feel having few friends or feeling no one cares. One clear message in lock-down is that connection matters a lot for our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. It calms our nervous system. From the office banter so dearly missed by people working from home, to outings with friends, dance clubs, get-togethers over meals, drinks and shop-talk, to business travel. We work and live in groups and tribes.
Goal-setting to address feeling connected
Does your level of connection feel enough? Or, are you feeling lonely, isolated, less relevant? Goal-setting can address this head-on. Here are a few ideas:
- joining a class online
- making time to reconnect with friends and work colleagues as a daily goal
- deepening intimacy with a loved-one
- getting to know your clients/customers or family members better
- creating new adventures and projects with like-minded people
- making time for personal development to get to know yourself.
Life is far richer when we’re feeling less alone. Whether you choose to connect with yourself or other humans, or the little people in your life, this is the time to dive deeper into who you are. Share your thoughts, feelings, yearnings and needs with people around you. Come out from your shell and re-connect. Pick a cause you care about and volunteer some time towards it. What are you waiting for?
Set goals to free yourself
Many people today feel lost. They wonder about what they should do with their life. The whole thing reminds me of this powerful and deeply evocative question posed by an American poet, Mary Oliver.
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”Mary Oliver, American poet and the Pulitzer Prize Winner.
I help my clients sit with this question and help ensure their lives bring meaning, engage their minds, hearts, fuel their bodies and allow their spirits to soar.
How we choose to live also makes me think of this poem by James Fenton. Are you leaving your life on a skip?
Questions to help your goal setting
Before you leave this blog. Take a piece of paper and write an answer to these questions?
- What truly moves you?
- What is your wildest dream?
- What would you like to see happen in the world?
- Would make you wake up with a big smile?
- What do you want to be? Have? Do?
- What do you want your next 3 months to be about?
Setting goals that help you feel safer, happier, and more integrated
Today is gone.
Tomorrow is uncertain.
The day after could be awesome or more of the same blur.
It’s really up to you!
Dare to be the swan of your life!
If you’re good, all else will turn out fine too.
How we can help?
- Check out our goal-setting event and put your thinking cap on your behalf.
- Try out 14-Day Habit Builder which I continue to use myself to make positive changes in my life.
- Get in touch with me directly to explore a bespoke life overhaul.
We all deserve safety, joy and connection.