“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.” — Benjamin E. Mays 

2021 looks to be a year of great uncertainty and the current environment is characterised by significant challenges, including an uncertain future and pressured margins. This uncertainty makes it more difficult than usual to set clear goals, have objectives and make a plan that supports them.

When we find ourselves in a situation like the current one, we aim to do the best we can, apply ourselves accordingly to get the best out of ourselves, make the most out of it as the situation changes passes. 

Do not necessarily lay idle and assume or pretend that everything is going to be fine on its own. Consider focusing on solutions, not so much on the problems. Though if yo are going to examine the problems, be sure to relish them as much as you are able. Read this article for more on that topic: Learn to enjoy life’s problems. https://www.adam-eason.com/learn-to-enjoy-lifes-problems/

It is sometimes easy to assume the role of a victim during tough times rather than taking responsibility for yourself. To do that, you are likely to benefit if you start planning now and set your goals early. You can adapt them, develop them accordingly and give them due consideration as a result. 

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra

The importance of early planning cannot be understated. The earlier you understands this, the more prepared you are likely to be for the year 2021. Early planning can show you the way forward in this uncertain situation and gives you the confidence to move ahead. Even research reveals that working toward a goal is a major source of motivation, which in turn, improves the chances of success (Locke, 2004).

Early planning is important for the following reasons-

  • You will be more prepared to anticipate the hurdles your goals are likely to face. Therefore, you know what needs to be done to achieve your goals.
  • The earlier you start planning and add goals, the more time you will have for finalising and evaluating your priorities. 
  • Setting an early plan sounds hard and indicates pressure but it helps you stay oriented and focused on the bigger picture, and also gives you enough margin to manoeuvre your goals. Not having a plan sounds fun and also removes the pressure but it leaves you potentially exposed and unsure. 
  • Planning earlier than usual gives you a chance to consider contingencies during times of uncertainty such as those we are in currently. To be able to therefore adapt if and when things do not go as you had expected them to.
  • Finally and perhaps most importantly, having an early plan gives you perspectives of your current goals. It can guide you the right way, and it is always good to know that you’re on the right track.

 “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” ― George S. Patton.

So, never underestimate the power of early planning. There are things you can do that will help you become ready to rock 2021.

1. What Went Well So Far?

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” — Alan Lakein

In order to know where we are heading, it is important to know where we are coming from. This is no different with goal setting. Prior to defining where we would like to go, what we would like to achieve or become, it is helpful to reflect on the earlier months of this year.

Start by writing down a list of things that went well in the past year. It’s important to distinguish between ‘achievements’ and deeper ‘reflections’ here. Refrain from writing a bullet-point list of achievements. Go deeper to the root causes: what is it that led to the successes that you are proud of? What did you do well that reach a certain milestone, or to an improvement in a relationship, for example? The objective of this exercise is to identify the positive things that you are already doing well, to harness them in defining and achieving your goals for 2021. Utilise those strengths and resources in the new year ahead too. 

2. What Could Have Gone Better This Year?

“In life, the first thing you must do is decide what you really want. Weigh the costs and the results. Are the results worthy of the costs? Then make up your mind completely and go after your goal with all your might.” — Alfred A. Montapert

We are often are own worst critics when thinking about things we did not accomplish. We attribute our ‘failures’ to being lazy or demotivated, while neglecting to recognise the extenuating circumstances and emotions that contributed to this. We tend to forget the ‘why’ behind our perceived shortcomings: understanding this ‘why’ can empower us to be forgiving with ourselves, take action, and move beyond stagnation. For example: what if you tried and failed to jog every morning as part of a goal to lose weight but re-discovered that you hate running, leading you to stop? (There are other ways of keeping fit and healthy that may be far more to your liking by the way!)

Make a second list of the things that did not go well this year, and why not. This will help you to reflect on which things were within your control and which were not. Reflect on your emotions and the wider context in which these things were occurring; these are key in determining our motivation, energy and determination. Looking back with hindsight at the things that may not have gone well enables us to better forgive ourselves, with an appreciation for this context. An important part of goal setting is learning to continue to try even where we have previously faltered. It’ll help us work out deficits in our skills and knowledge and help us understand areas for improvement in 2021 as we chase our goals. 

3. What Are You Grateful For? 

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” —Pablo Picasso

Gratitude is key to maintaining a positive mindset and attracting more positive things into our lives. Even when we think many things have not gone well, it is certain that we all still have much to be grateful for. Let’s avoid starting the year with a mindset of deficit, but instead with ample stock of positivity. None of us are starting from zero, even when facing the greatest challenge of this decade: recognise and build on the positive.

Write a list of 10 things you are grateful for from 2020. Again, don’t limit yourself to a list of accomplishments – such as, ‘I am grateful for a particular thing in my life.’ Instead, go further and add a ‘because’; think about what you are grateful for, but also on why it is important and how it made you feel gratitude. The ‘because’ gives you purpose that a simple list of achievements does not necessarily do.

Read this article for more on this subject: The Science of Gratitude, it’s Benefits and Ways to Express it. https://www.adam-eason.com/the-science-of-gratitude-its-benefits-and-ways-to-express-it/ 

“All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do. ” —Norman Vincent Peale

Now is the Time to Set Goals For The Next Year:

And it’s time to think SMART! This is not about creating a long to-do list. Instead, define SMART goals that are authentic to you. The best way for you to define this authenticity is by drawing upon your reflections from the previous months and your personal journey.

An example of a SMART goal would be to run a half-marathon in 2021 in less than 3 hours. Below, let’s break down the constituent parts of thinking SMART:

S – Specific: What is the one thing you would like to achieve in a few simple words. The idea is to be as clear and specific as possible so that you can work towards paving the way, achieving, or recognising the achievement of your goal. In the example above, choose a particular half-marathon event to be the ‘specific’ part, contributing to your health and wellbeing.

M – Measurable: How will you know if you are on track with your goal? Perhaps daily, weekly or monthly assessments of these goals could assist. For example, the 3 hours is the ‘measurable’ part of the goal above: you can track your progress towards a sub-three hour finishing time over the course of your training on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

A – Actionable: This means something that you can control: a change in behaviour you will make or an action you will take. For example, the ‘run’ part of the goal above is the ‘actionable’ part. To complete the half-marathon, you would need to run – and in turn, to practice your running through training! All we can control are our own actions and behaviours; your goals need to reflect this.

R – Realistic: We all start the year with big ambitions, wanting to make use of the momentum of entering a new year. However, it is important to set goals we can realistically achieve. This requires a careful balance: you also do not want to fix targets that you already know you can easily attain. An active runner but who has not yet completed a half-marathon may decide that running a particular  2021 half-marathon event is realistic. By contrast, someone who hates sports and has never participated in a competitive race or has never run for more than a minute at a time before may decide to start with something more realistic as a goal, for example.

T – Time-Bound: As with everything in life, time is precious. When setting up goals, it is important to think of a timeframe to organise, track and remain accountable for the goals we set. Goals with unspecified timelines can get lost as we are pulled in different directions over the course of the year, and we may lose motivation to achieve them. However, always remember that as much as we plan, life does happen – timelines can therefore shift. With our example goal, the London Marathon is on a set date (assuming the current situation will improve by the time) and is clearly time-bound. More recently, I know many goal-setting experts adapt this slightly to be Trackable instead. That is, make sure the goal can be tracked one way or another if you do not wish to have the pressure of it being too bound to a deadline that the notion of time-bound sometimes creates. 

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

Finally, let’s all remember that as time passes, we all transform and change. Therefore, our objectives, interests, and areas of focus may change too. Don’t be afraid to reflect on the goals you have initially set and amend them when you need to. And don’t be too harsh with yourself when this happens; at the end of the day, it’s all about continuing to become better versions of ourselves. Today we know less than we will tomorrow. 


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