Last January, many of us were relieved, enthusiastic, and ready to embrace new goals. We could see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel and we could not wait to emerge triumphant.
Suddenly, a new variant was discovered, and the light dimmed. Last year felt like “Ground Hog Day”- every day seemed the same with fear, isolation, loneliness and grief. Many psychologists like Adam Grant claim that we have been “languishing” with feelings of emptiness, stagnation, and listlessness. It feels like we have been looking at life through foggy glasses. Goals were put on hold, and for many, last year’s enthusiasm at the thought of crawling out from under COVID was crushed.
As we start this new year, another variant has come into play, but as we’ve learned, there is no value in repeating old behaviors. It is time to take a fresh look at your life, assessing where you are and what you want to do with your life NOW. In your current state of mind, there needs to be new ground rules and practices because most of us are different people from two years ago. There is no proven roadmap for how to operate now; even high achievers may feel stuck and unmotivated. Thank goodness I had a deadline for this article. Otherwise, I could have easily become engulfed in my own COVID fatigue and procrastinated. Having a deadline forced me to “focus and finish.”
As a business consultant and coach, I often do strategic planning with clients where I help them reaffirm their organization’s purpose, values, and goals, plus analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. In my new book, LifeQ: How To Make Your Life Your Most Important Business, I apply those same strategic planning principles to people’s lives to help them have the kind of life that Maya Angelou described when she said, “The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor and style.”
What are some strategic, important steps you can take today to move beyond survival mode, so you can thrive with passion, compassion, humor, and style?
Prioritize two of your values
This year, I plan to accentuate two of my values: kindness and gratitude. Kindness and gratitude are especially important now because, as the Mayo Clinic has found, kindness increases self-esteem, empathy, compassion, enhances relationships and lessens loneliness. Gratitude helps people feel happy, deal with adversity, and decreases depression. My plan is to practice kindness and gratitude at least five times per day, starting with self-kindness.
Decide what you really want and why you want it. Create goals in three major areas of your life: health, relationships and finances
The why you want a goal is important because if you don’t have a good reason for achieving it, you will easily get off track. Health, relationships and finances influence one another, so ensure you plan strategically for each of them. By neglecting one area, you could sabotage the success in another area. For example, an undiagnosed health issue that contributes to fatigue and depression could impede your ability to have a good love life, as well as good relationships with family and friends. Neglecting your health could also affect your career because you may not have enough stamina to be productive and creative at work.
Limit your goals
Start small and easy so you can be successful. This is where self-kindness comes in – especially at this time. Consider something you already do occasionally but want to do daily. Your self-confidence will grow as you reach it, and this will help you build momentum to work on future goals.
Write down your goals and make them “SMART”
SMART is the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. “Cholesterol will be less than 180 by June 1.” “E-book will be published by August 30.” “Family cruise will be enjoyed by December 31.” The date of completion is crucial because otherwise your destination becomes “Someday Isle,” which translates into merely wishful thinking “Someday I’ll do this” and “Someday I’ll do that.”
Spread out your goals
Don’t start working on every goal in January. In America, 100 million people make resolutions, while only 10 percent keep them. If you are considering a job change, write down all the specific steps and put them on your calendar as staggered goals. If you want a closer relationship with your distant sister, schedule regular zoom calls with her that start in June. If another goal is to become clutter-free, schedule your start date as September 1. Your brain will probably start thinking about decluttering before September, but the time pressure will be reduced. You may even start to do some decluttering activities before your start date. If you are developing a new habit or behavior, be gentle with yourself. It takes at least 21 days to form a habit.
Stop multitasking and develop interruption-free blocks of time
This applies to time for thinking, working, resting, and dreaming. Become aware of how often you check your cell phone for messages. There’s evidence that on average, people check emails 74 times a day, switching tasks every 10 minutes. This creates what has been called time confetti, where we take what could be meaningful moments of our lives and shred them into increasingly tiny, useless pieces.
Post your goals in visible sites around your home and visualize yourself achieving them
This use of the Law of Attraction can accelerate your success. The Law of Attraction says that when you focus on something, it will manifest. Have you ever noticed that if you are thinking about buying a red sports car that you see lots of them? My family posts three sets of goals: Susan’s Goals, Jim’s Goals, and Team Goals.
Keep your goals to yourself, except for one person who holds you accountable and celebrates with you
In the past, I have encouraged people to share their goals with others thinking that would increase accountability. New research indicates that your mind mistakes talking for doing. According to the TED Talk by author Derek Sivers, the good feeling you may experience when sharing your goal with others tricks the mind into thinking it has already been accomplished. So, talking about your goals with several people can impede your success. What can be beneficial is recruiting one trusted friend or coach to keep you on track with your goal. You can give them permission to hold you accountable for completing the milestones you’ve established. You will be 33 percent more likely to be successful when collaborating with someone on your progress on a regular basis.
Find your sense of humor
When you find yourself off-course, be willing to laugh at yourself and forgive yourself so you will get back on track.
Start taking action
The Nike “swoosh” invites action with the slogan, “Just Do It!” It doesn’t need to be perfect. Don’t let being perfect get in the way of being good.
Be gentle with yourself and choose goals that have meaning now after two years of COVID craziness. A body in motion stays in motion so it’s time to dig deep and start moving! Remember, life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.
Dr. Murphy is a best-selling author, business consultant and speaker specializing in relationships, conflict, leadership, and goal-achievement. She is co-author of LifeQ: How To Make Your Life Your Most Important Business and In The Company of Women and can be reached at Susan@DrSusanMurphy.com.