5 Steps: How to set goals in uncertain times
Do you feel overwhelmed by 2020? I know I do. All I want to do is solve every problem, in my life and in the world. But then, one more thing comes along, and it feels like it’s do much to accomplish anything. In these moments, that’s when I turn to these 5 trusted steps for setting goals. No matter how tiny, it helps me get a handle on my motivation, and maybe even take one more step to saving the world.
Originally Written 8/7/20: Earlier this week, a tropical storm made its way up the east coast of the United States. Hurricane Isaias was a category 1 hurricane that first touched down in the US in North Carolina on Monday, 8/3.
Initially, I didn’t learn too much about it in the aftermath, only because my cable and WIFI has been out since it crossed over my house in Connecticut Tuesday afternoon.
If you were in any of the areas from Puerto Rico to Maine, you know how devastating this storm was. Isaias brought destruction from flash flooding, high winds, tornadoes, and death.
I am reading a few articles as I write this, and I can only feel extreme sadness for those who faced loss from this storm, and deep gratitude that the fallen trees spared my house and car, and my electricity has stayed on throughout.
I am one of the lucky ones, with a data plan and working shower and refrigerator.
In my state, there were over 660,000 homes still without power as of Wednesday evening. It’s now Friday morning, and I know in my town there are still many people posting on the town’s Facebook group asking for and offering assistance.
It is times like these, especially under the already challenging and life threatening headings of a pandemic and racial justice, that I can’t help but think about ways I want to help the world.
But for me, it is easy to get overwhelmed with wanting to fix everything all at once, and never actually getting anywhere.
So, I set my goals in order to bring me strength and clarity during challenging times. When I have a tangible course of action, I am able to fight off those feelings of overwhelm, and hold on to what I know want to achieve for myself and how I want to impact the world.
It might sound like heavy stuff, but the lesson to gain from all of this is that we need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone or anything else. So, let’s get to it!
Update 8/12/20: I got WIFI back Sunday night, but it took an entire week later for power to be restored to a majority of the impacted homes across Connecticut. But there are still 4,000 homes without power as of last night.
The power company responsible for electricity across most of the state brought in over 2500 extra crews from all over the country, including some from Canada.
Connecticut officials, including a US Senator, were frustrated to the point of calling for the CEO’s resignation, focused on issues with upper level management’s, well, management, of this issue.
Crews continue to make repairs and progress in some of the hardest-hit areas across the state, like here in Ridgefield and Danbury. We’re working as quickly and safely as possibly to restore power to our remaining ~26,000 customers. pic.twitter.com/CfCN8fmmj9— Eversource CT (@EversourceCT) August 11, 2020
This sentiment is not lost on me. As I observe in this post, no matter how vast a population your goals affect, it is important to set them with clear intention and foresight, to be prepared for the unexpected.
5 Tips for Setting Successful Goals:
Setting Successful Goals Step 1: Freewrite
This is what to do when you have absolutely no idea where to start setting goals. You might have an image of how you want to feel or what you want to do, but you don’t know what will get you there. You might not even have any concept whatsoever. This is often me. I know I need/want direction, but I don’t know where to start.
When you are completely lost, go grab your favorite journal or sit at your computer, pick up your favorite pen, or bring your hands to that keyboard, and just write. It doesn’t even matter what comes out. Sometimes I start by just saying, “I have no idea what to write…” But that get the juices flowing and the synapses start to fire, and you get into a groove.
It is important to let your thoughts flow and avoid any type of editing. It’s usually when you say something completely random that the next though throws you down a path you didn’t even know existed, but you like it!
Setting Successful Goals Step 2: Brainstorm
This is the next step to setting goals. Sometimes this step will just naturally happen when you get into that freewrite groove. Once you feel like you’ve reached a stopping point with the first step, go back over what you wrote and pull out ideas that sound like goals. Then turn to your brainstorm. Set a timer for 10 or 20 minutes and really challenge yourself to get out as many ideas as you can.
Just like with step number 1, make sure that you are not editing yourself at all. Sometimes the ideas are completely irrelevant, but sometimes, it can be magic. Remember, the second you start editing your thoughts is the second you start limiting yourself, and that is not what we’re here to do!
Setting Successful Goals Step 3: Review and Refine
Now is the time you are finally allowed to edit yourself! Go over your brainstorm and look for patterns.
Do you have a lot of goals centered around a few themes? Maybe you wrote down specific steps you want to take to start living a healthier life. Or, maybe you wrote down a lot of goals that center around building your own business. Were there a lot of goals about finance? About personal growth?
Circle different categories and sort out everything you wrote down.
This will help your focus around setting goals. It is great to reach for the stars, but you only have two arms. You never want to limit what you can achieve, but you don’t want to overwhelm yourself either. Set goals that are realistic or attainable for the season that you are in.
For me, I like to set 3 main goals for a 90 day period. This way, I have a good amount of time to get them done. I am not only setting goals, but I am also setting boundaries for what I can get done, so I don’t plan too many that I end up achieving nothing.
For example, Get Yoga Teacher Certification has gone on my brainstorm list for the past few years, but the timing has not aligned for this to shift from a dream to an attainable goal.
And that’s ok! It is good to keep the dreams alive because one day you will be at the right time to shift them over, and then let the goal begin! And I will finally start that yoga school I dream about!
Setting Successful Goals Step 4: Establish Your Foundational Desire
This is the crux of setting goals. Once you have your goals, and they are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time Bound (check out this quick video that explains SMART goal setting), it is important to establish your why.
You want to make sure that you have a very clear understanding of why this is a goal you want to achieve in your life right now. This is going to be your life support when you reach the inevitable moments of low motivation. If you really want to achieve the goals you set for yourself, there is a reason why.
Make sure your true reason why you want to accomplish your goals is clear, and written in a place you can reference when you need a reminder.
No one can push at full speed 100% of the time the goal is in action. It’s ok if one day you take a break, but if you find yourself starting to lose sight of your progress, pull out where you wrote out your why, and let your past self give your present self a little push in the achieving direction.
Setting Successful Goals Step 5: Keep Your Goals Visible
This is the final step of setting goals. Make sure that you have a place where you are reminded of your goals, and cannot forget about them even if you tried. For me, that is on my Action Wall and in my 90 day goal planner that I revisit daily. Try to do one thing every day that will bring you closer to accomplishing your goals.
If you clearly write them out, and put them somewhere you see every day, you will start to internalize them, and find yourself taking the right steps even when you’re not paying attention!
So there you have it. Those are the 5 trusted steps for setting goals. I turn to these regularly to stay on a productive, creative path, but they are especially helpful when I feel like there is just too much going on for me to tackle at once.
Key Tips While Setting Goals:
- Dream Big
- Do not edit or limit yourself
- Make sure you refine to Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time Bound goals
Because setting goals is just the beginning, stay tuned for my tips on how to see your goals through, how to navigate the amazing and sometimes challenging moments of creative expansion and flow, and how to always maintain forgiveness and authenticity for your amazing self.
How do you set goals?
I would love to hear from you! Do you have any tried and true goal setting techniques? What do you do when you feel stuck when setting goals? Do you have specific time frames you work within? Do you have categories you always stick when setting goals?