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Are you a person who sets goals in December or January for the year? How are you feeling this new year?  Did you take some time to reflect on the past year?  Perhaps use these reflection prompts here.

Uncertainty can take a toll on setting goals. The last few years have been tough to plan for, which has made me very curious about how to best plan and set personal and professional goals during such uncertain times!

So what are the options?

  • Do you set no goals at all?  How can you predict what’s around the corner?
  • Do you set goals but give yourself a lot of slack or leeway given the uncertainty and wildly changing circumstances?
  • Do you think about alternate plans or just be okay to push out timelines?
  • Or do you push ahead and set goals as usual despite the circumstances around you?

With this in mind, here are five points to consider when setting goals for this year.

1. Consider who you want to be rather than what you want to do

Aside from the pain and suffering that the pandemic caused, the silver lining was that it was a circuit breaker for many. It has allowed many of us to think about what we are doing with our lives, what’s important to us and how we spend our time. Are we truly spending time on what truly matters in life?

Now, it’s a privilege to focus on a life of purpose and fulfillment. So let’s not waste it.  Take the time to ask yourself the deep questions…What is my purpose? What are my values? What are my strengths and how do I want to use them in the world?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort but where he stands at times of challenge and discovery.” Adversity has the power to shape us in powerful ways.

Introspection and reflection takes time. It takes time to join the dots, make the connections and see the patterns in your own motivations and behaviours. You could touch base with others and ask them what they have observed in you. You could go into nature and use awe and wonder to help you reflect. Even if you take the next 1, 2 or 3 years to take the time to truly reflect on these questions, it could set you up so much better for the next 10 – 20 years.

2. Focus on learning

How good a learner are you? No, really. Are you open to learning or have you closed down from it?

One of the best skills we can develop is our ability to learn. The World Economic Forum suggests that over 50% of the current workforce will require reskilling by 2025.  That’s incredible!

We all have to be open to learning new skills. We all have to be open to using new tools, apps, and ways of being. With all the predictions of how the workplace will change over the next decade, our ability to learn, unlearn and relearn is vital. Sometimes, you can think you are a good learner but really how good are you?

What’s the quality of questions you ask? Do you tend to jump to advice, or do you ask questions first? How often do you hold on too tightly to an idea or perspective and not be willing to see it from another angle?

So what can you focus on learning this year? A new language, professional skills or what can you learn from another industry? Don’t be afraid to focus on personal skills as well as professional ones. Maybe this year is the year to take up art or pottery. These hobbies give us space to get away from the pandemic or the stresses of our job and learn something new.

3. Think about the controllables – what can you control in this situation

Uncertainty can feels like a lack of control in our lives. Which reminds me of parenthood! When you realise your life is not your own anymore and you are at the mercy of external forces that can change your day in an instance. You dream. You make plans and then the plans need changing. Though, even in the toughest of situations, we can practice how we choose to respond when change is needed.

Yes, you might not have the ability to control your life as you have done in the past but what DO you have control over? At the very least, you have the freedom to choose your attitude. As Viktor Frankl says in Man’s Search for Meaning*, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Often with goal setting, you can focus on the outcome that you wish for rather than the journey it takes to achieve it. When outcomes can be so unpredictable, rather than focusing on the end result, focus on the habits to get to the result and derive the sense of achievement by doing it repeatedly.   This is called having a ‘journey’ mindset.

Want to be a better leader? Focus on the everyday behaviours of exceptional leaders. Practice your long term or strategic thinking. Share positive feedback with teammates on a regular basis. Practice running effective and energising meetings (what does this look like practically?). Focus on conversations with your teammates. What behaviours can you practice that will make you a better leader?

4. Reap the richness of your relationships

So much of what we can achieve as leaders and change makers are a result of the relationships you cultivate. Both personally and professionally. Take the time to cultivate these relationships. Can’t meet in person? Give people a call! Chat to someone different for 10 minutes a day to check, see how they are going and see what their plans are for this year.

The pandemic allowed us to focus on our personal relationships – with our partner, our kids, our parents and friends. A great book is Clayton Christenson’s How Will You Measure your Life? which challenges you to think deeply about the metrics of success that are important to you. One, in particular, that he talks about is relationships with our family. If we want long term fulfilling relationships with our family, we have to have strong boundaries to safeguard them. That means time, attention and effort. It’s showing up repeatedly. Nobody’s going to give you an award for this, but in 20 years time you will still be married and your kids will like you! I always remember a quote by Dr Fiona Wood, who said “Save the best of you for those who love you the most”.

What does it look like for you to show up for your most precious relationships this year? Have you blocked time out in the diary for family dinners, team lunches, holidays or team retreats? Do it now! Now you have the opportunity to carve out the year that you want!

5. Our health is our wealth

The last few years has also brought into focus the privilege of our health. Like our relationships, our health is the foundation for us to flourish.  What habits can you embed to improve your health this year? Tony Schwartz and Jame Loehr in The Power of Full Engagement* talk about four energy sources: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

They suggest:

  • Physical capacity is defined by the quantity of energy.
  • Emotional capacity is defined by quality of energy.
  • Mental capacity is defined by focus of energy.
  • Spiritual capacity is defined by force of energy.

Consider these four energy sources and how you can create rituals to build these in your life.

Feeling tired? Perhaps focus on managing your physical energy through your breathing, eating, sleeping, and exercise.

Feeling unhappy? Consider what brings you pleasant and positive emotions such as enjoyment, challenge, adventure and opportunity.

Feeling unfocused? Be attentive to where your current focus is, limit distractions (news, devices, tv/entertainment) and spend time getting clear on what’s important to you.

Feeling uninterested or not passionate about life? Step back and define your values and a purpose bigger than yourself. A greater purpose unlocks an incredible force of energy to tap into in life!

Time to set some different goals?

When uncertainty still hangs in the air, don’t be afraid to set goals this year, knowing full well they may look different to before. Hold them lightly and approach them with playfulness. Expect that there will be challenges and changes along the way. Don’t see it as a failure but be curious and willing to change and adapt.

Happy goal setting!


*Disclosure: We love to promote great resources to support your personal leadership development. This post contains affiliate links which means if you decide to use the links and make a purchase, we receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!


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