mental health

New year, same old me

It is incredibly hard to set goals during a pandemic. How do you make plans and set intentions for an uncertain future? And, therein lies the beauty of setting powerful goals. Because when there is nothing external to yourself to aspire to, or to covet, or for external validation, all there is, is what is within you.

I stopped making New Years Resolutions about ten years ago, because I felt like calling them that set me up for failure. I started focusing on the six areas of my life, and set goals within these areas. For example, health and fitness, spiritual, career, intellectual, social, and so forth. And last year, I took it to the next level, by incorporating all of this into a bullet journal to help me track progress. And then the pandemic hit. And all planners became obsolete.

But, at the end of last year, I still, in hope, bought my usual planners, including a new Bullet Journal for 2021. And I used the concept of the “Level 10 life” to set up my goals for the year. One of the gifts the pandemic has granted me, has been time for reflection. I usually fill my life with busy activities, and plan every moment of my life. I haven’t been able to do that. So I have been able to use my time better, and I realized, that what I actually want is to slow down, and engage, and be mindful, play with my kids, and not focus on the side hustle, and always being excessively productive.

The world is so focused on being busy, and doing all the things. That we forget to stop and appreciate all of the things. Lockdown has gifted us with the time to be able to appreciate the ‘small things’, such as connecting with friends and family.  

So how does that impact on setting goals for a New Year? I started by listing all the areas of my life, from spirituality, to family to career and social life. I then looked at each, and rated them on how much focus I have been able to give them, and after this I could see which areas of my life needed more of my attention. I admit that this sounds quite complicated, but the idea is that you focus on an area of your life that you feel you have neglected, instead of setting hard targets, like “lose 10kg” or “complete marathon”.

Viewing goal setting this way enables us to not be so hard on ourselves, and not have hard targets to be achieving by the end of the year. A goal can be to rest more, which is something I need to do. I need to be more comfortable with doing nothing, while resting and recharging. This way of planning for the year enables us to set more gentle goals for the year, like rest, connection, be kind to yourself, spend time outside, have fun.

I suggest that when you look at what you want to achieve this year, that you consider what it is that you, yourself, are longing for, and focus on that. It doesn’t have to be an external goal like losing weight, running a marathon, because that’s what this pandemic has taught me. That I’ve been too focused on external validation, and what I need to achieve to feel better.

This year, let’s focus on our dreams, and what we need for ourselves, and not reaching some imagined target. This year instead of hustling hard, I’m going to rest hard, and be productive at mindfulness, and slowing down.