Mind & Body

This year’s been hell, but there’s good reasons to keep your 2020 goals

Coronavirus has set us all back a few steps in our grand plans, but life coach and author Emily Chadbourne has some helpful advice for getting the year back on track with some new types of goals.

Once upon a time 2020 held such promise. It shimmered on the horizon of 2019 looking like a vision board that Pinterest itself would have been proud of.

As January rolled in, I smugly hung my Officeworks 2020 wall planner and began to block out important dates: Weddings I’d already bought outfits for; five-star holidays I could finally afford; Bali retreats I’d pre-bought tickets for; keynote addresses I was quietly crapping myself about.

The whole year was planned and colour coded. It looked so pretty. And it wasn’t just me. Every other GenX and Millennial I knew was setting goals like never before. Side hustles were about to become full time gigs; first homes would become second homes; babies would be born, and milestone birthdays celebrated.

2020 was going to be the year we smashed our goals and achieved our dreams.

But just as we were settling in, Coronavirus swept through the globe laying waste to it all. Plans were postponed and eventually cancelled and the impact both economically and emotionally was far spread.

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Is 2020 cancelled, goals-wise?

It is estimated that trillions (that’s with a ‘t’. Trillions) of dollars have been lost to forfeited plans and closed business and overall, there has been a 23.3 per cent increase in mental health patients attending Emergency departments compared to last year here in Australia.

With this in mind, it’s no wonder that most people are feeling hesitant to make any plans. After all, we’re feeling fragile and the unpredictability hasn’t settled. Second waves and more rounds of lockdowns have blown out any timelines we were working towards and uncertainty is still high. For many of us, the risk of being bitterly disappointed again just seems too much.

Isn’t it better for our mental health to just sit this one out and really put in a solid effort to finish Netflix?

But conversely, kicking back in our Kmart trackies for weeks on end gets pretty depressing pretty quickly. Making sourdough felt like fun at the beginning of lockdown #1, but now all the novelty has worn off and we’ve descended to digging out the white sliced loaf from the bottom of the freezer. Aimlessness is in itself, depressing. We need something to live for and goal setting is widely known to be good for wellbeing.

So, is there a happy medium? Can we set goals during COVID or is it a pointless exercise?

In these challenging times, goal setting can be a great way to keep our spirits high and our mental health in check. The key is to set goals that are achievable in the current climate.

With a full quarter of the year still ahead of us, it’s time to set some new, albeit different goals.

Start with daily ‘routine’ goals

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to shatter the illusion of control. The paradox is that uncertainty is the one consistent thing in life. While we can’t control the virus, other people, the economy or even our kids half the time, we can control ourselves.

Creating daily goals and setting a routine around achieving these goals will help with stress management, reduce anxiety and bring a sense of achievement to every day.

You can find so much certainty in the simple things in your own life which allows you to be more comfortable in the wider uncertainty of being alive. Starting the day with meditation (I have recently completed a facilitators course with 1Giant Mind and can highly recommend their app); exercise and a healthy breakfast will set you up mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually for your day. For more on creating a daily routine, check out The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.

Set goals for your goals

This is all about working with what you’ve got available right now so that you can achieve some short-term goals, which will ultimately help you achieve some longer-term goals.

If you had looked at the last quarter of my 2020 wall calendar, you would have seen a full six weeks blocked out in purple. This represented a trip to India to do my level one Kundalini yoga training – which is obviously no longer happening. But in the meantime, I have set myself some goals to prepare me for when I eventually do my training. These include a 40-day Sadhana (a specific meditation before 6am); some intensive virtual one-on-one classes with my mentor and reading a text that is so mind blowing, it is suggested you only read a page a day. I’m managing a paragraph but it’s still progress. And doing something is better than nothing.

Sure, you might not be going on that business retreat to Fiji, but you can take a short online course from your spare room. And because cocktail delivery is now a thing (thank you Coronavirus) you can even do it with a Pina Colada in your hand so it’s basically like being in Fiji anyway (ok, it’s not, I’m trying too hard now).

Keep the vision alive

As much as we want to keep our goals achievable and short term for now, it’s important we don’t let go of our vision. Nothing lasts forever: one day, we’ll be telling our children’s children about the 2020 pandemic, and the stories we tell them are being written by us right now.

We can tell stories of boredom and disappointment. Or we can tell stories of resilience and love. Take your original 2020 vision and ask yourself, “who did I want to be this year?” – because you can still be that person, even if you can’t do all the things you’d anticipated. Now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to rise up.

Emily Chadbourne is a Melbourne-based life coach, founder of The Unashamedly Human Hub, author and international speaker who trained at The Coaching Institute.