“How can I possibly have goals in these uncertain times?”
This question has come up in a number of client sessions. I was right there with them and have come to some conclusions. Maybe it helps you if you’ve been sitting with this question.
My own reluctance
Usually, at the end of each year, I do a review process with specific questions. I look forward to and gain many learnings and wisdom from it. It also includes how to approach the year ahead because of those learnings.
At the end of 2020, however, I found myself in a very different place. I had absolutely no desire to do the review process.
I just needed a holiday, and not even think about anything difficult for a while.
Granted, we had just moved from London to Surrey, and that took a lot of energy. And we were exploring our new surroundings and settling in, so there was a lot to keep me busy.
However, even on Old Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day when I usually feel contemplative and willing to explore, I had that same reluctance. I felt a few ‘shoulds’ about it too, which of course also contributed to “You can’t make me!”. Everywhere around me, I found people excited about their new year plans.
So I reflected on what was underneath the reluctance. Some of the thoughts that came up:
- Last year this time, we were quite enthralled by the idea of a new decade, and even ‘2020 vision’. Given how it played out, I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to feel that excited again – only to be faced with more big challenges. I’m “all challenged out….”. And let’s face it, on the 6th day of 2021 we already had another shake-up to deal with.
- Given that our world seems to more often present us with big uncertainty and upheaval – and circumstances seem to change by the day and sometimes by the hour – how useful would it really be, I thought, to even think about my usual goals?
- I’m not an activist type and sometimes it feels like those are the only worthy goals to have these days…. I know that’s only a perception in my mind and not the truth. But that did cast some doubt for me on the kind of goals that I usually set.
- I felt I had to make sure that my goals were relevant. In a fast-changing world, how much does it really matter that I earn a certain amount? How much does it really matter whether I publish 4 articles a month or send a few newsletters?
I did a bit of EFT tapping around these thoughts and the emotions that surfaced. There was a little bit of despondency and hopelessness there, I have to admit… maybe a smidgeon of defeat.
And then the thought came up so clearly:
Of course! These feelings arise because I haven’t been able to see the learning and wisdom. I was still attached to the difficulties of 2020. And that is not surprising for me with my strengths of Empathy, Connectedness, and Harmony. I needed to give the Learner strength a chance too, to see what could be gained from the challenges in 2020, so that I could work those into my intentions for 2021.
The purpose of goals and intentions
So what sort of goals would make sense in uncertain times, and should we even have goals when things are changing so rapidly?
I learned the most wonderful concept from Gary Craig, the originator of EFT, around 2006. He taught: “Goals don’t always come true. But they do take us in a direction!”
That is a comforting thought, and I wrote an article about this a number of years ago.
Many people I know have a love-hate relationship with the word ‘goal’, often due to past disappointments and seeming failures. If that’s you, I invite you to substitute it with ‘intentions’. The root of the word is from Latin intendare – which means ‘to stretch in the direction of’.
Now doesn’t that bring a bit of relief?
We don’t have to actually ‘reach’ an intention. We just stretch in that direction as best we can, and if life brings us something different, or steers us off course, that’s okay. We can keep stretching in that direction without the pressure.
So here’re my learnings so far:
For an introvert, focused reflection time with good questions is a gift. When I started writing this article, I didn’t have any idea where I would end up. Now, I have some useful thoughts formulated about my goal process for the year and I’m more excited to do my review because I saw the value of it by simply reflecting and writing about it.
To take into account the uncertainty factor, my goals for the year might be intentions rather than firm outcome goals. I’ll be clear with myself that even if it’s a goal (like an income goal), I will simply stretch in that direction. It’s not a ‘have to reach or else’ (ala Gary). Examples could be:
- Qualities I aim to practice this year (practicing compassion with myself and others)
- Self-care habits I want to cultivate (like going to sleep by 10 pm)
- Process goals like ‘I aim to write an article 3 times a week’
- Practicing my Word of the Year (START) and being present with it
These kinds of goals can help us deal with uncertainty. There’s little pressure because it’s a practice. And if I happen to have ‘outcome’ goals and I don’t reach them, it won’t be any big deal because I can practice compassion.
A healthier attitude
Goal setting is not meant to be a slave driver that relentlessly whips us into doing more, having more, achieving more. Rather, it’s a process we can choose to help us go in certain directions, by being clear, directed, focused, and taking actions that will move us in that direction.
Goals can nudge us into experiences we would not have explored otherwise. Goals and intentions can help us aim in a direction and what happens after that is not in our control.
Each of us individually is not the only influence in the Universe who impacts our life and direction (a big topic for another article). There’s a bigger picture that we’re part of.
THAT (how to deal with uncertainty) is the piece that we might need to make peace with. Uncertainty, even around goals, prevent many from having them. “Why have a goal if I’m not sure I’ll get there?”
So this year my intention is to start (my word for 2021), keep doing my best and let go of the outcome as best I can.
Questions for you
What’s your experience with goals, intentions and practices? Have you done a review of 2020? Have you set goals for 2021? What do you do with uncertainty?
If you need help with clarifying your own goals, or tapping through fears, concerns and aspects of them, contact me to set up a time to chat. Working with goals and intentions is a lot of fun with the addition of EFT and Matrix Reimprinting!