Well… where do we start? Any of us could be forgiven for wanting to toss 2020 into a heap; banished like those hideous school photos we’d rather never saw the light of day again.
But that would be a waste of everything it’s given us – whether we wanted it or not – and the chance to take those positive insights and experiences forward.
The pandemic clearly affected goal achievement, but it didn’t have to stop goal setting. At the time when most of us start looking forward and planning our goals in 2021, thinking ahead is more difficult this year with the ever-changing goal posts. Staying safe and sane has been a major priority whilst clinging to our old goals and habits has offered some stability and comfort during uncertainty
It’s reassuring that many people are striving for change instead of abandoning their resolutions altogether. A reader poll by VeryWellMind found 80% of people were aiming for physical/health-related goals, 40% for mental health and 30% for relationships with others. Lockdown slowed down life enough for most of us to stop and smell the roses, examine what’s important, do things differently and challenge the status quo. We probably learnt things we never knew about ourselves, learnt new skills, and became more grateful.
I created my goal plan for 2020 on a beach in Thailand last January. Here’s some of the advice I’d give myself if I went back there now:
1) Work with facts, not fear
Watching the news often felt like a round or two in the emotional Boxing Ring and left us in survival mode. It takes practice to learn the ‘Teflon’ technique to deflect this negative energy and prevent it dragging our mood down, but we’ve had plenty of chance to practice. Before beginning my 3 Peaks Run in August I managed to sprain my ankle which delayed the run by two weeks longer, after three months of lockdown. I spent two weeks convinced this weakness was going to scupper the challenge, despite three independent physios and therapists assuring the ankle was good to go. Sure enough, on day one with 50 miles and 10,000ft, it was fine. Five days later I hobbled down Scafell Pike with a peroneal tendon strain. I was convinced it was all over but a sports massage had me moving again, and I ran 47 miles that day.
2) Run your own race
Others are ahead and chasing them is exhausting; others appear behind and setting a comfortable benchmark won’t stretch you either. For my 3 Peaks Run I was constantly watching for others, anxious that someone may attempt the challenge first, compromising my own attempt and fundraising. Two others made attempts on the challenge weeks later, and one smashed the record by over five hours, but none of this bothered me in hindsight. We should encourage and inspire each other and go only when the time is right for us. It’s the unexpected challenges like the sprained ankle which set the date.
3) Focus on solving others’ problems
This resilience tip came from one of my inspirations, Mark Beaumont, during his epic endurance challenges including cycling round the world in 78 days. Self-care is important, vital even, but turning the ‘arrows the other way’ and taking an interest in others helps to prevent getting self-absorbed in our own problems and worries. At the start of lockdown I sat down to reflect: “how can I use my experiences to make a difference now?”. As a motivational speaker and author this was a natural transition, but focusing our attention on solving others’ problems, however big or small, is an empowering and rewarding boost for mental health.
4) Adopt a growth mindset
One trait that serves us well is the ability to look for the opportunities and positives within adversity. Instead of asking “what else?” ask; “what could this teach me?”. It can be hard to see in the moment of emotion but once this has passed, a more proactive mindset helps us to look for positive experiences rather than becoming a victim to the situation. Lockdown in the spring postponed my 3 Peaks Run by months, which also gave the opportunity to raise more money for Mind Over Mountains and get more training. Speaking virtually enabled me to connect with new audiences and clients and speak to a conference with over 500 people across Europe, without even leaving my office. A quieter Spring created the time to finish a proposal for book #3. Spraining an ankle meant Mind Over Mountains got official charity registration before the challenge began. The list goes on… it depends which way we look.
5) Think short-term (for now)
For now, it makes sense to bring the mountaintop a bit closer and setting short-term goals, rather than aiming for the typical year-end results. This may feel short-sighted but it helps us to determine our state after the pandemic, and keep making progress regardless of what’s happening around us. Aim for something that can be completed or measured each day, or week. Early success will also create momentum and motivate us to do more, which we can re-assess as we go along.
What do you want to keep from changes you made to cope with the pandemic?
What do you want to reclaim from the pre-pandemic time… if anything?
There was life before the virus, and there will be life afterwards, but there’s no going backwards. Only forwards. Don’t set 2020 as the benchmark for 2021. Let’s use this new resilience to make it the best one yet.
Stay safe, happy new year, and it goes without saying – thanks for all your support on the journey of 2020. Onwards and upwards…
Can I help you achieve your goals in 2021?