Setting Goals in Uncertain Times

After experiencing the numerous unexpected challenges in the previous year, many parents may be hesitant to set goals for their families for 2021. It can be discouraging to set personal goals only to have events beyond your control create a series of roadblocks that interfere with achieving them. Here are some tips on how to set meaningful goals for the new year and then stick to them even when facing unexpected challenges.

Start your plan with achievable, well-defined goals.

You may have a list of resolutions for the new year, but they are not goals unless they are specific and you define how you will measure your progress. For example, if you want to have your kids eat more healthy foods this year, set a goal of how many times a week you will serve healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and keep a meal-planning record so you can see what progress you have made.

To help your child define her goals, sit down with her, and ask her to brainstorm several goals she would like to achieve this year. Next, help her narrow the list of goals down to a few that are a top priority. Kids are much more motivated to work towards goals they set for themselves and feel that they own.

Another trait of a well-defined goal is that it is realistic. Uncertainty about the future may make it tempting to leave goal-setting for a better time. However, it is still possible to create realistic goals even though it may be hard to predict what might be occurring a few months from now.

One good strategy to use when the future is murky is to break your long-term goal into ‘stepping stones’ of smaller goals. For example, creating a series of one-month goals that enable you to save $1000 by the end of the year gives you a chance each month to feel encouraged if you meet the goal. It also gives you the flexibility to adjust your approach if you see your current plan for meeting your monthly goal is not realistic due to unforeseen challenges, such as an unexpected new monthly expense.

Go around or over roadblocks, but don’t stop at them!

Some roadblocks can be overcome by using a strategy that includes perseverance and innovation. For example, if your daughter wants a certain part in this year’s school musical but the audition requires dance skills she needs to brush up on, she could take dance lessons first or find a friend to practice with at home.

Other roadblocks may require a detour that makes it take longer to reach the long-term goal but at least allows some progress towards it. When setting a goal, create some ‘detour’ plans for addressing obstacles. Having a plan already in place helps keep you from losing your momentum completely and deciding to abandon the goal. For example, you could have a ‘detour plan for your child’s goal of participating in the school musical in case it is postponed or she did not get the part she wanted. The ‘detour plan’ could involve enrolling her in a series of theater classes that include a performance. The experience and confidence gained from the performance take her closer to achieving her long-term goal of a successful school musical audition.

Support from others can help defeat roadblocks that are especially difficult to conquer. Mentor your child around obstacles and assist her with measuring her progress. Ask a friend to help keep you accountable to your personal goals if you feel like you are losing your momentum.