Achieve Your 2020 Goals
I have a friend who adores the start of a new year. She feels that it’s a clean slate from which to begin, and the opportunity to leave behind the concerns and struggles of the previous year.
But personally, the start of a new year used to make me anxious.
I would find myself overwhelmed by all the things I want to do in the coming year, and I’d recall how, in the past, I’d reached the end of another year only to find that some of my goals were still on the table...
Do you know that feeling?
The truth is, most goal-setting is just not focusing on the right things.
Since the biggest obstacle to achieving our goals is anxiety, any goal you set needs to be designed to reduce anxiety and increase its opposite: hope.
Anxiety fears a future that is worse than the present. Hope draws us towards a future it believes can be better than now.
Anxiety holds you back. Hope propels you forward. It’s a motivational force.
The 3 elements I’m sharing with you today are specifically designed to reduce anxiety and increase hope - and you can apply them to any of your 2020 goals.
1. Clarify the Future
If you aren’t clear about how you’d like the future to look, that makes the future seem pretty uncertain - and anxiety shows up whenever things are uncertain.
In fact, a lack of clarity is one of my main anxiety triggers! If I’m not clear on how I want my future to look, anxiety will keep me paralysed from taking action until I decide.
There are a few key things to remember when it comes to clarity.
First, remember to define how you’d like to feel.
Perhaps you’ll choose three words: maybe they’re calm, content, and free.
Your goals should bring you closer to your desired feelings. If they don’t, you’ll find that anxiety will hold you back. If they do, hope will propel you forward.
Second, in defining what you’d like the future to look like, be sure to stay realistic. Think about this as your best possible self.
If you set a goal that is too large, you’re not going to be able to believe in yourself; you’ll just feel overwhelmed.
Remember, most people overestimate what they can achieve in one year, and underestimate what they can achieve in ten.
Third, clarify how day-to-day life would look. What would be different? What would be the same? You need to know exactly what you’re aiming for, or you’ll be stumbling towards the unknown.
The more uncertainty, unknown, and lack of clarity, the more anxiety.
The more clarity, the less anxiety, and the more motivation.
What would I like to achieve?
How would I like to feel?
What things would look different from now?
How might things be the same?
Does this goal feel possible?
2. Define Multiple Pathways
Now that you’ve drilled down into what you’d like the future to look like, we need to clarify how you’ll achieve it.
But not just once… many times.
Interestingly, the second tenet of hope is called “pathways thinking”, and it refers to perceiving multiple ways of achieving the same goal.
Think of the “what” (part 1) as the destination, and the “how” (part 2) as the different routes we could take to arrive at the same place.
Brainstorming multiple ways of achieving your goal is crucial for reducing anxiety.
If you bank on just one way of reaching that goal, the stakes are pretty high. If this route fails, it’ll feel as if you fail completely - and that’s bound to create a lot of anxiety and emotional pain.
However, if you come up with multiple ways of achieving your goal and one doesn’t work, you’re able to keep hopeful and stay on track. You have something else you could try, hope says to you. All is not lost.
Here’s how this looks in action:
Goal: find out what work I’d enjoy Pathways:
Consulting a coach
Taking a strengths assessment
Goal: grow my business Pathways:
Goal: find a partner Pathways:
Tell my friends I’m open to blind dates
App/ online dating
Attend meetups where there are people with similar interests, e.g. a hiking group
Get comfortable asking someone out in person
Now, it’s your turn. Brainstorm at least 4 pathways to achieving your goal. Then, commit to trying one.
Note: Some people may find they’ve done this in reverse. For example, your goal may be something very specific (e.g. “leave the office on time”). In this case, you’ve actually brainstormed a pathway rather than a goal. Zoom out and find out what higher goal that pathway serves (e.g. “better work/life balance”) and then come up with other pathways, so you’re not putting too much pressure on one single pathway.
3. Boost Self-Belief
If the goal is the destination, and the pathways are the roads to that destination, then your self-belief is the car.
Without it, we aren’t going anywhere.
In order to believe in yourself, you need to pay attention to the good, strong aspects of you that you bring to this situation. Consider what unique skills and strengths you have that could help you reach your goal.
Try these questions:
What kind of person do you need to become in order to achieve this goal?
What aspects of you already show you are that person?
Is there anything that you could learn that would help you to feel better-equipped?