Updated: Apr 16
Whilst in the midst of this pandemic you can either stop, pivot and forge ahead or choose to become a victim and allow fear and anxiety to prevail. Regardless of which path you pursue, it's important to recognise that we all need time to acclimatise to the environment in which we now find ourselves.
Many of us are needing to adjust course and even create new goals because of the impact COVID-19 has had on both business and day-to-day life. Adapting to the 'new normal' has been taken in stride by some and left others immobilised. According to neuroscientist Dr. Sarah Mackay, the way in which we respond to the uncertainty is hardwired and the brain can create stories to fill the information gap. When we ruminate or worry, it becomes a pattern and we become prone to incessantly thinking worst-case scenario. This is likely what's happened for those who aren't coping or who have become overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the times.
Fortunately, we can rewire our brains and course-correct.
If you're creating new goals, you must consider it a process rather than a box-ticking exercise. Setting goals now, will help re-align focus and promote a sense of control and self-mastery. According to Locke & Latham, leaders in goal-setting theory, goals not only affect behaviour as well as job performance, but they also help mobilise energy which leads to a higher effort overall. (1)
Goal setting gives meaning to your actions and the purpose of achieving something more. For most, goal setting has been outcome based but we now know that goals need meaning....they need to be linked to our values and what we personally consider a meaningful life to be.
Step 1. Identify your values and determine what is meaningful to you ~ your why.
Everyone holds unique, innate character strengths and research indicates that when you tap into your strengths, you perform better, you have greater resilience and overall well-being. Using your innate strengths can help you achieve your goals. To find out what your signature strengths are you can complete the free assessment HERE.
Step 2. Identify your signature strengths.
Unfortunately people often approach goals from a rational, logical, pragmatic perspective which is fine if you simply want to put pen to paper and record your anticipated achievements and rewards, but it won't get you far. You need to tap into your intrinsic drive and identify how you want to feel.
Step 3. Establish how you want to feel. Be brave.
It's essential that you take the time to map your goals out through the SMART framework. Within this framework you can highlight the values that align with your goal, the strengths you will use to make progress and the core desired feelings you're aiming for.
Step 4. Use the SMART framework.
"When you’ve made a plan you can probably throw it away because its main use is the process of planning – which should include anticipating obstacles and figuring a way to get round, through, over or under them." Eisenhower
Step 5. Identify potential obstacles and determine ways to overcome them.
These 'ways' may include a shift in mindset, strengthening resolve, the acquisition of new skill-sets or even motivational reinforcement to overcome your tendency to self-sabotage.
IE: "Fear is the path to the dark side" (Yoda).
"If it's important enough you'll make the time, if not you'll make an excuse".
Get into the habit of asking yourself:
"Does this support the life I'm trying to create?"
Individuals often set goals in order to better themselves however, it's not the goals that engender the betterment, it's the systems that are put in place in order to achieve the goals. These systems consist of rituals and habits which researchers at Duke University say account for approximately 40% of our behaviours on any given day.
Step 6. Create systems that will ensure your success.
"When you learn to transform your habits, you can transform your life." James Clear
Mindset plays a crucial role in both setting goals, goal orientation and ultimately achievement. A growth mindset leads to a desire to learn and grow, giving you a sense of free-will and a "can-do" attitude.
Grit, a construct researched by Angela Duckworth and colleagues, has garnered support from education, the military, sport and business alike. According to Duckworth, "grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals." Certain behaviours (courage, cognitive control, effort & resilience) lead to grit and there are countless ways you can raise your inner grit. To get see how passionate and persevering you see yourself to be click HERE.
Step 7. Adopt a growth mindset & harness the power of grit.
One of the most common self-sabotaging behaviours surrounding goal setting is the neglect to refer back to goals on a regular basis. Weekly check-ins serve two purposes, they enable you to reflect on your progress and they encourage you make any adjustments based on that progress or lack-there-of.
Step 8. Regularly check-in, reflect and adjust if necessary.
Habit and behaviour reinforcement are key. The evidence indicates that when you reward a behaviour, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released which provides you with pleasure, encouraging you to repeat the behaviour. According to James Clear, we chase rewards because they serve two purposes: (1) they satisfy us and (2) they teach us. Therefore, celebrate the small wins, with each milestone ensure you're giving yourself that boost.
One last thing to mention, when you do structure your goals, it's important to ensure that your goals are not in conflict, as this often occurs with too many competing priorities. Once you've mapped your goals out through the SMART framework, determine if any of them are in conflict and if so, make the necessary modifications.
"The people who get things done, who lead, who grow, who make an impact. Those people have goals. Seth Godin.
Locke, Edwin A., and Gary P. Latham.A theory of goal setting & task performance. Prentice-Hall, Inc, 1990.
Kirsten works with individuals, teams and organisations in creating goals with soul, cultivating growth mindsets and harnessing grit. Contact her today to run a virtual series with yourself or your team and emerge from COVID-19 stronger.