COVID-19 has turned everyone’s lives, hopes, and dreams inside out, and upside down. No-one, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity has been left untouched by the ramifications of this worldwide pandemic. Perhaps at the beginning of lockdown the thought of staying at home sounded exciting and different. We could finally do all the things we wanted, such as spend time with our families, pursue our hobbies, watch TV, or sleep late. But soon all those ideas became a little less exciting, and the novelty wore off. If we had ever thought about something like this in our lifetime, maybe it was associated with a “Big Bang”. I don’t believe that anybody would have believed that it would be an invisible virus that would have such a huge impact on the entire world!

Right now, everyone is experiencing an array of emotions ranging from high to low. We also have a steady stream of questions which don’t have answers, and an existential fear of what the future will hold. The media and social media platforms provide an overload of information, which we’re struggling to absorb, arrange, and understand. Every now and again, what we hear gives us a glimmer of hope that it will be over soon, and that the ramifications aren’t as severe. At other times, we’re overloaded with doom and gloom. Subconsciously, our minds are absorbing the news, but we can’t cope with the volume and negativity of it, and many of us feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, hopeless, and scared for the future. These emotions are all absorbed by our bodies, and we begin to show somatic symptoms of headaches, irritability, anger, lack of sleep, mood swings, or binge eating. Life with COVID-19 is testing us in terms of patience, compassion, self- love, empathy, and goal orientation.

I’m sure you’ve set some goals for 2020. These may be part of a New Year’s resolution, or your annual personal development process. These goals have now been turned on their head, and tossed out the window. Some may be on hold, others could be unattainable, and some may even be future dreams. Either way, your goals have undergone a change process. We need goals in our life because they give us meaning and structure. They help us stay motivated and focused, and, in the time of COVID-19, setting goals becomes a key coping strategy. That being said, we need to change our expectation of goal-setting in these times to ensure that our goals remain realistic and attainable. So, our goals need to be short-term, and we need to lower the standard of attainment. You might not agree with me on these two points, but we’re in an abnormal situation both emotionally and psychologically, and we can’t expect the same results as we would in any normal situation. You would be creating unrealistic demands on yourself, and setting yourself up for failure if you put more pressure on yourself; something you really don’t need right now. Slow and steady wins the race!

Five Easy Steps to Set Goals During Lockdown

I’m going to outline how you can set realistic goals during this time. These will make you feel more in control, with autonomy over the things you want to achieve. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” Begin with the outcome in mind, and then set the goals you want to achieve in the short-term. This easy and practical five-step process will help you turn problems into goals, and will allow you to take proactive control of your life.

Step 1: Define Short-term

You need to dene what the short-term means for you. It can be as short as a week, month, or a quarter, but right now it’s not advisable to plan for longer than six months. Life is too fluid and unpredictable, so planning for longer can be too ambitious.

Step 2: Set the final goal

Setting goals isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most of the time we aren’t sure what we want or really need. So, you can approach it in one of two ways, and choose the method that feels natural to you, knowing that there is no right or wrong way – just your unique way. You can either say what you don’t want, or you can work from the point where you wake up in the morning and you’re living your ideal life. If you choose option 1, where you write down everything you don’t want, your next step is to list the things you have direct control over. Focus on these, and discard the ones you can’t control. Next, re-phrase what you don’t want to what the opposite would look or feel like. So, “I don’t want to continuously feel anxious,” would be “I want to feel calm and in control.” Continue until you have completed the entire list. If you choose option 2, you have visualised the final outcome and need to write down what you would like and need to get to the final destination. Complete this sentence: “I need to have …”. As an example, you could write, “I need to have a reliable income.” The power of these two approaches is that you have made a list of what you want to focus on, and what you need in your life right now.

Step 3: Prioritise your goals

You’re likely to have a long list of wants and needs, and this can sometimes feel quite overwhelming. You cannot realistically focus on everything on your list in the short term, and this means that you have to decide what’s important and urgent right now. The things that are the most pressing can be attended to quickly, and the more important ones will require some more planning and time. Research has proven that we can’t actively focus on more than three or four goals at one time. When one goal is attained, then you can relook at your list and add a new one to work on.

Step 4: Further rank your goals

Differentiate between whether the goal means that you need to act or think differently. Is it about behaving differently to get to the end result, or does it mean that you need to think differently? This information will help you to deepen your plan of action, what support you may need, and the length of time required. We all know that changing our thinking might require a big adjustment and getting into action.

Step 5: Plan of action

With your goals set out in front of you, brainstorm some things that you can do to move one step closer to achieving the goals. Don’t judge your ideas; simply write them down. You’ll revisit your ideas many times, and will adjust them as you go along. As mentioned before, focus on small incremental progress steps rather than huge leaps. The continuous progress, regardless how small, will assist you to feel positive, experience positive emotions, reduce worrying, and make you feel more in control.

In Conclusion: Short-term and small goals provide stability

Thanks to COVID-19, you’ll have to reassess old goals and introduce new ones. Having small goals to focus on every day will give you stability, purpose, and meaning. You’ll start to feel in control over your problems, and notice that you’re proactively addressing them. Becoming active also reduces anxiety and feelings of overwhelm, so get that piece of paper out and start with your five-step goal plan now. The positive outcome will surprise you.

We wish you awareness, resilience, and perseverance during this time. Please reach out to us via with your questions and feedback.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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