December 2020

How Do You Set Goals for 2021?

by Erin Yeagley

"If you don't know where you are going, you might end up someplace else." —Yogi Berra, Baseball Hall of Fame Catcher and Coach

We use the aformentioned quote in our programs when discussing the importance of goal setting. It usually resonates strongly with the participants. Well Yogi... sorry but, 2020.

It’s safe to say that even those individuals who started 2020 with the smartest of SMART goals, have found themselves "someplace else" at the close of this crazy year. Just like that, master plans went out the window in mid-March and basic survival instincts took charge as we navigated "a new normal" which, let’s be honest, is still far from what we consider normal.

As we welcome this new year with open arms, for some of us the annual New Year’s resolution Goal Setting Session penciled in our calendar has been shifting day to day and then week to week until we end up here in the last week of 2020. The reality is that it’s hard, especially when it comes to definitive Outcome goals. 2020 made the "Specific" or S in SMART goals a guessing game. It is hard to wrap your head around planning out what you are going to Achieve in balance with what is even a Realistic possibility simply based on what we know today. Going round and round internally with the quandary, "Is that too big?" Followed by "Is that big enough?"

We understand the fact that those who set goals are 10 times more likely to succeed, however our instincts during crisis tell us to survive in a holding pattern until things become more stable. Perhaps the best approach to goal setting for 2021 is to set SMART Process and Performance goals, and leave definitive Outcome goals off the table for now. Process and Performance goals are much easier to personally control and manage.

In the HBR article How to Reset Your Goals During a Crisis, Dorie Clark and Patricia Carl say,

"One of the most significant challenges is the sense that lives are on hold. One young professional client of Patricia’s recently shared that the pandemic makes her feel that her career is in "neutral" — she feels anxious to move forward but is unsure about what the future holds. She’s not alone in her longing to advance her aspirations. In fact, setting goals and planning for the future is an essential aspect of our sense of well-being, because it can help combat the sense of helplessness and loss of control you’re likely feeling in the current environment."

They continue to advise goal setters to reflect on the following four questions when drafting goals in the face of uncertainty.

  1. What is important to me in the near term?
  2. What can I control?
  3. What are the actions I can take right now?
  4. How will I be accountable?

Bottom line: We must keep goal setting and moving towards a better self in 2021 or risk another 6 months to a year in an uneasy and unfulfilling holding pattern. It does not have to be a big idea, but you do need to get started and take action. What small goal can you make for yourself today? This week? This month? This quarter?

Goal Setting is a crucial skill of leadership. To learn more about goal setting, download "The 7 Crucial skills of Leadership" today.