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Monday, January 18, 2021

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Getting Clear in the New Year: Setting Goals During Uncertain Times

By Brandy Centolanza

As we enter 2021, many families may be wondering how to set New Year’s goals in light of the pandemic. While this January is certainly different than the last one, setting goals and searching for ways to better ourselves doesn’t have to be.

“What can help families during this time is to realize that even though life has changed dramatically, we can still accomplish goals; we just have to find a different approach of doing things,” says Barbara Gustavson, a leadership and brain health coach and founder of Discover Next Step. “Some of these changes may have been needed to be made prior to the pandemic, but because we’re being forced to look at life differently, many are now more open to trying new things, including goal-setting and achieving.” 

Melanie Yost, a licensed clinical social worker and personal development coach, suggests families should align their goals with their lifestyle and core values. Start off by reviewing the previous year and reflect on what worked and what didn’t.

“Families should ask themselves how the pandemic shifted their values,” Yost says. “How did it shift your lifestyle? Are there things that were once important that no longer are or are there things that were not important but now are? What did you learn this year? What were the highlights? What are things you want to keep? What do you want to let go of? These are questions that you should ask your kids as well.”

“Now is a great time for parents to help kids get clear on their values and what is important to them and why,” Yost says. “Ask them ‘How do you want to feel every day?’ It’s a great question to ask kids. It’s important because once they figure out how they want to feel they can figure out what they can do to feel that way.”

One trending activity for goal-setting for families is the use of a vision board.

“A vision board is a way to create a visual picture(s) of what you want to create in your life,” Gustavson says. “You can use posterboard, a journal or anything you have on hand. You can even do this digitally. Vision boards can be more than cutting and pasting pictures. They can be used as a tool to clarify your goals and focus on them. Another way of keeping goals is to create a visual goal tracker.”

“Families should ask themselves how the pandemic shifted their values,” Yost says.

Families should look at all areas of their lives when setting goals. What do children want out of school? Peer relationships? Is there a new skill they want to learn?

“When they reach certain markers, it’s important to celebrate progress and encourage each other,” Gustavson says. “Make sure you take time to acknowledge their accomplishment.”

Yost, meanwhile, also recommends starting a gratitude journal, where you list, say, five different things you are thankful for each day.

No matter what your goals are, either as a family or individuals, taking baby steps toward the finish line is key.

“Most people want to stay on track and stick with their goals and when they don’t, they feel discouraged and often times are tempted to give up,” Gustavson says. “Give yourself lots of grace. Giving yourself permission to do things imperfectly will also help get back on track when you experience an obstacle. The important thing is to acknowledge how you feel, what didn’t go as planned, what you can do differently next time, then step forward.”

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