Goal setting amid the pandemic

Goal setting amid the pandemic

‘Are you sure you want to get pregnant and start a family while in a pandemic?’ asked my gynaecologist last year when I revealed my plans to him. ‘Life goes on’, I remember very promptly and confidently replying without second thoughts or doubts. Indeed, life finds a way to continue even amid worst situations such as wars, hunger and big natural catastrophes. 

When covid broke out, I, like many other people around the globe, felt my life coming to a pause, like a deer freezing when facing the car lights in the night. All of our upcoming flights for leisure were cancelled, I had to work from home and learn how to teach online, and our wedding in the city hall was cancelled and had to reschedule for later, which was highly frustrating. In 2020, I turned thirty, and of course, I could not have my dirty-thirties big celebration as we were in the middle of a long and seemingly, never-ending lockdown. There was fear all over due to this novel situation. I was afraid of catching the virus. I remember we were going with my husband out for long walks, and we would avoid the parks and people there; instead, we took the small paths and streets around the city, where barely anyone was using to avoid getting in touch with others. We were required to put lots of our plans on hold. 

Then the next lockdown came, and more and more restrictions and sanctions emerged, as the corona pandemic seemed to persist and prevail in our lives. I felt that I could no longer use it as an excuse for postponing plans and goals. I have been putting significant effort into practising and learning resilience. I better use this skill.

Through lots of effort, careful planning and dedication, we managed to have our city hall wedding and a follow-up party a month later, obeying all the covid regulations and restrictions at that time. It was an unpleasant and frustrating process, but we were determined to accomplish this goal for that year and not to suspend our plans. The wedding happened with what I consider great success. In the same period, we got our ever so beloved dog, Winston. Enough with putting it off. And the year after, we decided to expand our family by trying for a baby, pandemic, no pandemic. During my maternity leave, I decided I wanted to become a better friend by being more present in the life of the people I wanted to keep in touch with, either via dates or texts. In addition, I set my mind to exercising with more consistency and coherence, while I wanted to improve my German by following respective classes. 

Were all the above goals impulsive and mere ambitions? Definitely not. Both the decision to set some aims and their execution came through planning, effort, work, and dedication, which motivated me to pull through and not give up. There is a rich body of research-based evidence and literature on SMART goals. Successful and fruitful goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. They need to be adjustable to personal needs and conditions, absolutely realistic and simple—especially when the surrounding conditions are harsh and out of our control, like this pandemic.

 I have been personally dedicating plenty of time and energy to learning how to set my goals and why should I have them. I am intrigued by long-term visions, which can be reached by setting targets in my life, but I often struggle to maintain my dedication and motivation. Mainly because these objectives were closer to idealism than realism, I would start big and quickly get disappointed when desired results would not appear within a short period. Via conversations and books, I understood that goals are nothing but skills. Every aim is linked to a skill one needs to cultivate, improve or develop. If I want to become a better friend, I should work harder on my communication skills. If I want to get fitter, I rather exercise commitment. If I want to lose weight, I should work harder on self-control and composure. Skills are the means to carry out our goals, and this starts internally, from within us. Success assumes hard work, luck does not last long, and excuses are little monsters that should remain locked in our closets.

And we should not worry about previous failed attempts to accomplish our aims, especially amid trying times. As Irvin Yalom, the renowned psychiatrist has so aptly stated, ‘Sometimes I simply remind patients that sooner or later they will have to relinquish the goal of having a better past’. It sounds admittedly cliche, but it is frankly never too late or inconvenient for goal-setting.

My point is that life is perplexing, knotty. There will always be a reason to put our plans in the freezer, be it a pandemic, money management issues, earthquake, volcano eruption, zombie apocalypse, aliens or the return of dinosaurs. Τhen what? We take a step back re-evaluate our situation and options to adjust, overcome and move on. Because we always have to look forward and strive to become a better version of ourselves instead of repeatedly using excuses to avoid hard work and, consequently, progress. 

*If you want to dive more into this topic, I highly recommend the books The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen R. Coveyand and the Growth Mindset by Carol S. Dweck.

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