by Shayne Thomas
09 Apr 2020
Maybe it's time to reevaluate your goals?
4 approaches for setting realistic goals in the face of the COVID-19 crisis
January 1, 2020: The new year was off to a great start. You had a solid plan in place, filled with a number of goals that you knew you could achieve over the course of the coming year. You were ready for 2020 to be nothing short of a huge success. Now, fast forward a few months...
Today: The novel coronavirus has rocked the world’s healthcare systems, economic foundations, and even the general psyche of people all around the world. The experience humanity is having today is a far cry from what it was when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve.
In short, most of what you had in your master plan at the beginning of the year, if not everything for that matter, has probably been thrown out the window as the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold more and more each day. And while we all know that humans, in general, are not big fans of change, there are very few people in this world who were prepared to deal with the kind of change that this global pandemic has brought about. Nothing about the current situation is easy. In fact, we’re all figuring it out as we go.
But leave it to Mister Rogers to remind us of the bigger picture:
What is Mister Rogers trying to tell us here? Here’s one take on it. Plans are just plans. As with everything in life, plans, too, can and often change. How we adapt to those changes and make the most out of difficult situations, however, is the key to overcoming times of stress.
Therefore, as you’re likely sitting at your (home office) desk looking back at the goals you had for this year, you might feel as though all of the planning and preparation that went into it was all for nothing. But that’s not true at all. Just because life has thrown the world a proverbial curveball doesn’t mean you toss out your goals and wait for life to become “normal” again—because, after all, no one realistically knows when that’s going to happen.
Instead, seize this opportunity to revisit your goals, through the lens of this global pandemic, and potentially even embrace a new perspective on goal setting altogether. Now is not the time to challenge yourself with big, audacious goals; rather, use this time to set realistic goals and figure out how you can achieve them during these very uncertain times. Here are a few approaches that can help you stay grounded in this goal re-setting process:
1. Temporarily forget about the long-term
Even after we’ve all been released from isolation and the world starts to go back, albeit slowly, to a normal-seeming rhythm, we won’t be 100% in the clear. The economy alone will take months to rebound, and the spread of COVID-19 could ultimately peak again. No one has a crystal ball and can see into what the next six to twelve months will look like. Right now, we’re all living day by day. So, save the long-term goals that you had set for your team for a rainy day. Although they may not be actionable this year, they could certainly make a comeback in 2021. You established these as goals for very good reason in the first place; you just didn’t anticipate the world doing a complete 180. No one did. So, for the time being, set your sights on the here and now—and then feel free to revisit those long-term goals again when the dust has settled.
2. Shift your focus to small wins
Now that we’ve tucked away our long-term goals in a safe place, we need to, again, focus on the here and now. Ask yourself the following:
- What can I realistically accomplish today? By the end of the week? In a month?
- What does my business need most now to succeed during this time?
- How can I shift my team’s priorities to ensure that the work we do makes the most immediate positive impact on the business as a whole?
- What does success look like for our team in this constantly evolving crisis?
While this is obviously not an exhaustive list of all the questions you can (and should) ask yourself, it’s a way to get you thinking about what’s truly feasible in the near-term and avoid getting stressed out about the bigger, long-term goals that may have started to weigh you down. Shifting your focus to small wins also shifts your perspective on success: by creating realistic goals for you and your team to accomplish in the near-term, you also create new and meaningful opportunities to celebrate success over and over again. Everyone needs a little positivity today. This is the time to go above and beyond to celebrate even the smallest wins. At the end of the day, it will more than likely bring a smile to someone’s face.
3. Maintain accountability
Everyone copes with uncertainty and crisis differently. Some people also may be finding it incredibly challenging to be stuck at home working every day with no real outlet to “shake it off” after a long workday. The boundaries between work and personal lives are blurrier for many people now than ever before. However, whether you choose to work in sweats all day or maintain a routine and get yourself showered and dressed first thing in the morning, you still have to get work done. Doesn’t matter what you look like doing it or where you’re doing it from for that matter (I’ve known some people to be very successful at getting work done on their sofas!), but just because you’re not in the office every day is not an excuse to let your team’s work—and goals—go by the wayside. While this doesn’t mean you should be a drill sergeant by any stretch of the imagination, it also doesn’t mean you should throw accountability out the window along with your long-term goals either. As a manager, you have two major priorities during this difficult time: 1) to keep your team motivated and engaged and 2) to respect deadlines, ensuring your team consistently meets the business’s broader expectations. Ongoing communication is key here—beyond just emails or texts—as is leading with compassion.
4. Be prepared to reevaluate goals regularly
Until we all know that we’re in the clear and the COVID-19 crisis is long behind us, there’s a good chance life will continue to change—in many ways that we can’t even begin to anticipate now. So, knowing that the only constant in the near-term is likely going to be constant change, be sure to stay nimble, flexible, and prepared to revisit and refine your goals quarterly, if not even more regularly than that. As businesses adapt to the ever-changing circumstances brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, their priorities will inevitably need to change, too—and this will trickle down to your team at some point. And while it may not always be easy to “roll with the punches,” if there’s ever been a time in modern history when we have had to embrace that philosophy, that time is now.
To wrap this up, let’s be inspired once again by the ephemeral wisdom of Mister Rogers: "Often out of periods of losing come the greatest strivings toward a new winning streak."
No words could be truer right now. Just remember, whatever challenges you’re facing today, as you cope with the many brutal realities of the COVID-19 crisis, you’re not alone. We’re all in this fight together, and Cornerstone is always here to help you get through it with flying colors (new goals and all!).