Let’s talk about having dreams and setting goals in the age of COVID-19. Why is it different—and why does that difference matter?
Everyone has been hit by this global pandemic in different ways. For some it may be hard to imagine the future, while others may feel inspired to mood board their little hearts out right now.
The truth is, there’s a kaleidoscope of experiences unfolding. I have friends gleefully building blanket forts with roommates while some are homeschooling children for the first time while they try to run businesses. Others are in tears while they wait for government assistance, which feels more elusive by the day.
I can’t pretend to know whether hopes and dreams are at the front of your mind right now, or if you’re just trying to pull it together enough to get to tomorrow.
Whether you’re feeling called to dream about the future or too hurt to think about that just yet, know that both responses are valid.
I’m guessing, though, if you clicked on this link, you’re at least a little bit interested in figuring out how to channel your inner-optimist and start looking forward.
If that’s true read on. If not, you can simply bookmark this for another day.
In fact, that brings us directly to our first point…
Feel what you feel—and don’t apologize for it.
Since lock down began in NYC, I’ve noticed an interesting curve in social media messaging that’s progressed a little something like this:
Phase 1: You’ll be working from home now, so prepare to wear no pants, ever! Yay!
Phase 2: Since you have so much time now, you’ll need to become a more impressive human being! Here’s a list of 100 ambitious things you can do while in lock down. It’s time to hustle!
Phase 3: No one should be hustling. We’re in mourning and in crisis mode! Cease all ambitious thinking!
And so on.
Of course, the points raised in each of these three phases have been valid. Messaging has gone from novelty to ambition to self-care, likely with the feedback and experiences of those consuming this kind of content.
How about we add a “Phase 4” to the mix?
It could be something like “No one should tell you whether or not you need to hustle or sleep in today. Everyone handles things differently. Listen to your intuition and act accordingly.”
I don’t think there’s any blanket advice on “what to do right now” that applies to us all—and that includes how to be, or not be, ambitious. Some of us have been hit hard and are still struggling to our feet, while others have thus far only known the boredom of lock down life.
Some of us need literal monetary support right now. Some of us need distractions so we stay the **** home™.
It comes down to knowing what makes sense for you to prioritize, and letting this kind of social media noise fade into the background. We should trust ourselves when it comes to being “ready” to set goals and muster up some ambition again.
If you’re feeling restless and eager to help others, why not channel that into something good? Why not get your hands dirty—and then wash them immediately after?
(Ho ho, a little hand-washing humor for ya.)
Be patient with yourself. This is probably your first pandemic.
I know we keep hearing things like “unprecedented”, “uncertain”, “never before encountered”, etc… but I think we need to chew on, digest, and fully respect this reality. Especially when it comes to setting goals.
Most of us—my audience being primarily millennials—simply haven’t experienced any event like this before. There have been outbreaks and scary circumstances, to be sure, but we’ve never been asked to isolate and shut down life as we know it.
This shut down is changing the way we view the entire world, from how we look at essential works (ideally with a LOT more freaking gratitude and respect now), to the resources we’ve been taking for granted. It’s changing the way we see our neighbors and the way we communicate with those we love.
We will find a new normal after this, but we’ll never go back to pre-COVID-19 life. We’ve been changed forever.
That means the way you imagine your own future may have drastically changed as well.
Be patient with yourself in this sense. Be patient if you hit mental blocks and can’t figure out what you want. Be patient when you have pangs of guilt over attempting to manifest a beautiful future when there’s so much darkness unfolding now.
Be patient when you pull out and dust off your original 2020 goals and they just don’t feel relevant anymore.
And be patient when you feel a tinge of panic because you just don’t know what the future looks like or how you’ll fit into it.
Give yourself credit for trying to make sense of it all—and for uncovering a bit of dream-inspiring optimism at all.
Accept that “normal” goals like decluttering might not work out.
…and that’s completely fine.
While self-isolation might feel like the perfect time to declutter, you should carefully consider whether an unpredictable limbo—what I’ve nicknamed my own abode—is the right version of your home to assess and tackle.
I don’t know about you, but my apartment isn’t reflecting my typical way of life at all right now, so my decluttering radar is drastically askew.
We have a portable washing machine hooked up to the kitchen sink, a drying rack taking up most of the bedroom, and other signs of “we’ve been inside for too long” almost everywhere you look.
Is this really the best time to “optimize” any room? For me, no.
And there are two reasons:
First, I can’t safely remove donations right now, and I don’t feel this is a valid reason to schedule a pickup or make a trip to a donation center, which could put myself or others at risk.
Sure, I could still work on sorting, but piling up a mountain of items to get rid of, only to have them sit idle in a pile for the foreseeable future, isn’t going to help my home feel more cozy. If anything, it’ll further solidify a sense of “limbo” and things being in flux.
Second, I wouldn’t be able to trust whether I’m decluttering something because I’m anxious, eager to see clear surfaces or truly want to remove it from my life. Our emotional states might not be completely neutral right now. I vote for holding off on making long-term decisions of that nature until after lock down ends.
Though, like everything else in this post, you’ll have to adapt my words to your individual scenario. Maybe you have additional storage space to house donations you’ll remove later (or whatever), and you’re feeling stable as drafting table, emotionally.
In which case, I will applaud you from here!
As for me, this 2020 resolution is one I’ll be holding off on until I’m no longer confined to the apartment.
Release any goals that don’t make sense for you right now.
My friends, I had a big list of goals locked and loaded for the new year when 2019 closed out. I started acting on them as soon as the year got under foot, hopping on planes, exploring new places, having new experiences—even launching my own agency! I felt like I was on top of the world.
And then, bam. Everything changed when we were herded into our homes in March.
I’ve spent a lot of time considering what I wrote down a few months ago, what was highlighted as crucial for the “success” of my year.
When I look back at that list, some of it seems trite. Some of it simply won’t be happening (due to canceled flights, etc), and some of it? I just don’t give a dang about anymore.
I’ve been sitting on that list of goals, eager to make a post about them: My reformed 2020 list. But each time I look at the list, I change it a little. In some ways, I’ve added more whimsy. In other ways, I’ve removed ego-driven goals for things that feel substantial.
What I’m working toward is a snapshot of goals that, while also in flux and subject to change, more accurately represents where I am right now and what I want to prioritize.
I encourage you to find your own list of 2020 goals—or to write them down for the first time. Then, whip out the old red pen and give your list a thorough edit.
What make sense for you right now? What doesn’t? What would make you happy? What’s weighing you down?
What can you adjust, remove, re-imagine that is within the realm of your control?
Notice the “make sense for you” in the headline above. Please don’t edit your list based on what you think you’re supposed to care about right now. The best thing you can do is stay true to yourself.
Your goals are valid. They can also be private! Keep them close, review them, and adjust them as you evolve through this crisis.
Also! Don’t worry about cutting out something you actually want to do. You can always come back to them later (and dreams/goals you’re truly aligned with have a way of popping back up).
Do what you can with what you have
Alright. Maybe you had just a few big dreams this year—dreams that require, you know, leaving the house—and you’re not ready to let go of them.
Here’s some good news that you may want to scribble on a post-it note and stick to your desk: Setting goals related to post-COVID-19 life doesn’t mean putting them on hold completely.
While it might seem like IRL dreams are now put on hold indefinitely, progress can be made on all sorts of things from home.
Maybe you were going to start a travel vlog this year, but your much-anticipated trips got canceled. Why not spend this time working on editing techniques or growing your email list? You can also watch other travel vlogs on YouTube to get inspiration or tips on living on the road.
Perhaps getting fit was on the top of your list. What’s stopping you from setting up a tiny corner of your home and hanging up a sign that says “GYM”? (I bought a compact exercise bike and I love it!) Free streaming workouts are everywhere, including those that don’t require equipment.
If you wanted to be more social this year, you can still do that. Make a weekly wine night on Skype or Zoom. Check in with friends via chat or messenger apps. Exchange emails or start a fun project together like a joint blog.
Were you planning to learn new recipes this year? Trade in novel ingredients for the ones in your closet. Can you make a gourmet meal with whatever you already have? Think of fun challenges to innovate and hone your skills. Maybe you even create a DIY cook book after it’s over?
You get the idea.
Whatever you’re passionate about, you can figure out how to chip away at it, bit by bit. Channel your creativity.
Include goals that give back to the community.
There’s no anecdote to fear and uncertainty like extending a (socially distanced) hand. If you can’t seem to shake the doom-and-gloom when you sit down to think about the future, I suggest looking for ways to help others.
I’m so proud of my friends and family who have been tirelessly working on masks to donate to those in need. I feel the same about independent fashion designers I follow who have been leveraging their equipment to create protective gear for those who need it.
And of course, my heart goes out to all essential workers and healthcare professionals who are keeping society running right now.
Without my sewing machine or materials here in Brooklyn, I have been focusing on monetary donations to support fellow freelancers and the community at large. I’m lucky enough to have money coming in (at least for now), so I’m making sure some of it finds its way to those who need it.
When you give back, people suffer less, and if we only wake up with one goal each day it should be to help others suffer less, am I right?
You will also enjoy a happy byproduct of generosity: a spark of optimism that can fuel you to have even more impact. As one of my mentors, James Wedmore, says, you can’t feel fear when you’re here to serve others.
It’s more important than ever that we all come together to support our neighbors. If you’re still working and not in financial despair, consider finding a campaign or a relief fund to donate to. There are new options popping up every day that are unique to our current situation, like digital tip jars for bar and restaurant staff who are currently out of work.
Include something fun and lighthearted in the mix.
I’ll wrap this up by saying this: whimsy is important.
Please don’t feel like you need to be entirely serious when setting goals, solely due to the seriousness of what’s unfolding in the world right now. While we do have matters to take seriously, grimacing your way through the day isn’t healthy or productive.
Additional stress and negative won’t help you or anyone else.
That said, once you’ve done what you can to give back (see above), go ahead and add some lighthearted and fun things to your “must do” list.
For example, some of my “fun goals” are getting back into watercolors and re-watching the entire Sailor Moon series! I have serious goals like building out my agency website and applying for grad school, too. But I happen to consider fun a big priority.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that my propensity to seek out fun allows me to be the person I am! I thrive on it. And while I may not always be a walking cartoon character, I don’t need to spend 24/7 stressing over my career or reading devastating news either.
Find your happy medium.
(If you’re not sure where to begin, I highly recommend Sailor Moon).
Since I’m still working online with one of my clients, I’ve been able to keep my optimism levels pretty high during this chaotic event. I’m incredibly thankful to be in a head space where I’m optimistically thinking about goals and the future.
Life is unpredictable and could change at any moment. That’s why I think adding those high-vibe goals to the mix is so important.
Even when it feels like having a “festive” blog and “optimistic” goals might seem superfluous right now, I would argue that we need things like that, now more than ever.
Whether your dreams and goals give you something to act on now, or are simply act as a bit of an optimism infuser while we deal with this pandemic, I encourage you to spend some time on them this week. I hope the tips above will be useful in setting goals that fill you with joy and make the future look a little brighter.
If you’d like to share one of your goals, comment below! I’d love to hear what you’ve been dreaming up.
Until next time, be well.
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