Life is unpredictable – in good ways and bad. The good ways are exciting, the bad ways are often horrible. In the context of reaching your goals, those bad times can be enough to make you want to give up and resign yourself to watching reality TV on the couch from now on.
But it doesn’t have to get that extreme.
Because there are things that you can do to hold steady on the commitments that you made to yourself. Even during uncertain times, even when life feels unpredictable or out of control.
You don’t need to give up on your goals every time the world goes off the rails.
My wife and I recently had our first child. It’s exciting, wonderful, and infinitely more amazing than I could have ever imagined.
As a new parent there are many things to take care of:
- Fits of crying
- Diaper changes
- Play time
And that doesn’t even include what we need to do for the baby! *Dad joke
That said, as a new parent I want to make sure that I keep my sense of fun and adventure. So one of my goals for the year is to attend a concert or go to a nightclub at least once a quarter. I love both electronic music (EDM) and dancing and these venues grant me access to both.
So in quarter one, I bought tickets for my wife and I to go to a local club and see the DJ group, Cash Cash.
We make arrangements for our daughter, plan out the evening, and excitedly anticipate the day.
And then COVID-19 happens.
Just like that
It’s the day of the event. We have been looking forward to it all month. And even though this is before businesses are closing and quarantines are put into effect, we sadly know that with everything going around it’s too risky to attend.
So, I call and get our tickets refunded.
We are both disappointed, but know that a little disappointment is better than putting our daughter in a lot of risk.
And just like that, I fail my goal.
But… did I?
I put in the work
It’s true, I don’t technically accomplish my goal. I don’t attend that club event and likely won’t experience one by the end of the quarter. However, I still took the actions that I committed to myself to take.
- Researched the artists playing in the area
- Decided between a number of venues and events
- Booked the tickets
- And made the necessary arrangements for our daughter
I put in the work. I just didn’t get to experience the end result I wanted.
In my mind, I did everything within my control to achieve that goal. But in this case, there was a force much larger than myself preventing me from crossing the finish line – a global pandemic.
So do I consider myself as “failing” that goal? Well, in one sense – yes. I didn’t achieve the thing I wanted to achieve. But also – no. I took the necessary actions, I made the plans.
Everything that I could do, I did.
I didn’t procrastinate or delay or ignore my goal.
I stuck to the commitment that I made and did everything within my power. So what do I do? I chalk it up to force majeure (a first for me).
As stated on Wikipedia, force majeure is:
“…a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, plague, or an event described by the legal term act of God (hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc.), prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.”
I do the only thing that I can do – declare force majeure and wait for the storm to pass. And once it does, I’ll resume the goal and attend that concert or club with my wife as originally intended.
Tips for reaching your goals
Even if you do everything perfectly, things will come up that prevent you from reaching your goals. Was I planning on a pandemic derailing my plans?
Did it happen?
Will I abandon my goal because of it?
I still am excited about that goal and just need to wait for things to settle down so that I can continue pursuing it.
Similarly, when your life becomes unpredictable, when you feel like you have no say in what happens, that’s no reason to abandon your goals. You may just need to adjust your strategy, or be patient, or be a little flexible.
Your goals are there to help you create a better life for yourself.
As long as you are actively trying to make it work, you are doing yourself a positive service. That said, when trying to reach your goals in uncertain times, use the following tips to increase your odds of success.
Reaching your goals: Set ones that you can control
Ask a room full of people in January what goal they want to achieve and you already know what they’re going to say:
- “I want to lose 12 pounds.”
- “I’d love to lose 40 pounds.”
- “I want to lose 15 pounds.”
It’s almost too predictable. It’s why you see so many weight loss ads in January and February. Everyone has losing weight on their mind.
But that’s not a wise goal to set for yourself.
Because you can’t control what your body does. You may workout six times a day and eat nothing but carrots for a week straight (don’t do that) and still not lose the amount of weight you want. Maybe you put on muscle instead of losing weight. Maybe you lose one pound instead of the three you hoped for.
You can’t control the outcome and therefore, you set yourself up for failure.
In an unpredictable world, you need to control as many variables as possible. And when it comes to how to reach your goals in life, you can’t control what your body will do, but you can control your actions.
Those then are the goals that you should set for yourself.
- Not to – Lose 20 pounds.
- But to – Eat under 2000 calories a day, six days a week, for three months – for example.
You can’t control the former (Lose 20 pounds), but you can the latter (Eat under 2000 calories a day, six days a week, for three months). And by setting a goal within your control, you set yourself up for success.
After all, you are in control of your actions, not the results.
If you eat under 2000 calories for only two days a week instead of the six that you set for yourself, you can see that you are coming up short on that goal. From there, you can course-correct and get yourself to a place where you are eating under 2000 calories per day for the six days a week as planned.
The end result of you eating under 2000 calories a day, six days a week, for three months may be that you lose 20 pounds, or maybe it won’t.
What matters more than anything though, is that you kept that commitment to yourself.
You did what you said you were going to do for three months and have achieved something great in the process.
And, if you find that you didn’t lose any weight (the underlying reason behind eating less calories in the first place), you can set a different goal that is within your control and, with the confidence that you are someone that achieves your goals, start working in that new direction.
Looking at my club goal as an example, it is one totally within my control. It is within my ability to research the venues, buy the tickets, and attend the club. I am in full control of that goal and whether or not I achieve it is on me.
But, that’s not actually the case… anymore at least.
It was totally within my control when I first set it, but powerful circumstances changed things. It suddenly became something outside my scope of control.
So what do I do?
Well like I touched on previously, I do everything I possibly can, but ultimately chalk it up to force majeure and wait for conditions to improve. So when it comes down to how to achieve a goal successfully, you need to set goals that you can control.
However, when things change you need to be flexible… which leads me to my next tip.
Reaching your goals: Make adjustments as needed
For the sake of reaching your goals, you need a healthy dose of flexibility.
For instance, take the weight loss example from above. You set a goal to eat under 2000 calories a day, six days a week, for three months. But, after a week you realize that’s much too ambitious. At six days a week you feel like you are being severely limited. Like you can’t enjoy yourself or eat the foods you like.
So you do what most people do – give up. You say: “This whole eating better thing isn’t for me. It’s too restricting. I’m over it.” Instead of quitting though, you can adjust your goal to better fit your lifestyle.
Maybe six days feels terrible, but you can manage four days a week.
And four days is certainly better than zero.
You update your goal to make it a little more sustainable and have a much better time making progress forward.
Stick with it
Reaching your goals, or improving your life in any way, is often made to seem like you need to make a drastic, overhaul-like change. You need to:
- Read two books a day
- Run a marathon each weekend
- Make 1000 sales calls by noon
In actuality though, those goals aren’t sustainable and you will likely quit before making any real progress. You’re pushing too hard and will burn out.
Conversely, what you really need is something sustainable that you can stick to through the unpredictability of life. You also need the flexibility to know that you can change your goal as you learn new things or as your circumstances change.
Looking at my club example again, it’s a classic case of circumstance change.
I’m not giving up on my goal, I just have to wait until venues open again before I can resume it. If I’m rigid, I call myself a failure and throw the whole thing away. But that would be a disservice to myself and what I want out of life.
So instead, I’m flexible and wait for the chaos to subside.
Reaching your goals: Join a group
In The 12 Week Year, the authors cite a fascinating article by Fast Company. Among other great points made, the article states that when making a change in your life, you are seven times more likely to stick with that change when you are part of a support group.
Meaning that if you want to read a book a month, you are seven times more likely to stick with that goal if you are part of a group where the other members are also reading one book a month. Or at the very least are also working towards their own goals as well.
The support, accountability, encouragement, and empathy that the group provides works in your favor and helps you feel even more connected to making that positive change in your life.
To making reaching your goals a reality.
I never considered this until recently, but it makes so much sense.
Vent and share
For the last six months, I’ve taken part in a weekly meeting of online business owners. Each week, we get on a video chat and discuss our goals. We vent our frustrations and share our wins. We encourage each other and offer support as needed.
And it’s been amazing.
Having a group of peers that I can lean on because they know exactly what I’m going through has been a life changer.
Before that, when I would struggle I’d feel alone. Like it was my own unique failing. That everyone else was succeeding and I was the only one floundering. But, taking part in the group each week has helped me learn that’s just not true.
Sometimes I’m succeeding and my group-mates are struggling, sometimes it’s the other way around.
Either way, that support has helped me stay sane and even more determined to make the positive impact that I wish to see in my life and business. So when I came across that idea in The 12 Week Year it made so much sense.
Because I had experienced firsthand the power that being part of a group provides.
In unpredictable times, you don’t always know what tomorrow will bring. That’s where a group becomes an incredibly helpful thing to have.
Through the chaotic times, you can be there for each other. To offer suggestions, support, encouragement, and valuable feedback. You can navigate the uncertainty together and increase your odds of success.
By seven times!
When setting goals for yourself, or when making any change in your life for that matter, consider joining a group. It’s worth it.
Reaching your goals moving forward
Don’t let uncertain times derail your goal setting progress. Instead, use the tips that I mentioned above to help you move in the right direction and understand how to achieve any goal.
- Set ones that you can control
- Be flexible and make adjustments as needed
- Join a group for support, encouragement, and accountability
You can’t predict what will happen tomorrow, but you can set yourself up to be as successful with your efforts as possible. Keep the above goal setting tips in mind and use them to start reaching your goals.
I’ll see you at the club.