What Do You Do With Your Big Goals When the World Is Falling Apart?

In uncertain times, what you want to achieve still matters

A photo of an older black man holding a trumpet in his living room. He is laughing.

TThe world is in an uncertain moment right now. Suddenly, your personal goals, the things you were so passionate about just a couple weeks ago, might feel less than important. Who cares about all the training you’ve done for your first marathon if you’re not sure you’ll have a job in a few weeks? How can you think about that art exhibit you’ve planning when the news is full of people getting sick? Are you really trying to launch that podcast about houseplants when others around you are confronting economic devastation, xenophobia, and mental health issues?

It’s easy to think, “Well, the sky is falling,” and shove those dreams into a box in the closet. But that would be a mistake. Even if you have to focus on other issues that are more pressing or essential to your immediate well-being, your big goals still matter. It’s not selfish or foolish to keep striving toward them — in fact, they may get you through these rough times and open up opportunities for you to help others. Here’s how you can maintain at least some momentum on your goals during chaotic times.

Forget about crushing your goal — just touch your goal every day

If you hit pause during times of uncertainty, you run the risk of either 1) never returning to the goal again, or 2) losing so much momentum that when you come back to the goal, you have to start from scratch.

For instance, let’s say you wanted to write a novel, but with everything else that’s happening right now, you’re overwhelmed by your usual writing routine. If you don’t look at your novel for several weeks or months, when you do come back, you’ll have to get to know your characters and find your pace again. You’ll no longer live inside your story and will have to do the work of moving back in.

Even when things are stressful and confusing, if you maintain a baseline habit of doing at least a little bit of work toward your goal — my go-to is 10 minutes a day — you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the progress you make. And when the time is right to fully reimmerse yourself in your goal, it will be so much easier to do so.

Reframe your goal

Sometimes all it takes to stay connected to your goal is changing the way you look at it. Ask yourself: Is there a way my goal intersects with what’s going on in the world right now that I haven’t thought of yet? And if so, how can I reframe my goal so it makes sense right now?

Maybe you’ve been working on a comic book. Instead of spending all your time finding a publisher, can you livestream drawing classes for kids who are stuck at home because of the coronavirus? The ability to shift gears is a valuable skill, even when you’re not weathering a crisis.

Shift into learning mode

If pursuing your goal just doesn’t make sense at the moment, you can still keep it in sight by shifting into learning mode. Make a list of books, podcasts, online groups, and workshops that can help you gain skills related to your goal. Surrounding yourself with conversations about graphic design or journalism or whatever field you’re pursuing allows you to keep a hand on your goal, even if it has to slide to a back burner for now.

Be a rebel

This last one is a mindset shift. There is no one way to feel about this crisis and no one way to respond, but refusing to give up on a goal can be a way of declaring to yourself that you’re not going to give in to fear and negativity. Maybe working full force on your goal is your way of moving forward, even when you must physically stay in place.

No matter what strategy you choose, know that you don’t have to let your goals fall to the wayside just because things are different now. If they were important to you before, they will likely become important to you again once you — and the world — find a new normal.

Learn. Write. Repeat. Visit me at ninjawriters.org. Reach me at shauntagrimes@gmail.com. (My posts may contain affiliate links!)

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