At least this year, we’re going into it knowing it’s going to be abnormal year. This time last year, we had the naivety of a soon-to-be college grad, seeing all of the opportunity in the world. We made plans that we’d soon have to cancel, set goals that we could no longer achieve – we even dreamed of vacations we’d soon have to put on hold.

And when none of it happened, it was pretty devastating. On top of that, we lived in a world of uncertainty unlike anything any of us had ever experienced. Buzzwords like unprecedented, new normal, and uncertain times soon entered the vernacular of the press, our politicians and even our colleagues. Last year we didn’t know what to expect. I think many of us believed the initial round of lockdowns would be enough. We just need 2 weeks to slow the spread and flatten the curve. Remember that? Flatten the curve. It sounds like something written in history books, but it was less than a year ago.

The point is that most of us didn’t realize how long this would all carry on. We kept living in hopes that it would get better, while it only kept getting worse. Now, as we enter a new year, there is still vast amounts of uncertainty surrounding when our lives will “go back to normal.” As we hear reports and estimates on when everyone should be vaccinated, it’s probably safe to say we are still at least months out from returning to any semblance of normalcy. While that seems vague, it gives us a frame of reference for planning the year ahead.

Flexibility is key

One of the most relevant lessons from 2020 is the importance of flexibility. In 2021, flexibility should be your power word. In your personal and professional life, this should be a regular practice.

Another buzzword you probably heard a lot this past year is “pivot.” Many businesses started the year on track with their goals only to have their plans utterly decimated in March when everything started closing. So, these businesses had to shift their priorities, rethink their business plans and figure out what else they could bring to the table in this new environment.

I heard a great story on the Rachel Hollis podcast of a fancy restaurant transitioning to a takeout burger joint during the pandemic. In a world where many people fear going out in public or the governments have placed restrictions on bars and restaurants, fine dining is no longer a viable business for the time being. So this particular restaurant happened to have a chef who knew how to make a mean hamburger, and this business found a way to keep their entire staff on at a time where most service industry workers got let go.

That is the power of flexility.

Realistic Goal-setting

This is still a year to dream big. It’s just a year that requires a little more creativity in goal-setting, because we have to dream within the realm of possibility.

Say you’re a musician, and your dream is to play in front of massive arenas that are full of concert-goers. At the root of it, you’re a musician whose dream is to perform for a lot of people. It isn’t that your dream has to change at its core; it just has to change its form.

Someday, you may be able to realize that ambition. But this is not the year. This year, you could still perform for millions, it will just likely be in the form of a screen.

And for the record, I’m not saying concerts couldn’t happen in the second half of 2021.The jury is still out on that one.

This is more about dreaming within a space that feels tangible to us this year. The fact of the matter is that we don’t know when our lives and jobs will return to normal. And so until then, it seems worth exploring alternative routes of achieving our core goals.

Be specific

Part of successful goal-setting is specificity. I’ll keep this short and sweet, because I know you know the overall gist of this one. But I want you to really take it to heart this year.

You may have already established goals or New Years Resolutions, but take a second pass to make sure you’re being specific. Then break them down in a way that feels more digestible. If you set specific numbers for your goals for the year, divide it by 12. That way you have a tangible number to try to achieve every month.

And one more time, be flexible. Don’t get stuck in the details or throw in the towel if you don’t meet that number right away. Maybe you’ll crush the next month and it will even out. But either way, you’re still making progress.

Don’t give up

2020 was a year that most of us gave ourselves a bit more grace and for good reason. It was the year to survive, not the thrive. In 2021, I want you to give yourself permission to not get overwhelmed and take breathers when you are in survival mode (I’m partially saying this part to myself. I’m ultra guilty of being hard on myself, even in the hardest of times). This year is still so difficult and we are still in the middle of a crisis. But I hope that you won’t give up.

As hard is this season is, it’s something we can get through. We have developed the skills and strength to persevere and build a better future for ourselves. Now that we know it’s going to be an abnormal and a trying time, we can plan for it.

We all have pandemic fatigue and desperately want to be able to return to a time when we could safely interact with other human beings in person. But until we can do that, we have to work with what we have.

Be willing to change your plans & make the best use of this year

2021 is bound to be another abnormal year. In the spirit of staying flexible, be open to the idea that plans can change at a moments notice.

When I wrote the rough draft for this post, I had an entire page and a half-worth of my specific goals for the year. I even followed my own advice, breaking the goals down by month. And somewhere between the initial writing of this post and today, I decided to go back to school. I’m still trying to figure out what that looks like for me, but it is a big decision that completely derailed my initial set of plans for 2021. For someone as future-oriented as I am, the idea of such a sharp redirect terrifies me.

But what someone pointed out to me is that time is going to pass whether or not we decide to do any of the things we are talking about. We won’t get back these days or months or the rest of 2021 after it passes. So why not spend it doing something that moves you forward?

Imagine this: it’s December 31, 2021. Your sights are already set on what 2022 will have in store for you, and you’re thinking back on all that you accomplished this year. Knowing what we know now, knowing that circumstances will change and obstacles will arise, what is most important for you to focus on this year?