This year has thrown a wrench in everyone’s plans. It can be hard to think about next week, much less next year. And we should just forget about five-year plans, right?
Maybe not. There’s still value in setting goals for your daily/weekly life, for next year, and even the next ten years. The key to making it work now is thinking about those plans differently, with a little more creativity, care, and open-mindedness.
Here are three exercises to help you stay motivated to hit your big picture goals in 2021.
Current Me vs. Future Me
On March 12, 2012, at 6:46 a.m., I opened a notebook and drew a picture of myself on the left-hand page. I was frowning and wearing a pair of sweats. Around that drawing, I wrote: burnt out, selfish, impatient, need to stop flaking.
That was my Current Me at the time. Clearly, I wasn’t in a great state. But once I laid it out where currently I was in life on paper, it was easier to imagine where I wanted to be or what I wanted my Future Me to look like.
On the right-hand page, I drew myself smiling, wearing a dress, my hair in a neat bun. The words surrounding me: confident, strong, independent, balanced, excited for life, and the future.
I called the exercise “Current Me vs. Future Me” and I’ve been doing it every single year since then. Through the years, I find myself looking more and more like my Future Me each time.
For each “version” of yourself, consider:
- How do I feel about myself?
- What thoughts and emotions do I have?
- What are my habits?
- Where am I now, and where do I want to be one year from now?
It might be tempting to skip the drawing and just make two lists of each version of yourself, but I don’t suggest it. The more time and effort you put into the exercise, the more it sticks with you. Take the opportunity to associate goal-setting with fun and creativity.
If anything, you can use the sunk cost fallacy to your advantage. Every time you look back at your drawings (I suggest monthly), you’ll remember the effort it took to create and you’ll be more invested in making that Future Me a reality.
Self-care habit design
“Self-care” sometimes gets a bad rap for being nothing more than bubble baths and face masks.
Start thinking of self-care as any habit you can do that will support your mind or body while you pursue your goals. Maybe it is a weekly bubble bath, but it can also be: taking a walk to shake off your afternoon slump, getting to bed by 11:00 p.m. for a full night’s sleep, or weekly therapy sessions.
What are the ideal habits that make the most impact on your overall sense of well-being? How can you seamlessly incorporate them into your daily/weekly life?
While you practice these habits, keep in mind their larger purpose: They each support your ability to pursue your goals. In this way, achieving your big picture goals becomes your lifestyle.
Rather than a project you work on here and there, it’s something you take action on every single day.
Ideal world contribution
This exercise requires you to ask two questions:
- What changes would I like to see in the world?
- How can I contribute to the change that I wish to see in the world?
This year has probably brought to light many things we’d like to change in the world, but if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t exist in a bubble.
We also don’t achieve our goals in a bubble. When you achieve a goal, the impact it has doesn’t stop there, and it doesn’t stop at you.
There’s a positive side effect to reaching your goals. You naturally inspire others to do the same. The desire to see oneself improve is contagious. And as more and more people are bringing their best self to the world, the world becomes a little more ideal each time.
Naturally, your own drive to become your best self will sometimes waver. If you find yourself asking, “What I am doing all of this for?” keep the big picture in mind. You’re doing your part for the world.
Aileen Xu is a content creator and entrepreneur in personal growth and lifestyle design and the founder of Lavendaire. She created the Artist of Life Workbook, a detailed guide to creating your most inspiring and successful year, and the Daily Planner by Lavendaire, a tool for designing a productive, effective and meaningful day.