Goal Setting In The Time of Covid
Nearly 6 months after the pandemic lockdown, some of us have started to feel a little… off our game, shall we say? Listless? No direction? In the first few months, perhaps we doubled down on exercise, dragging our dogs around the neighborhood half a dozen times a day, and looking up online training videos so we could stay in shape for a few weeks until things reopened.
Well, we know how THAT went!
With many college and high school sports on hold through this fall, and some club sports happening but without games and tournaments, many athletes may be starting to feel sad, fed up and unable to get excited about anything.
Who can blame them? Athletes feed on energy! Fun! Competition! Camaraderie! Adrenaline! The Covid-19 quarantine is anything but those things.
Sometimes, when our enthusiasm is flagging, we need to take charge of our feelings before they take charge of us! Here is an idea:
Find a quiet 30 minutes. Sit somewhere comfortable, close your eyes, and imagine yourself sometime in the near future in a scenario that makes you happy, somewhere you’d like to see yourself. This can be 6 months from now, 2 years, 5 years. Create a mind picture of what you see, and place yourself in that picture: what are you wearing? What’s your environment? Is anyone else with you? Do you smell anything? Taste anything? What colors do you see? Create as vivid a mind-picture as you can, and sit in it for a bit. Maybe you are a high school sophomore, and you are hoping to go to a big college far from home. See yourself in your dorm room: examine your bed, your roommate’s side of the room, the big football stadium you see out the window. Savor the smells of the street below. See your textbooks, your computer, your pictures from home on your desk. Think about the party you’re attending that night, and savor the A you just got on your Psychology exam. Listen to the music coming from the room next door, and survey the walls of the room so you can memorize the decorations. Sit in your picture. Marinate in it.
Open your eyes. Think about your mind picture. If you can, write it down, starting with the words: I AM: “I am sitting in my new dorm room.” Describe everything you see and sense. What is different about your life today from the life you saw in that picture? What are the things you have to do for that picture to happen? For instance, did you see your soccer cleats on the dorm room floor? What does that mean about how you are playing soccer today? Are you prioritizing your game, or, if truth be told, have you skipped a few practices or eaten junk food instead of focusing on your nutrition? Maybe you saw the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square out your window. How are your study habits today? Are you giving it your all, or have you been a little bit lazy sometimes?
Whatever our mind picture is, that’s our goal. And there is necessarily a disconnect between where we are today and where we are in our mind picture (or else we would be there already). The trick, then, is to identify the stepping stones on the path we need to take in order to get us into that dorm room (or whatever your picture is). And then don’t make decisions that take you off that path!
For example: tomorrow is the SAT. There’s a really big party tonight. The party is going to be REALLY FUN. Think back to that dorm room. What gets you there? The party, or a good night’s sleep before the test? Will fun times you have at the party measure up to the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you find yourself in that dorm room?
Identifying and being able to picture/see/smell/hear/taste our goals makes them tangible and feel possible. We can easily make yes or no decisions about the everyday choices we encounter that directly or indirectly influence whether we achieve our goals, giving us a sense of purpose.
Party? Yup, that looks fun. But there will be another one next weekend, and tonight I’m going to get myself the best rest possible so I can ace that test tomorrow!
And when we have a sense of purpose, it gets easier to put the spring back in our step, the glimmer back in our eye, and the “joie” back in our “vivre!” Quarantine or no quarantine!
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