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Rethinking Goal Setting — Join Our #MTtalk…

Please Join Us

What: #MTtalk

Where: Twitter

When: Friday, January 15 (1 p.m. EST; 6 p.m. GMT; 11:30 p.m. IST)

Topic: Rethinking Goal Setting: What’s Really Important?

Host: @Mind_Tools

About This Week’s Chat

One morning this week, I sat at home drinking coffee instead of being out for what I call my “sunrise run.” I savored every mouthful, searching for any gratitude and positivity I could find.

I was struggling with the realization that all my confidence that I had learned the lessons of 2020 had disappeared — along with any confidence that my goals for 2021 were now in any way relevant.

I was trying to pick up the pieces after yet another hammer blow from this remorseless pandemic.

It was only a few weeks ago that I had described the pain of an enforced six-month separation from my husband, then the joy of our reunion and our plans to celebrate with a dream holiday to replace the one we had to cancel.

Goal Setting in Lockdown

But the Coronavirus was not finished with us. Just as I was congratulating myself on the way I had handled our situation and life in lockdown in South Africa, the virus bit back — hard.

My husband had returned to work in West Africa and, days away from coming home, we learned that a surge in COVID cases had closed the borders once more. Our plans were in tatters, our holiday once more just a mirage.

I had set goals, planned work, and started 2021 with a clean slate and big ideas. But someone must have hit the “repeat 2020” button. I, who had powered through similar events so strongly last year, fell apart spectacularly. I cried. Hours and hours of heart-deep “ugly crying.”

But, sitting down with my coffee, I realized that I had set 2021 goals with a 2020 mindset. I actually need different types of goals to reflect the likely ongoing unpredictability of 2021. I need to be adaptable.

I’m usually very flexible in my life and work, but that has never been reflected in my goals. Now, my first goal for 2021 reads, “Be flexible in everything, all the time. Rigidity will make me break. Flexibility will help me bend and adapt.”

A New Approach for 2021

My traditional goals — all centered around career, learning and financials — now include more personal aims, and more learning. So-called “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” have been be replaced with small, consistent, but nevertheless powerful actions.

And I’m not the only one reassessing the way I approach goal setting for 2021. Surveys conducted by Mind Tools’ parent company, Emerald Works, show a huge increase in the number of people setting goals for 2021.

Nahdia Khan is Emerald Works’ Head of Learning Community and Customer Voice, and I’m delighted to say she will be co-hosting our #MTtalk Twitter chat on Friday.

Nahdia said, “In the post-Christmas lull, it’s normal to evaluate your personal and professional goals for the coming year.

“And as we bid farewell to a tumultuous 2020 and look forward to a more stable 12 months, people are slowly but surely starting to exercise more thoughtful control over aspects of their lives.

“Before the pandemic, 52 percent [of those surveyed] described themselves as having personal goals and a development plan. But during COVID, this increased to an astonishing 75 percent. [1]

Is Professional Goal Setting Easier?

“We’ve all had so much more time to reflect on where our priorities have lain in the past, and where they should actually lie.” 

For me, my priorities are spending quality time with the people I love and care about. When it’s safe to do so, I’ll visit my parents. Not half-working and half-visiting — I want to be with them and be fully present.

Similarly, when my husband is home again, I’ll have clear boundaries around work so that I’m not “sort of” with him while working disjointedly, and feeling frustrated by both.

I’m going to relax more, spent time in nature, laugh more, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.

But Nahdia’s research shows that, generally speaking, we are not good at prioritizing genuinely “personal” goals. Only 11 percent of people surveyed set themselves personal goals since COVID began, compared with a still modest 13 percent before the pandemic.

Nahdia said, “Are professional goals easier to set, and stick to, than personal goals? After all, aspirations within our careers are often built on the pre-existing foundations of our companies, and so provide us with a ready-made framework around which we can organize and arrange our ambitions.

“When it comes to our personal lives, goals are harder to set, not least because they are highly specific to us as individuals: blueprints on how best to achieve them are far less readily available.”

Another important factor explored by Nahdia and her team was the psychological impact of the pandemic and other stressors. Personal goals for 2021 are considered almost a luxury.

Nahdia said, “For huge swathes of the population, 2020 was about surviving, not thriving. Lots of us felt fortunate and privileged to even remain in employment, and the psychological safety provided by a steady and reliable source of income is difficult to overstate.”

Rethinking Goal Setting: What’s Really Important?

During our #MTtalk Twitter chat this week, Nahdia and I will be guiding the discussion on resetting our goal setting.

Our pre-chat poll asked the events of 2020 influenced your thinking with regards to setting goals for 2021. A third of respondents chose “Set no goals. Why bother?” Let’s see if we can instill a more positive feeling by the end of the chat! To see the options and results, click here.

We’d love you to join us, and the following questions may spark some thoughts in preparation for it:

  • What’s the point of setting goals with so much uncertainty around?
  • How have the events of 2020 influenced your thinking about goalsetting?
  • What are you doing differently regarding your goalsetting process for 2021?
  • Do you ever look back to previous goals in setting goals for the future? Why?
  • What stops you from setting goals and what could you do to overcome that?
  • How have you changed how you set your team’s goals for 2021?
  • What support or accountability will you put in place to help them progress with their goals?


To help you prepare for the chat, we’ve compiled a list of resources for you to browse. Some of these resources may only be available in full to members of the Mind Tools Club.

How Good Is Your Goal Setting? 

Helping People Take Responsibility 

Motivating Yourself  

Breaking Bad Habits 


Developing Personal Accountability 

Managing Your Boundaries 

Finding the Right Work-Life Balance 

Are You A Procrastinator?  

How to Join 

Follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the action this Friday! We’ll be tweeting out 10 questions during our hour-long chat. To take part, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on “Latest” and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. You can join the chat by using the hashtag #MTtalk in your responses.  

[1] Data taken from: the Learning Health Check with a sample size of n=1,123 learning leaders and the Learner Intelligence with a sample size of n=5644 (Pre-COVID) and n=1036 (During COVID) employees.

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