Think About 2021 Goal-Setting Differently

Article & Podcast by: Joan Michelson | Speaker, Coach, Host of Green Connections Radio podcast, ForbesWomen Contributor, Social Impact, Women’s Advancement & Partnerships

This new year is an opportunity to take a whole new perspective on who you want to be in 2021, on your career, and how you want to spend the next 12 months.

To develop your 2021 goals, it may be tempting to just grab your 2020 goals, and update them, maybe changing a date or a title here and there. But I urge you to try another way this time, especially after all the upheaval of 2020, because it gave each of us an opportunity – even forced us – to reexamine our goals, plans, careers, perspectives, relationships and priorities.

I suggest starting your 2021 goal-setting by first listing all your accomplishments in 2020 – and I do mean ALL of them, in every area of your life, as I outlined in my previous Forbes piece  – and see where they are leading you.  Looking at the throughlines or patterns and commonalities in these accomplishments will reveal where they are leading you.

For example, ask yourself: What did you find yourself enjoying more this year than you expected to? What new skills did you learn or discover? What did people ask you to do – or pay you to do – differently than before?  “Pay attention to the people around you, and listen to what they see in your career,” is important and nuanced advice offered by Dr. Robin Currey, head of the Sustainable Food Systems Program at Prescott College, on my podcast.  What people paid you to do, and how they introduced you to other people, can give you priceless insight into where people see your value.

What surprised you the most?

Maybe you learned new skills or met new people who helped you see other skills you have that you want to use more often, for example. Maybe a hobby turned into a full-fledged side-hustle.  Maybe you discovered you like working remotely from home and are more productive that way. Or maybe you discovered the opposite, that you feel too isolated and distracted working at home and are eager to return to your workplace.  What do the patterns tell you about how you used your time? Did you binge-watch a lot of Netflix? Or did you finish your Ph.D. dissertation like an executive friend of mine did (Congrats!)?  Lisa DeLuca, IBM’s most prolific female inventor with 750 patents (so far) told me she often teaches herself new skills outside of work.  Even if you used the time to do home improvement projects, you learned something about yourself and/or your skills, interests and passions. Maybe your priorities shifted.

Here are some tips for developing new goals for 2021:

1. Be specific and measurable for each one. That means, include amounts and dates, such as, “I’ll be promoted to the Director level and receive a $15,000 raise by June 30th 2021”, or “I’ll sign 6 new clients at the premium level by July 1, 2021.”

2. Identify what Jack Canfield calls a “breakthrough” goal for 2021, which is, one that could catapult you to a new level financially or professionally.  For example, “I will finish writing my nonfiction book on business tips by June 30, 2021, sign an agent and publisher, and see it published by December 30, 2021, making it on to the New York Times best-seller list.”

3. Describe how your life would change if you accomplished your breakthrough goal. What would this goal do for your career or business? What would it enable you to do, have, feel or achieve?

4. Choose 2021 goals for each area of your life: money/finances; career/business); health and fitness; relationships (all types); personal development (whatever that means to you, for example, improving your own productivity, taking new courses, getting a college degree, taking nature walks once a month, or meditating every day for 10 minutes.); fun and recreation; and contribution or community goals, which might be volunteering or donating money, or in-kind services to those in need.

Look at “the things that you think don’t have anything to do with one another.”

Developing your 2021 goals by starting with analyzing your accomplishments in 2020 will give you a new sense of your passions, priorities and strengths today – remember that the pandemic-economic and political upheaval (not to mention the re-energized racial justice movement) probably shifted something for you. This will start your 2021 goal-setting from who you are today. 

“I would also encourage everyone to look out at your path, at your history and the things that you think don’t have anything to do with one another,” Joni Carswell, CEO of Texan By Nature (a nonprofit started by former First Lady Laura Bush) told me. “And, use those things to innovate in your space.”

“Because,” she added, “you have the single unique way of looking at a puzzle that no one else does.…Use those different ways that you’ve seen the world to solve problems.”