Setting Goals for 2021 as a Family

December 26, 2020

Goal setting is difficult in normal times, let alone these times. It’s nice to have an unofficial fresh start. Whether you call them resolutions or not, there’s no better time than the new year to mark the beginning of something new and exciting.


Why not have the entire family on board for that?


Howard Community College Counseling and Career Services Director Dr. Jay Coughlin is back to talk about setting (and keeping) goals in 2021.


Where (and when) to start

Dr. Coughlin says you don’t have to start on January 1 to be successful.


“No matter when the changes start, just make sure you give some thoughts on how realistic your goals are and how you can accomplish steps toward the larger goal,” Dr. Coughlin said. “Also, share this plan with your support system and see if they can play a role.”


Considering what we’ve gone through this year, we should think about giving ourselves a little grace.


“It is never too early to plan for the future, but be flexible with your plans because – as this past year has shown us – unexpected events and changes always come up,” Dr. Coughlin said.


How to stay motivated 

“There is this great quote from Mr. Rogers talking about some advice that his mother gave him during a tragic event,” Dr. Coughlin said. “She told him to always look for the helpers.  There are always people trying to help those in need in times of tragedy.  If you can do this, you will realize there is hope.”


That sense of hope, Dr. Coughlin says, needs to be accompanied by realistic objectives toward reaching your goals. 


“The old adage of ‘How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time’ is true,” Dr. Coughlin said. “It may be helpful to set smaller more achievable goals that lead to bigger ones.”


Flexibility and forgiveness are vital parts of the equation too.


“You may get off track or feel like a failure at times, but it is important to recognize that you are human and sometimes it takes several attempts to complete a goal,” Dr. Coughlin said. “You should also try and surround yourself with people who will cheer you on and keep you motivated.”


Setting specific (and flexible) goals

Having clear, measurable goals is a great tactic. That said, we have been dealt a tough hand and the only thing that’s certain is uncertainty.


“Try not to set goals with specific numbers or dates. Instead, try and measure progress in terms of movement,” Dr. Coughlin said. “You can ask yourself if you are continuing to move forward even if the pace is not what you were expecting.  You can also think of goals as lifestyle changes that really have no end point.”


Dr. Coughlin also encourages us to choose our resolution and our support team wisely.


“Your goals shouldn’t be dictated by other people or society. You really have to spend some time exploring yourself in terms of what you need to be happy with your life,” Dr. Coughlin said. “It’s ok to share this journey with other people, but you are the best person to decide what you need to survive and to thrive.”


Resolutions, family-style

Making New Years’ resolutions a family affair could be a great way to bring in 2021, but every family is different.


“With some of my clients, this increase in family time has brought them closer together. Consequently, they’re better able to support each other,” Dr. Coughlin said. “For some, it has created more stress, conflict and isolation. It is important to understand the limits of what family support can provide and supplement that with other people who can be more supportive in difficult times.”


Kids may need some help when it comes to making this coming year the best one yet.


“We can be partners with children in helping them set up realistic goals. We can give them perspective when they are struggling. We can serve as cheerleaders to help them keep going,” Dr. Coughlin said. 


Top three resolutions

Dr. Coughlin encourages us to make three commitments to ourselves this coming year:

  1. Be kind to yourself.
  2. Be kind and patient with others.
  3. Reach out to others more so you don’t feel isolated and alone.


Dr. Coughlin also shared his advice for reflecting on 2020 as we reach the end of this unprecedented year. You can read that post here.


For more tips, check out the CA Parents’ Corner blog.

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