Setting Practical Goals for 2021

If 2020 was a calendar (which, yes, I recognize it was), it was full of ripped, tear-stained, scratched-out pages, that were then covered in white-out, rewritten on, then scratched out again. When I ordered my 2021 calendar in October, I removed its packaging with the precision of a heart surgeon. I flipped through the crisp, clean, scribble-free pages and breathed in that fresh calendar smell — you know the one, it’s equal parts school-supply nostalgia and opportunity.

I spent March-December 2020 blaming everything on this black cat, broken mirror of a year, filled with flushed vacation plans and leaky ceilings to minor things, like burning my tongue on that first sip of Monday coffee. I made it a verb: “She walked in and made a 2020 out of the situation.” I made it an excuse: “…because 2020.” But blaming everything on the year is so 2020. There is nothing but pages of potential ahead of us as we face a new year. I don’t know about you, but I need a win right now. So, instead of lofty New Year’s resolutions that depend on things out of our control, I’m honing in on practical and tangible goals that I can accomplish with or without a cooperative year (but seriously, you better act right, 2021).

Short-Term 2021 Goals

Why do we need short-term goals? For one, they keep us on track to reach bigger, overarching goals. Additionally, if we can take one lesson away from 2020, it’s that planning doesn’t guarantee execution. We have no idea what is going to happen next, so give yourself some slack. Take it slow because we’re still healing from 2020. Some short-term goals you can set for yourself:

  • Reading two books each month
  • Reaching a weekly exercise goal (minutes, miles, reps, etc.)
  • Adhering to a weekly or bimonthly budget (excluding emergency expenses)
  • Tackling one home improvement project or closet cleanout each month
  • Setting deadlines for updating your resume or applying for jobs (Notice this isn’t an “I’ll have a job by March” situation — this only applies to what is in your power to make that happen.)
  • Checking in with extended family once a week
  • Doing laundry every Tuesday
  • Doing one family activity each weekend (This, too, is flexible. It could be an outdoor hike if conditions permit, or it could be a game night at home. The point is quality time, anywhere.)
  • Hitting a daily step goal on your fitness tracker
  • Sending four handwritten, snail mail notes each month
  • Trying something new each month

Write your goals down so you can hold yourself accountable and check them off as you reach each goal. Remember to give yourself flexibility in your goal setting. Leaving things open for adjustment, like the “family time” or “job application” examples, gives you wiggle room to adjust to your surroundings. This will also allow you to still reach your goal if things get sticky, rather than abandoning it.

Long-Term 2021 Goals

You won’t catch me making any resiliency goals in 2021. I worked on my patience, flexibility and resilience enough in 2020 — I’m going to leave myself alone for a while and put out the little fires around me that sprang up while I was hanging onto our COVID-19 OCONUS-to-CONUS PCS for dear life.

Your long-term 2021 goals don’t have to be met until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2021 (although, certainly feel free to crush them earlier). They can be the big-picture umbrella over a series of short-term goals, or be a stand-alone goal for you to accomplish, again, with or without the cooperation of 2021.

If you have a long-term goal unrelated to any short-term goal on your list, consider creating little checkpoints so you don’t procrastinate losing 30 pounds or reading 50 books until Dec. 26. Sincerely, as a fellow procrastinator, here are a few example checkpoints:

  • Read 24 books this year.
  • Make eight of the books you read applicable to your career field of interest for some voluntary professional development.
  • Reach a year-end fitness goal (run a marathon, run a race — even if it’s virtual — as a family).
  • Set a weight-loss goal.
  • Complete a certification or degree plan (with online programs, there’s no excuse).
  • Drop an unhealthy habit.
  • Save a set, attainable dollar amount by the end of the year.
  • Try 12 new things throughout the year.

Find Your Fit

Obviously, these are just a series of suggestions. Only you know where you can expand yourself and which improvements you’re ready to make. Set realistic goals, and ­—like I said— we’re still bruised from 2020’s shenanigans, so go easy on yourself. If you have to start small while you get your momentum back, do it!

Temporarily Separating from Social

As the New Year rings in, I don’t think anyone will be sad to kiss goodbye to 2020. 2021 is the fresh new start we have all been waiting for. New calendars are uncluttered and unrestricted. It’s time to self-reflect and set a healthy mindset around this new year. As time is allotted for dream boards, bucket lists and goal setting, I implore you to spend some time thinking seriously about social media. At this point, I think everyone has heard of the studies linking social media to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, body image issues and more. If you’ve spent any time on social, it’s easy to see how scrolling through your news feed can quickly leave you feeling less connected, and emptier. It’s scary the way checking these apps has become almost as reflexive as checking the watch on your wrist. Even watches on your wrist remind you to open your social media accounts. Yet these habits almost seamlessly become thoughtless and eat away hours of our days. At some point it begs the question, is it healthy?

I think we all know, (even if its way, way, way deep down) the answer to that question is a solid “No.” Now is a good time to take a moment and totally acknowledge that there are thousands of positive things that have come out of social media all over the world. However, ask yourself if social media affects you positively or negatively? What would happen if you took a break from social media for the new year? What if you took a break for a day, a week, a month?

  1. You would have more time. Studies that measure the amount of time spent on social publish findings of between two to five hours per day on social media platforms. That is a lot of screen time. There are a number of apps you can download that track the amount of time you are spending on your phone and there are apps that can track which apps you spend the most time on. I believe we naturally want to believe we are spending a lot less time on those black screens than we actually are. It’s worth the cringeworthy moment of truth you have to go through to understand how much time you’re actually using. You could dedicate all that extra time to a new hobby, work or spend it making face-to-face connections with people.
  2. You could cancel the comparison game. Comparison is the thief of joy. Whether your motive was to get stuck on that particular friend’s stories or not, more times than not we land ourselves right in the middle of a one-way comparison game. The worst part is we compare our vulnerable shortcomings to someone’s filtered reality. Imagine waking up and not having millions of people to compare yourself to in the first minute of your day. Social crosses the barriers of borders everywhere. Communication can be seamless now, and that’s great for many people. However, we used to live in a world where we might run into a neighbor strolling down the driveway to pick up the newspaper early in the morning while draped in a super warm, ugly robe with your favorite brew of coffee in your grandma’s favorite mug. Now people are waking up to hashtags #wokeupthisway from celebrities all over the world who look like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality strutting out of her makeover.
  3. You have no pressure to post. We get stuck in certain narratives and cycles in posting on social media. People post on social for a variety of reasons. What was once an idea to connect with and stay connected with more people has become a platform for really anything under the sun. You can be whoever you want on social media and people use it for different reasons. But most of us can say we tend to highlight our best selves on social. It’s called a highlight reel for a reason. We modify photos to create what we think is the most appealing image to share. And we share the altered snapshot as real life. Honestly, it’s rare to find a picture with #nofilter, and usually when you do it’s because the person posting was genuinely surprised that reality looked better than fake today. How healthy can this be?
  4. You can live your life and not someone else’s. I believe we hold our own creativity back when we are so overstimulated by everyone else’s ideas. We get on social to DIY, find new recipes and new outfit inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, I love losing myself in pins, videos and posts about all the above; but afterwards I’m a bit maxed-out mentally to think of something original. We tend to copy what we see, and that’s natural and great because we can’t all be Betty Crocker or Coco Chanel. But when it only takes a second to reach for your phone and find inspiration, it almost takes discipline to cultivate our own style of doing things.

In closing, I’ve been on my own social media journey for the last several months. It started with my own posts feeling ingenuous. It felt more like marketing than sharing my life with people I care about. I found a book at my local library called Selfie by Will Storr, and then I heard about the Social Dilemma documentary on Netflix. And I had some friends that went off social. One of the things that has stuck with me the most was the term “user” in this documentary. Someone mentioned that the only two markets you use the term “user” in are drugs and social media, and that’s disconcerting. I’m not boycotting social, but I am aware of the effects and I’m actively finding ways to use it that leave me feeling positive and not negative. I invite you in the new year to take inventory of your social media habits and find ways to separate yourself from all the negative effects of social media. Happy New Year!

Stuck-at-Home: Crafts That Build Skills

It can be easy to fill your time with less-than-healthy habits like streaming video and scrolling on social media. COVID-19 has made that boredom urge a safe solution. To combat that habit, I decided to make it my mission to learn to appreciate certain crafts. I have historically hated crafty things – (I’m looking at you, crocheting!) — but, I’ve found some easy-ish solutions that changed my mind.

As a not-very-crafty type of person, I can attest that these crafts are simple and fun to do. Plus, they’re all budget-friendly, require little space for storage and can come with you on the road when you PCS. You might just find that they’re useful skills to have in MilLife, too!

Embroidery and Cross-Stitch
Embroidery and cross-stitch are great for personalizing cloth items. You can monogram blouses, add details to pillowcases and sheets, and make cute gifts for friends. Plus, it’s a great idea as a MilSpouse to know how to use a needle and thread! I have sewed many uniform items for my sailor. Buttons and patches on uniforms can require attention at very inconvenient times. This skill can save you in a pinch from visiting a seamstress. This DIY solution comes in very handy during times like the COVID-19 crisis when you can’t get to one!

I learned embroidery with a kit that I ordered off of the internet. But you really only need a few things to get started. There are a bunch of cool stitches that you can learn for free on craft and video-sharing websites.

What you need:

  • Embroidery needle
  • Thread
  • Embroidery fabric or a piece of clothing
  • Scissors


Hand Lettering

It can be tough to personalize a new home without a big budget. That’s why hand lettering quickly became one of my favorite crafts. You can purchase low-cost items and customize them easily. Plus, exceptional handwriting is a great skill to have!

Although hand lettering can seem like a daunting craft to explore, it’s easier than you think. Once you get the hang of it, you can customize letters, cards and home décor in a breeze! Some of my favorite things to make are seasonal signs for our home and pretty Christmas card envelopes.

For my first hand lettering project, I bought a cute sign in the dollar section of a big-box store and used a permanent marker to customize it. There are lots of free guides on the internet that can help you to get started.

What you need:

  • A permanent marker or washable craft markers
  • A blank sign or paper


Origami

Origami is a fun way to get crafty with only one thing necessary — paper! This is a fun activity to do solo or with your little ones!

Some of my creations have become little display pieces on my husband’s computer desk. But, there are tons of ways to give your origami skills purpose. Keep up with your loved ones back home by sending lovely origami greeting cards! Fold your towels into resort-style creations for your houseguests. Give your spouse a bouquet of origami roses that will last forever. The more you practice origami, the more that your skills will in‘crease.’

What you need:

  • Paper (origami paper works best)
  • Scissors

Crafting can provide tangible, meaningful things that make your house feel like more of a home. This is especially important for military families because we have to make new places feel like home quite frequently. Plus, we are all spending more time at home than ever due to the restrictions of COVID-19.

Find a crafty outlet that works for you. There are no right or wrong answers here! There are tons of craft resources available through the MWR digital library. Access books, magazines and video content on the subjects that interest you — and get to crafting!

What’s your favorite cheap-and-easy craft? Share it in the comments below!

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