Following a turbulent year, it's okay to put your goals on hold and focus on survival

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An illustration. Photo by Getty Images
An illustration. Photo by Getty Images
  • The first Instagram posts of 2020 had captions declaring that this would be a year of abundance - "20-plenty", we said. 
  • Many had vocalised what they wish to achieve this year - move out of their parents' house, graduate (and actually celebrate the graduation fully), find a job, save more money, travel abroad, buy a car, start a business, or find love.
  • Alas, 2020 had plenty other plans for us too. And who are we to challenge a pandemic when people are literally experiencing losses? 

Job losses, bereavements, and strained relationships were certainly not on people's vision boards for the year, but the coronavirus is forcing a collective pivot, financially and mentally. 

Everyone's goals are personal, different, and inspired by an array of incentives, but that doesn't mean we should be too hard on ourselves regardless. I say this because I see the #NoSleep gang has not hit the brakes on their road to burnout campaign despite the lockdown. 

Please sleep sometimes. 

But sleep and high-pressure goal chasing aside, there's a particular faction of goal-setting rampant on social media that I think we need to talk about here. The kind you suddenly take on because the clock, the calendar, and your birth certificate dictate that it's time. 

That age angst that has you feeling like someone is going to shout "TIME!" on your 30th birthday like we so eagerly do during a game of 30 Seconds. 

READ MORE: This is why your goals don’t have an expiry date

Enter milestones associated with age:

"By 25 you should have three degrees, a full-time job, a small sedan vehicle, your own apartment, be in a steady relationship, and have a pet you're co-parenting with your partner." 

"By 30 you should be in a senior position at work, be on car number two, traveled to Europe, South America, heaven and back, married or engaged, and own a business." 

Well excuse me, while I go back-date my ID on the black market.  

Of course, we can't negate the fact that internalised social conditioning is a major catalyst in trying to do it all. You know, the (disguised) electric fence and 1.4 kids narrative. 

I came across a very insightful Buzzfeed News think piece in 2019, titled "How millennials became the burnout generation" and it delves into exactly how we got here. I know... Buzzfeed, right? 

The 38-year-old writer, Anne Helen Peterson, first muses on our generation's condition of procrastination, especially with regards to mundane tasks and then she draws the parallels between older generations and us: 

"Financially speaking, most of us lag far behind where our parents were when they were our age," Anne highlights. 

"When my class left our liberal arts experience, we scattered to temporary gigs: I worked at a dude ranch; another friend nannied for the summer; one got a job on a farm in New Zealand; others became raft guides and transitioned to ski instructors. We didn’t think our first job was important; it was just a job and would eventually, meanderingly lead to The Job," she later notes.  

We're infamous for being the 20-something's who want 'The Job' now. And there's nothing wrong with being ambitious, but it's also cool to trust the process too. 

After all, Oprah wasn't Oprah until she was 32. Taraji P. Henson only got her breakout role at 31. And phenomenal Jullliard alumnus actress, Viola Davis, only won her first Oscar in 2017 after being nominated twice before.  

So to echo Nayyirah Waheed's words, "every once in a while, take your life off and rest." It's a five-year plan, not a five-minute plan after all. 

With that said, here are some tips for tackling pressure, perfectionism, and pandemic woes from a previous W24 article on perfectionism: 

READ MORE: Setting excessively high standards, self-criticism and doubt – 8 ways to deal with perfectionism 

1. Change your focus from ‘outcome’ to ‘process.’ Not everything in life is about achievement. There is enormous value in the process and the learnings along the way.

2. To be present in the process, explore mindfulness, practice yoga, meditate, or do tai chi. These disciplines will help you to let go of judgment, regret, and guilt and will enable you to be more present in your life, as opposed to focusing on what you don’t have or cannot achieve.

3. Stop comparing yourself to others. There is nothing productive about comparison, and it only accentuates our perfectionist tendencies. I appreciate and acknowledge your achievements and see how far you have come.

4. Cut down on social media. Social media can be a comparison trap and can have a toxic effect on your self-esteem. If you find yourself feeling depressed after time spent on social media, start cutting down. This applies to other forms of media such as magazines and TV shows. Spend your time doing things that uplift you, rather than cut you down.

5. Realise that good enough is enough. Stop setting yourself extremely high standards, which often lead to procrastination and the inability to complete something.

6. Exchange negative words for more positive terms - the language we use can have a powerful effect on our minds. Gentler words can influence the way we feel about our achievements and who we are.

7. Remind yourself that there is beauty in the flawed. Sometimes the things we love most about our friends are their quirks and flaws. They are not perfect, but we still love them. Treat yourself like your best friend.

8. Accept that you are human, which means you make mistakes, and you will never be perfect.

Do you have more tips to share? Send them to us here.

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