How to Set Goals While Feeling Hopeless

Normally, I’m a big junkie when it comes to goal setting and self-improvement techniques. I happily nerd-out this time of year with all the goal-setting journals, Trello boards, and daily planners. I set a “word of the year” and get extremely excited to plan out all the things on my list I want to accomplish, from fitness goals, to home improvements, to business and finance goals, I set them all.

This year, I’m feeling a little lackluster in the goal setting department. 2018 threw me right on my ass, which has left me dealing with a major case of fear paralysis. Setting goals is a relatively hopeful activity, taking on life with a new perspective in anticipation of improvement. But, what if you’re currently stuck in a state of hopelessness? Goal setting becomes an ominous activity that leaves you asking, “why does it even matter?”

How Do You Set Goals While Feeling Hopeless?

If you’re feeling this way, know that you are not alone. But, also know that it does matter. I don’t believe it right at this moment, but I do believe it in my core. For whatever reason, there’s a struggle happening in my life right now, and maybe yours too, that is not meant to be easily overcome. God is working on my heart and in my life in ways that I don’t understand, and I’m resisting.

I’m scared, doubtful, worrisome, and even a little bit pissed off.

It’s a difficult place to dig out from under.

So, how do you approach a new year with a fresh perspective while feeling hopeless? I’ve given it a lot of thought and this is the mindset I’m applying as I set my goals for 2019.

Ask For Help

Asking for help is difficult. Admitting that I can’t pull myself out of this funk on my own is terrifying. But, I keep trying to push through, only to fall back down the rabbit hole again and again. There is no shame in asking for help. If you’re struggling with feelings of depression, share them with someone, your spouse, friend, doctor, or pastor. Sometimes coping with these feelings is beyond our capacity, and that’s okay.

Start Where You Are With No Judgement

Four years ago I was training for my first marathon. This year, I can’t even clean my house without hurting my back. Starting over sucks. But, I have two choices: focus on what I’ve lost, or focus on what I need right now. My goals have changed to focus on small, consistent changes toward improvement, rather than exciting new challenges. And that is also okay.

Confession: That is actually really difficult to write and even more difficult accept. Chasing exciting new goals is so much more fun and rewarding than implementing small, habitual steps toward health. My mind wanders to the dark place of “never being able to run again”, which brings me to tears and that “why bother” attitude quite often. I’m trying to battle that with affirmation statements and action steps, but more often than not I wind up on the couch binge watching Netflix while wallowing in a bag of Peanut M&Ms. 

Which, brings me to my next point…

Give Up Bad Habits That Prohibit Your Improvement

Whether it’s binge watching Netflix, negative self-talk, drinking too much alcohol, mindless scrolling through social media, or anything else, these activities are not helping. Often times, our sources of comfort become our sources of misery. These activities keep us stuck in our doubt and worry. Put it all to the side and do something constructive instead, go for a walk, read a book, or arrange to have coffee with a friend. Do it even when you don’t want to. Actually, do it especially when you don’t want to.

Set Action Focused Goals Rather Than Result Focused

Goals are definitely results oriented, but they don’t have to be results-focused to help you. Instead of setting a goal to lose X amount of weight or earn X amount of dollars, set action goals that will eventually lead you to those results. An action focused goal looks more like, “move 30 minutes / day, five days / week”.

My goals have been broken down into patterns of consistency, rather than large, big picture plans. Those are important too, but when you’re struggling to believe in yourself, small steps are a good place to start.

Celebrate Every Win, Even The Smallest

My son Carson’s basketball team is playing in a new league this year. It’s a more competitive league with schools that are similar or larger in size than the one he attends. This makes for a more challenging season. Some games, they’ve been barely able to hold on. It’s during these games that us parents start cheering for every little positive play, a rebound, good pass, or sometimes just crossing half court without a turnover. These successes won’t propel them toward winning the game. But, we celebrate them just the same because our children are learning to play as a team, even during difficult circumstances.

My point is, just because we don’t see the numbers on the scale going down or the dollar signs in our bank account going up as fast as we’d like, we are still showing up day after day, and week after week. These small successes will add up over time, and turn into something much bigger. Be sure to encourage yourself by celebrating all the small wins along the way.

Carson’s team is improving every game. I bet they’ll beat them next time.

Keep It Simple

After taking all the previous tips into consideration, I decided to keep it simple this year. In 2018 I set 10 goals throughout various areas of my life. For 2019, I cut that number in half. My goals center around blooming where I’m planted, and living each day through a lens of gratitude. Trust me, it nauseated me to write that flowery nonsense. But, I’m tired of fighting with myself over my expectations verses my reality. In the grand scheme of things, I am very blessed. In 2019 I’m going to focus on doing the work God has given me to the best of my ability, whether or not I’m seeing the results I want in the timing that I want them.

My 2019 Goals

After all that, I thought I’d share my goals with you in case you were wondering about them.

  1. Read God’s Word daily
  2. Serve God in humility and with a willing spirit
  3. Prioritize my family and my home
  4. Apply routines and hustle shifts for greater productivity
  5. Improve health and fitness through small, positive choices

What are you working toward in 2019? How do you set goals and keep a positive perspective when you are struggling with feelings of doubt? Please share in the comments!

Written by: Amy Powell

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