In the early days of the pandemic, how often did we hear the phrase, “We’re all in this together?” More times than we can count, right? We hung in there during mask mandates and vaccine rollouts, and for a short period it looked like we were headed back to “normalcy.” And then, the Delta variant happened.
“Every time the epidemic curve goes up, especially when it’s variant-related, we just have a new injection of fear,” says Lindsey Leininger, a public health scientist from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.
With the rise of the new variant, the hope that many Americans had about getting their lives back to normal has turned to anxiety and generalized fatigue. According to Dr. Dion Metzger, an Atlanta-based psychiatrist, “people are first noticing difficulty sleeping, irritability with loved ones, and even decreased productivity at work.”
Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, echoed Metzger’s point, stating that “...the ongoing and unpredictable nature of the pandemic has made inconsistency and lack of safety the new normal.” With the ongoing battle between safety precautions, people are on edge. Metzger summarized the collective anger best: “It is definitely frustrating when we look over what could have been done to prevent the predicament we’re in, including everyone’s choices about masks, vaccines, and quarantines.”
As we move into a new stage of the pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of how far you’ve come, but it’s also necessary to protect your goals throughout the chaos to ensure future growth. Here's how.
1. Ensure your end goals align with your values.
When it comes to setting your goals, remember that they’re not accomplished in a linear path. Rather, there are hills and valleys that can make the journey less than exciting. This is especially true if your plans to re-open your business or transition careers are stifled due to ongoing changes with the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, how do you combat demotivation and depression in the face of this reality? You have to take the time to outline your goals and make sure that they align with your values. If you don’t, you risk your success in getting to the finish line; you won't want to achieve something you realize later down the road has no value to you.
Determine if your goals align with your values by spending ample time on introspection, researching your goals and the reality of their outcomes, and taking a look at actionable steps you have to take to get there. If your professional goals exist within your organization, don’t overlook communication with your manager about what your end goal is and why. Recognize that success isn’t achieved overnight and that we’re navigating uncharted territory in many ways, which brings us to our next point:
2. Set realistic short-term goals based on your present.
Trying to live our normal day-to-day life in a pandemic is like trying to book a flight when boats are the only method of transportation. In other words, it’s not possible. However, you can find success by setting realistic short-term goals based on your existing environment or situation. If you have big plans for what to do when you return to the office but know that won’t be happening for a long time, then adjust your focus to what you can achieve in front of you.
While long-term goals are attainable, they can only be reached when you achieve your short-term goals — or milestones — first. This is because short-term goals outline the steps you need to take to achieve your desired level of success. They also keep you motivated, as the more you achieve, the better you feel about the prospects of your future. In COVID times, these feelings of success are more important than ever because it helps set a reminder that even in times of uncertainty and difficulty, you can still overcome the obstacles placed in front of you.
3. Celebrate your wins — and grant yourself grace when things change.
If you won a competition today but lost one tomorrow, it shouldn't take away the excitement of your accomplishment, because they’re separate entities. In a world where it feels like we’re constantly losing, you can’t ignore the little wins. TalentBridge, a staffing agency, says that “...celebrations are needed more than ever to keep spirits up and inspire motivation.”
When COVID-19 restrictions started to get rolled back, many Americans looked at it as a sign of positive things to come. Concerts were coming back, businesses were re-opening. Even the simple ability to smile at someone was welcomed back with excitement when in a pre-pandemic world, we wouldn’t have even cared. In essence, it felt like we were finally winning against the virus.
As cases started to creep back up and the fear started to roll in, feelings of optimism faded and turned to anger and hopelessness of when things would end. At the end of the day, your goals and accomplishments can still be celebrated even if they look a little bit different. Give yourself the grace to accept what you can and cannot control and you’ve already won half the battle.