Now that 2020 is in the rearview mirror, how will you define victory in 2021? January is when New Year’s resolutions are made and yet I’ve heard very little about people making resolutions this year. Perhaps it’s because most of us are just looking for a simpler and less complicated 2021 compared to 2020! Then again maybe we were all thrown for such a loop in setting goals in 2020 that planning anything past next week seems futile. I saw a recent post on social media that listed the, “Top 10 mistakes of 2020,” and #1 was buying a 2020 calendar! Goal setting is still a viable and proven most valuable practice for motivation and achievement. Some people always set goals. They need a finish line. For others goal setting feels like a chore. Regardless of which of these categories you fall into here are three simple and energizing ways to help you define victory in 2021.

In her new book, “7 ½ Lessons about the Brain,” Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett describes the process of degeneracy1. The complexity of the human brain allows it to handle similar experiences and actions in different ways and using different pathways. Although you may have set goals in the past, the way your brain handles goal setting in 2021 may be different than the way it handled setting goals in 2020 or any previous year. Here are three ways to think differently about setting goals in 2021:

  • Consider four of the most important choices you will face in 2021. What are your options? What is your preferred outcome for each choice? Why? Having the power to choose, autonomy, is one of three key essentials to intrinsic motivation.
  • What are three personal growth/development goals you have in 2021? Goals should not only be about getting things done. Personal growth and keeping a growth mindset moves you forward. Growth and development builds competence, a second of three essentials for intrinsic motivation.
  • What two ways can you connect or stay connected with others in 2021? 2020 was a challenging year to connect. Relatedness is a third key essentials for intrinsic motivation.

You may have other SMART goals to chase. This framework can be a good starting point. In one part of their meta-theory of self-determination, Richard Ryan and Edward Deci described three basic psychological needs that anchor intrinsic motivation: autonomy, competence, and relatedness2. I call these the, “Three C’s,” of motivation: choice, competence, and connectedness. Why not set goals around what’s intrinsically motivating to you? You will think differently about goal setting, give your brain an even different experience, and the exercise will help you develop goals that are personally energizing, motivating, and move you toward victory in 2021.

2021 will be different than 2020. Count on it! You will be different too. How will you define victory?  The choice is yours.

Barrett, L.F. (2020). 7 ½ lessons about the brain. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt Publishing.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.