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Here’s How to Plan and Thrive When the Future Is Uncertain

If the pandemic has you feeling stuck, ‘setting an intention broadens your scope and opens you up to even bigger possibilities,’ says a career and life coach.

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Kelsee Thomas
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Going into 2020, instead of setting goals, I made a list of intentions because our intentions are said to create our reality. Quoting Iyanla Vanzant, “It's time to set an intention for your heart's desire. Then, put your attention on your intention.” Intentions are like a quilt pattern you’ve created in your mind. Goals are the end result of the design you’ve sewn stitch-by-stitch, layer-by-layer, each day. Intentions are more internal, focusing on who you want to be and how you want to feel; goals are what you want or need to do to get there.

Since goals can be affected by external forces, they can sometimes be harder to achieve. My intentions of doing more things that I love, less of the things I don’t and giving myself more self-care led to a shift toward writing more about wellness topics (since travel writing was out due to the pandemic). The writing assignments began to increase and, to my delight, gave me more joy.

“Setting an intention broadens your scope and opens you up to even bigger and better possibilities that you may not even have thought of.”  
life coach Jackie Mitchell

I am a proponent of setting intentions,” says certified career and life coach Jackie Mitchell. “Goals are very specific and sometimes very hard to achieve when you’re stuck thinking a certain way.” Or when a pandemic wipes out a year’s worth of plans. “Setting an intention broadens your scope and opens you up to even bigger and better possibilities that you may not even have thought of.” 

Carole Lyles Shaw, a professional quilt designer in Sarasota, Florida, had been building a successful business teaching and lecturing about making quilts for quilt guilds all over the U.S. “I returned home from a trip on March 8, and the next day, everything shut down,” she recalls. “I had events scheduled all through 2020, and everything was soon cancelled because the quilt guilds couldn’t meet in large groups.”

Like many of us, Shaw had hoped COVID-19 would be short-lived and she would be able to resume her plans. “By May 2020, it quickly became clear to me that I would not be teaching anywhere in person for the rest of the year, and possibly even into early 2021. I publish quilt books and patterns and occasionally take commissions to make quilts. But my main income has always been from in-person teaching and lecturing. I was concerned but I didn’t panic.”

Remarkably, the pandemic actually helped in Shaw’s intention to develop an alternative to the constant travel required for in-person teaching, giving her time to be in the moment and develop a plan.

You, too, can thrive even during times of uncertainty with these five steps:

1. Take a moment to stop and breathe.

“When things get tough, as they sometimes do, I recommend that people do what I do — stop, think and breathe,” says Yassin Hall, CEO of B.O.S.S. Class LLC. Taking a moment to stop and breathe “helps to calm one’s mind,” she says. “Instead of focusing on the problem or situation, it is better to think about solutions.” Figure out what you want to feel and how you want to live. Focusing first on your intentions can give deeper meaning to goals and allow you to focus on what you can do right now.

2. Brainstorm and seek the advice and help of others to create your true intentions.

“Take a step back and look at where you are. New methods and ideas are needed at this time,” Mitchell advises. “Then, take a look at what your talents, skills and experiences have gotten you. Reach out to your network and recruiters to let them know that you are available for new opportunities.”

Shaw stayed connected to Facebook groups for professional quilt teachers and authors, which helped with brainstorming. “I definitely spent a lot of time in 2020 sharing ideas and experiences in online groups for professional quilt teachers and quilt designers.”

3. Take stock of your abilities and talents that can fulfill your intentions.

“If you have a business, think about how you can adjust and pivot during these times,” suggests Mitchell. “For example, what services and/or products could you now offer that are relevant right now? Take the time to learn new skills and build your toolbox. This isn’t the time to sit back and wallow in self-pity. Take all of the time you need but don’t stay stuck in a place where you can’t grow. Reach out to others for new ideas and have an open mind.” 

Goals are a manifestation of your intentions into a specific plan. Shaw says she “studied what successful online teachers were doing in other parts of the craft and art world. I took a few classes in video editing and social media marketing to increase my skills.” She then hired a freelance web developer to upgrade her website so that existing and potential students could find information and register for her virtual classes. “Once my on-demand class was launched, I turned my attention to the increasing requests for live virtual lectures and live virtual classes. Word has spread very quickly and my calendar filled up much faster than I expected, I’m happy to say. I’m now scheduling through this year.”

4. Proceed with confidence.  

As you show up for your intentions, you gain more confidence that you will not fail. “When I launch a new class or develop a new lecture, I think of it as a courageous experiment,” says Shaw. “I don’t wait until everything is perfect before I put it out in the world. I launch with optimism and confidence, solicit useful feedback from trusted colleagues and friends and make any minor corrections needed.”

5. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small.

Achieving goals makes the journey toward your intentions more enjoyable, so go ahead, pat yourself on the back. After completing a task, Hall celebrates it. “It does not need to be anything big! I simply yell out a praise to myself. I will say, ‘Way to go, Yassy. You did that!’ And then I may get up and stretch, dance around or do something silly. I continue with the next task on my list. I find that my days go so much smoother. I take one day at a time and get through that day. At the end of the week, I will have accomplished what was on my list.”

“Most important,” Shaw agrees, “I recognize and celebrate successfully completing each step along the way.”