How Can I Set Goals During Time of Uncertainty?

By Katy Bednarsky

If the past year has taught us anything, it is that we can place so much time, energy, and focus into planning for the future when so much can change without warning. Unexpected, and frankly unprecedented things (like a global pandemic) can completely derail our sense of stability in knowing what tomorrow will look like. This can generate feelings of anxiety and hopelessness due to the lack of control we may feel in not knowing what is to come.

However, there is a sense of comfort in knowing though that we are navigating these uncharted waters together. Despite not knowing what tomorrow will bring, falling into the destructive loop of a “why bother” mentality can worsen our feelings of hopelessness. It then becomes essential to find ways and small victories to reframe our thinking to stay afloat.

Here are some helpful perspective shifts I have utilized to navigate what the uncertainty ahead of us:

  • Try to make your goals S.M.A.R.T. Creating goals with the acronym “SMART” in mind means that they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Ensure that your is clear in what you want to achieve. Is there a way for you to measure and track your progress? How long will it take you complete it? The more specific you are in addressing these features means you will have a greater clarity of what your next step will be.
  • Break down goals into process steps. By setting milestones and smaller, process goals, those overarching end objectives feel much more attainable each day. This technique of partializing will ensure that you are staying on track for your bigger objectives.
  • Find your four things. When I look at my never ending to do list each morning, I pick the four things that I would like to accomplish each day. They could be big or small, sending an email or tackling an entire project; but once I have those four things done, I often feel more motivated and capable to address more tasks at hand. Best case scenario, you exceed your goal for the day and worst-case scenario, you still take four things off your to-do list for tomorrow.
  • Ensure that you are making time for yourself. While we are all navigating this storm, each of us is doing so in very different boats. What may be realistic for some are probably not for others due to varying aspects of barriers and experienced oppression. For this reason, the impetus of self-care becomes even more important and knowing your limits.
Image Credit: Barbara Kelley

Prevention is Key has various trainings and services to support the youth and families in your life tackle this storm together. The process of goal planning, both big and small, is something that will be a useful tool your entire life in instilling a sense of hopefulness. This very skill and process of goal setting is something that a teen in your life could learn as part of PIK’s PEER Youth Mentoring Program!

This is a free, mentorship program for Morris and Passaic County youth (ages 11-17), who have been impacted by opioids; that is youth who are currently abusing or have abused opioids, youth at high risk for using opioids, and youth with family members who are currently abusing or have abused opioid. We will also focus on working with system involved youth and youth deferred from the juvenile justice system.

The program will connect the identified youth to a support network of mentors. The program follows a group mentoring model, so youth will also be able to connect to and develop a network of peers. The mentees are matched up for one year, where they will meet weekly with their group and mentors to check in, be in community, as well as learn about coping skills, healthy communication, and ways to cultivate resiliency, as well as identifying pathways to recovery, creating a support network, and learning about system navigation.

For more information on how to get involved, please reach out to Katy Bednarsky at