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    4 Ways to Create Goals When You Don't Know What Military Life Will Bring

    Fresh and bright and untouched, 2020 stretches out before us—an open road. And while it may seem that everyone around you is choosing their focus or word for the year, mapping out their short- and long-term goals, setting up a fitness plan and prepping healthy meals, you find yourself at a bit of a loss.

    After all, you’re not living a normal life. You may not even know where you’ll be living this time next year or have a deployment or long separation from your spouse on the near horizon.

    How on earth can you set goals for the coming year when you have no idea what military life will bring?

    Don’t throw in the towel just yet! You can still create goals and plan for success, even when the future is unknown.

    How to Set Goals When You Dont Know What Military Life Will Bring

    4 Ways to Create Goals When You Don't Know What Military Life Will Bring

    1) Go ahead and make plans, while expecting life to change.  

    Make plans and expect change. Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

    You know the popular adage, “Expect the best; prepare for the worst.” It’s a good thought, and one that certainly applies to military spouses. We become experts in adjusting to stretches of solo parenting or last-minute moves.

    For instance:

    • While you may have a PCS on the horizon and can't make a commitment to a gym membership or fitness classes, you can still make your own fitness goals. Focus on an activity that isn't dependent on a location or equipment, such as running or walking.
    • Are you one of the growing group of milspouse or veteran entrepreneurs? Go ahead and take on work and clients, but set it up so that you can continue your work remotely if you end up relocating.
    • Going back to school? Sign up for that class! Maybe you’ll move with 3 weeks’ notice…but what if you don’t? You’ll regret not moving forward with your goals. Keep in mind that online options for higher education are plentiful and tailor-made for the military lifestyle.

    2) Keep your goals flexible. 

    Keep your goals flexible. Photo by Garrhet Sampson on Unsplash

    If you’re faced with an unexpected move or deployment, have flexibility built in so you can shift gears if needed. For instance, if you’re a checklist making type like I am, map out the first quarter or half of the year only. Once you get to the end of that time period, you'll have more information to plan the next time period accordingly.  

    I’ve always been more of a "flow of the day" type person vs. a strict scheduler, whether as a homeschool mom or in my freelance work. This approach has served me well through the years, as unexpected yet normal events like the dog throwing up on the new carpet or all four children coming down with the flu simultaneously don’t neatly tie into my schedule.

    Whatever it is that upends your plans unexpectedly, don’t be too wedded to a schedule or exact timeline for your personal goals. Remember that any progress forward is a success!

    3) Embrace your Plan B. 

    Embrace your Plan B. Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

    Most of us know it’s important to have a Plan B. But how about embracing it? Give yourself permission to abandon goals if you have to and go for the next best thing. 

    For instance, if you have a goal of strengthening your marriage this year, and a sub-goal in support of that is to institute a date night every week, obviously that will need to change if your spouse deploys. A good Plan B in this case is choosing another actionable way to connect more deeply, such as old-fashioned letter writing or a weekly email.

    What about personal fitness goals? A couple of years ago, I had a goal of training for my first marathon, which was a logical next step after successfully completing a 10K and half marathon in the months preceding. Instead, I found myself with a serious injury and facing our final cross-country move after my husband’s military retirement. I had to set that goal completely aside and am hoping to pick it back up this year.   

    Michael F. Kay from Psychology Today gives us an important reminder about the concept of embracing the Plan B:

    The challenge is to consider the future with an eye on reality. We do not typically embrace the idea that we will encounter limitations or fall victim to accident or infirmity. However, considering other options allows us to move from life stage to life stage, situation to situation with greater resiliency and positive awareness, rather than experiencing the 'crash and burn' of dealing with these changes without planning or consideration. 

    4) Hope for the best—keep the spark alive!

    Hope for the best. Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash

    Uncertainty goes hand in hand with military life, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. Military life also has a way of teaching us that, while we can't control circumstances or what's happening around us, we do have control of how we'll react to it. One of my favorite quotes is from Chuck Swindoll

    We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.

    With that in mind, I hope you'll be encouraged to keep a positive attitude, make yourself a priority, and continue stretching and setting new goals for yourself...regardless of what military life throws your way this year. 

    Your turn to chime in! Are you setting goals for the new year? Leave a note in the comments or let us know on Facebook!Join us on Facebook! 

    Jen McDonald


    Jen McDonald

    Jen McDonald is the Content Editor for MilitaryByOwner Advertising. She's a longtime writer, the author of the book You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse, the host of the Milspouse Matters podcast, and has been published in several books and numerous national publications. She was a military spouse for nearly 30 years and is the mom of four (including one son in the military). One of her happiest roles now is being a grandmother. She and her newly retired Air Force husband have been stationed all around the world from Europe to the Pacific and won’t count how many houses they’ve lived in because that would be too depressing. Her passion is encouraging young military spouses and regularly sharing about topics like military life, parenting, homeschooling...and now grandparenting! See more from Jen at her site, Jen McDonald and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram , and Pinterest.

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