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

Since I wrote this in 2018, so much has happened. COVID, of course! Add that to the normal pressures of military life or a situation like moving overseas, and it can all seem overwhelming. Doesn’t it seem silly to even consider setting goals or making a New Year’s resolution as a military spouse? Maybe so.

But there’s something about a new year that calls for reevaluation, for setting priorities. So I will challenge you to yes, take a look at what’s working, what’s not, change what you need to, and above all, be very very patient and kind with yourself.

So it’s a new year, military families! Fresh and bright and untouched, the new year stretches out before us—an open road. But while it seems that everyone around you is choosing their word for the year, mapping out their short- and long-term goals, setting up a fitness plan and meal prepping, you find yourself at a bit of a loss.

After all, you’re not living a normal life. You may have just moved, or don’t 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.

Do something great sign to remind you to set goals in military life
Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

How can you set goals when you don’t know what military life will bring?

1) Make plans…but expect change. 

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

For instance:

  • While you may not be able to sign up for that 12-month gym membership, you can still make fitness goals. Take up an activity that doesn’t require any special equipment or location, such as running.
  • 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 if possible. Scale back your schedule in response to major life changes.

  • Going back to school? Sign up for that class! Maybe you’ll move with 3 weeks’ notice…but what if you don’t? The time will pass anyway. Keep in mind too that online options for higher education are plentiful and tailor-made for the military lifestyle.

2) Keep your goals flexible. 

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—or even less. 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 the dog throwing up on the new carpet or all four children coming down with the flu simultaneously don’t typically 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. 

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 have a back up plan in place.

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 but your spouse deploys, obviously that will need to change. A good Plan B in this case is choosing another actionable way to connect more deeply, such as through old-fashioned letter writing or a weekly email.

What about personal fitness goals? At the beginning of 2017, 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 set that goal completely aside and postponed it. (Note from 2022: and I’m still working towards that marathon goal! Sometimes these things take longer than we’d anticipated.)

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!

Uncertainty goes hand in hand with military life, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. So it’s important to keep a positive attitude, make yourself a priority, and continue stretching and setting new goals for yourself, even in this crazy military life. Here are some tips from some of our military family blogging friends! 

  • Strength 4 Spouses shares some tips for setting “SMART” goals: goals that are specific, meaningful, action-oriented, rewarding, and trackable.

  • The Seasoned Spouse talks about SMART goals too, but with specific advice for deployed spouses.

  • Uplifting Anchor has chosen a word for the year, which has to do with going with the flow of military life!

  • Airman to Mom talks about enjoying life while in a moving year.

Your turn to chime in! Are you setting goals for the new year? Let me know in the comments!

Setting goals in military life

This post was originally published on MilitaryByOwner. Used with permission.


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Hi, I'm Jen!

As a military spouse of three decades and now the mom of an active duty son, my hope is to support you in your own military life. You’ll find help for your military marriage, deployments, PCS moves, and more!