How to achieve your goals in the harshest conditions

What Norway’s greatest explorer can teach you about goal setting

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Photo by Micha Sager on Unsplash

Do you feel like you’re adrift as you’re trying to figure out what you want to do during this time?

Maybe you had some goals or resolutions, but you’re not exactly sure what your next steps should be or if they’re possible in this day and age.

It’s still possible to have success, even if the fear of the unknown is high right now.

The only thing that you need to do is adopt a different mindset. To do that, take some advice from Roald Amundsen, Norway’s greatest explorer, who conquered the harsh unknown in tumultuous times.

Roald Amundsen was a 20th-century explorer who is best known for discovering the South Pole. In the age of romantic exploration, he was a man of careful disposition, with his expeditions were more like military operations than journeys.

And one of his expeditions seemed to be in ruins.

He had planned for several years to explore the North Pole, only to have difficulties funding the expedition when two Americans sent telegrams claiming they had discovered it.

He had then surprised his crew by suddenly shifting their destination to Antarctica as a result, but even then, he found competition: an English explorer, Robert Scott, was attempting to do the same thing as him, and it even looked like this might become a race.

Some of his crew, fearing that they might be usurped, set out earlier only to be turned back by harsh weather. As a result, morale was at an all-time low.

So what did he do? Nothing that he wasn’t planning to do. He set up his supply depots, monitored the weather, and then set out on the journey, becoming the first man to reach the South Pole on December 14th.

When asked about his success, he said this:

““I may say that this is the greatest factor: the way in which the expedition is equipped, the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it.

Victory awaits him who has everything in order, luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time, this is called bad luck.”

Despite the uncertainty and the fact that he might be one-upped yet again, Roald stuck to his plan and accomplished his goal. And his secret? He focused only on what he could do.

2020 has no doubt been a bad year for New Year’s Resolutions.

Like many of you, my goals were disrupted by everything that has happened.

But that doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on them: I’ve just re-phrased them to be focused on what I can do.

In this day and age, I know I don’t have control over the outcomes I want. Perhaps the opportunities that I was perfect for months ago no longer exist. Perhaps the projects I wanted to work on exist on paper only. I can’t control what other companies, people, or projects are doing.

And perhaps Roald’s rival, Robert Scott, might have landed there 6 months before he did and was fully prepared to set out. Roald couldn’t control what others might have done.

But what I can still focus on and achieve are things based on my control. And I rephrased my goals to match this expectation like this:

“If I do X regularly, something good will happen.”

If I write articles every week, will I become a best-selling author? There’s no way I could know.

But something good will happen: I could attract the opportunities I want. I could write a book. I could figure out what I want to do based on my research. Or I could just read a lot more about interesting topics. All of these are things that I think are good, and they’re all within my control.

Incidentally, Roald’s sentence was very similar: “If I prepare carefully, I will survive this expedition.”

He couldn’t control if he would get to the South Pole first, but he survived when his rival, unfortunately, didn’t.

I’m pretty sure that your goals were disrupted by the never-ending rollercoaster that is 2020.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to completely give up on them. If you’re feeling restless or unmotivated, perhaps it’s time to revisit your goals and envision what is still possible with them.

Because while you can’t control the outcome of your projects, you can still control your output.

And if you focus your efforts on keeping your output regular, something good will happen.

I write about UX, Healthcare, and Productivity regularly. If you would like to hear about effectively communicating with this methodology, I’ve created an online course about Design Communication here.

Written by

Healthcare-focused UX designer and researcher. Creator of two online courses on design communication and UX research planning:

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