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Goal setting for a happier New Year on the farm

’Tis the season for resolutions and goal setting. After a challenging couple of years, the thought of trying to make a change or do more may be overwhelming. With so much uncertainty in our world, planning can seem useless. Goal setting may look different in 2022, but it doesn’t have to be negative, say mental health advocates Megan Roberts and Doris Mold.

Roberts and Mold have been working to help farmers reduce their stress levels since 2018 from behind-the-scenes of Cultivating Resiliency, a project of several Midwest agriculture organizations. For the first time, the women took the virtual stage and led the project’s first webinar of 2022, called “Have a Happier New Year!”

At the beginning of the program 24% of webinar participants expressed enthusiasm for goal setting and resolutions. However, about 15% of farmers and agribusiness professionals who tuned in responded that goal setting is discouraging, or something they don’t do.

4 tips for making goal setting positive

1. Write goals for where you are now.

“Your goals are yours. It can be helpful to celebrate others’ goals, but it is unhelpful to write a goal that is a better fit for someone else,” Roberts points out. A marathon may be a realistic and exciting goal for some people, but it’s OK if that’s not something that’s feasible in your life. Don’t let comparing your journey to others steal your joy.

2. Ask if due dates are right for your goals.

Especially after the last few years, it can feel like goal setting is impossible because life is uncertain. Being more graceful with due dates can help keep goal-setting positive. You may have heard SMART goals have deadlines, but it’s OK to skip that step. “I realized for 2022, I need to give myself some grace, and not put a timeline on it,” Roberts says.

For other people, deadlines might be just the structure or focus they need when life feels out of control. “When things are more uncertain, that could be a good time to double down on goal setting for some people,” Mold says. 

Ask yourself if a deadline will add or reduce stress in your goal setting process. Make the healthiest choice for you.

3. Start with small goals.

Goals don’t need to be grandiose. Your daily to-do list is a form of goal setting.

Small goals like reorganizing a bookshelf or cleaning your farm truck can give you a shot of positivity and sense of control that can be encouraging. Celebrate your sense of accomplishment even on the small tasks. These baby steps can give you momentum toward your bigger goals.

4. Revisit and revise goals.

“There are many things outside our control in agriculture, so some goals are outside our control. We can revise,” Roberts says. Take time to revisit and change your goals without shaming yourself.

Who do you goal-set for?

Setting goals for yourself as an individual and your farm or family are both important.

Be prepared for a bit of tension between your business and personal goals. Work to find balance. Think outside the box to come up with solutions to help you balance business growth and expansion with quality family time or hobby goals.

Your individual goals are for you, so be honest with yourself. Don’t write them to please your parents, children, or business partners. Wanting the goal for yourself will give you motivation, and a bigger sense of accomplishment in the end. 

Although these goals are for yourself, communication with people around you can be an important part of making the goals reality. Sharing your goals can help your find support. A church group, an industry organization, friend, or spouse can offer great accountability and encouragement.

When do you set goals?

There’s nothing magic about January 1. It’s just a date. Pick a timeline that fits your life or business. Should your goals align with your birthday? Is the start of your farm’s fiscal calendar the best time to make a change? What goals are specific to your crop growing season? Do you want to start or break a new habit for Lent?

What happens if you fall behind on your goal?

If you fall, it’s not failure. Be kind to yourself. Shame and negative self-talk are not helpful. “Don’t treat yourself harsher than you would a friend,” Roberts says.

Remember, many goals take time and cold turkey doesn’t work well for everyone. You can start again.

Goals don’t have to mean more.

At the start of a New Year, goals like starting a new hobby, volunteering more, or growing your business often come to mind.

Goals can also include boundaries. A New Year’s resolution can be saying “no” more often. Writing down what you’re not going to do can be important. Think about what your farm needs less of, what you can pull back from, and what habits you’ll stop.

How do you format your goals?

Writing down your goals makes it more likely you’ll achieve them. There are a number of ways to make them visual.

Establishing your goals could be as simple as writing them on a slip of paper or putting them in a notebook. A note saved or your phone or computer desktop are great options, too. Some people prefer to tape them somewhere they’ll be seen every day such as a bathroom mirror or refrigerator.

In a bulleted list, elaborate “where, how, and when” your goal will be accomplished.

“SMART” goals are another strategy. This type of goal has the following characteristics:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time Frame

Creating a timeline of long-term to short-term goals can be a fun way to visualize a big project and divide it into less intimidating chunks.

A collage or vision board is another strategy for formatting goals. Cut out pictures from magazines or newspapers that remind you of what you’re working toward. Paste them on a piece of posterboard or cardboard hung where you’ll see it.

Your own artwork or doodles can also serve as inspiration while you work toward your dreams. Try doodling a logo for the business you want to build or draw yourself winning the award you’re chasing after.

Learn More

Cultivating Resiliency resources are supported by Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH), University of Minnesota Extension - Women in Ag Network, The Women's Agricultural Leadership Program, Annie's Project, and The Rural Resiliency Project. Find a library of free resiliency resources from UMASH here


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