Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021!

Pare down your goals for the year (if you make any at all!) and focus on what you truly want, instead of what you think you “should” do.

Happy New Year! It’s finally 2021, and we are very happy to ring in a new year – what we hope is a far more optimistic one. 

Today’s episode is all about saying goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021. We talk about what we’re taking forward with us from last year, and what we’re happy to leave behind. We check in on how our 2020 goals ended up going in spite of it all, share how we’re paring down our goals for the new year, and offer a few tips to help you think about your own goals.

Big caveat: Survival is still the primary goal right now. Everything else is gravy. We all get a pass! If you can only think about getting through the day with everything else going on, we hear you. No guilt, shame or pressure to do more. This is just to help you think through what you want to do. No shoulds!

2020 was a hard year for everyone. And while it’s not like everything is magically fixed on January 1, 2021, it is still exciting to have a fresh start and some positive change on the horizon for the new year. 

Even though 2020 was largely a dumpster fire of a year, there were also some bright spots. We wanted to wrap up the year with a segment we’re calling Take It or Leave It – a quick roundup of what we’re looking forward to leaving behind, what we want to take with us from 2020. 

Take It or Leave It

On the Take It list:

  • Baby cousins and other new babies
  • Weddings and engagements 
  • Taylor Swift’s album, Folklore, which was on loop for us both and really got us through some days 
  • For Gill, slowing down and being more intentional about how she spends her time 

And on the Leave It list:

  • Uncomfortable clothes, the pressure for women to have impeccable clothes, hair, and makeup all the time 
  • Pretense in general, stripping away the illusion that anyone has it all together all of the time. As we’re all on Zoom calls, we’ve seen people at home with their kids climbing on them and their dogs barking, dressed down 
  • Mindlessly saying yes to things  
  • Feeling guilty about being human and experiencing emotions like sadness, anxiety, fear, etc. that aren’t positive 100% of the time, and needing time for self-care 

Check-in on Our 20 for 2020 Lists

Before we talk about our 2021 goals, we do a brief check-in on our 2020 goals. At the beginning of the year, we each made a list of 20 for 2020 goals, a mix of one-offs, big milestones, and ongoing goals. This is an idea we got from the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast and have done for the last few years.

Our 2021 Goals

Even before the pandemic, we both thought that a 21 for 2021 list seemed like a lot. If that works for you, awesome. But the thought of coming up with 21 things – especially right now – felt overwhelming. So this year, we both decided to simplify our goals and focus only on a few things.


Darren and I took a 2021 mini planning retreat. We picked three topic areas – Creative Distillery, Family & Home, my Creative Business projects – and started with an annual review: What went well and what didn’t/what would we like to change in 2021? We zeroed in on one priority goal for each area and made a concrete plan that would advance us toward that goal.

In Family & Home life, we want calm and connection, reducing “ambient stress” to borrow a phrase from writer and professor Emily Oster. Evan and I are working on emotional regulation, which is a big challenge for ADHDers; up to 99% experience RSD, or Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria – extreme sensitivity to perceived criticism or rejection, hearing the worst interpretation of what’s intended. 

My 2021 mantra: Do the steps – breaking down even mundane tasks into the smallest steps and then doing the steps.

I’m in a membership group for adults with ADHD called Focused. Our coach, Kristen Carder, gave a webinar on setting ADHD-friendly 2021 goals that shifted the way I’m doing mine this year. 

Kristen generally teaches us the recurring lesson to “Constrain” — we want to do ALL the things, making our to do lists and want to do lists very long. And when we start doing one we tend to get distracted by another and bounce around. Constrain is my word for 2021 (or a more fun synonym if we can think of one!)

Kristen’s advice in setting 2021 goals: constrain to one meaningful goal (and a small goal if you must). She also recommended a pre-goal setting reflection on your core purpose, your calling, your highest contribution — that you can make sure your goals align with. She said hers is “truth teller” — which manifests through coaching, her podcast, and her teaching on adult ADHD. But she’d find ways to do this no matter what job or role she had.

For me, “writer” has been one of my core identities, but I do the same through whatever medium I’m using – podcasting, video, etc. I’ve zeroed in on “wounded healer” as what I see as my core purpose: making meaning out of my own challenging experiences and sharing the insights that have come out of them that may be helpful for others. 

I love the idea that our greatest suffering can fuel the empathy and learning for those who are also struggling. It’s what has drawn me to what I see as my most meaningful contributions – my work to make education more empowering, and sharing my own vulnerabilities and aha moments through personal development projects like RSY and Semi-Together.

Big dream: Transform our own creative work into our paid work. Gill and I are both lucky enough to do creative work for a living and largely enjoy it – and long term, I want to earn a full-time living from my own creative projects. 

Main goal: Begin to earn my living as a personal development content creator (writing, podcasting, courses, etc). I have a dollar amount written down that I’d like to earn in 2021.

My early 2021 subgoal: Launch The Evolving 40 as a book with interactive elements available to purchase by May 1.

  • The Evolving 40: last summer in the 40 days leading up to my 40th birthday, I published a reflection per day on a word like Clarity, Curiosity, and Future and how I’ve evolved and am still evolving in each area
  • I’m going to collect those reflections into a book for people who want to do a self-reflection process as they turn 40, hit another milestone birthday, or are reinventing themselves and recognizing their progress. 

I’m excited about how this will inform some other creative collaborations we’re thinking about for the rest of 2021. And then I’ll set my next 2021 subgoal.

Small goal: Start an iPhoto shared album of Evan and Avery photos for our family and be OK with updating it inconsistently, not making that mean anything in particular about how good a mom I am.


I’m choosing one big theme for the year, which is very similar to Melia’s: Begin to earn a living from creative projects (or scale up some projects with that goal).

I’m breaking this down into what i think will be six smaller goals – one every two months, with each goal further broken down into one month of research/ planning + one month of execution. 

I have a long list of subgoals right now – and I’m trying to be somewhat flexible in choosing which ones I focus on. Last year showed me just how much can change in a short period of time! But I know two subgoals will be focusing on launching one smaller product and one bigger product for Semi-Together. 

One of these is related to going through a process to figure out my own core purpose. I love Melia’s and think it really fits who she is and what she contributes to the world. It’s an ongoing question for me. I don’t know yet, and it can cause me to spin out into self-doubt and existential crises. 

But I’m trying to channel those feelings into curiosity, exploration, and experimentation, instead of feeling stuck or panicked. I know I’m not the only one struggling with this – so if this sounds familiar, know you’re definitely not alone! And I hope I can use my own process to help others.

Melia shared this EnneaThought for the Day quote with me that I love:

Health is a measure of our capacity to be present. The healthier we are, the more we able to be here, grounded in our bodies, with our hearts open and our minds quiet and focused. In this state, we are more likely to be functioning more effectively in the world, more in touch with our feelings, and happier.

Tips for Choosing Your Goals

Here are three tips that might help you think through your goals this year, if you decide to set any. 

1. Remember that you make the rules.

You’re the boss of you. If you want to set goals for the year, great! If the thought of goal-setting right now makes you feel stressed and anxious, totally understandable. You make the rules, and you don’t have to do anything. 

The beginning of the year is only one of many times you can choose to think about your goals. If you’re interested in exploring your idea, just not right now, set a time to check in with yourself later in the year. Research shows there is something to the “fresh start effect” – where people are more motivated to tackle their goals after a time-based landmark – like the start of a new year. But you can take advantage of this phenomenon with any fresh start – a birthday, a milestone, a holiday, or the start of a new month or week.

2. Simplify your goals.

Instead of trying to accomplish a laundry list of goals, aim for simplicity – for example, 1 big goal or a one-word theme, a short list of goals, a mantra for the year, or any combination of these. 

A recent NYT article – “This year, try downsizing your resolutions” – has some great advice. One tip from the article is “Shorten your list and write it down”: 

  • If you have several types of goals, choose the one that resonates with you the most 
  • Write everything down – it’ll help you think through your goals and make them more memorable. (And a recent study found that the way you phrase your goal may make a difference. Frame it as what you are going to do vs. what you shouldn’t do – ”go to bed 30 minutes earlier” vs. “stop going to bed so late”
  • Tell other people your goals to help keep you accountable (we’re doing that right now; please share right back with us if you want some outer accountability!)

3. Focus on your why.

Only do what you actually want to do (no guilt/ should-driven goals). Tie your goal to something meaningful – it will make you happier, healthier, or better able to contribute your gifts.

Reminder: “should” is demotivating. Replace it with could, will, or want to, which are empowering and full of possibilities, and make sure that you actually want to do the thing.

Here are five more tips we shared in our last New Year’s episode for staying on track with your goals.

Get In Touch

If you’d like to, share how you did on your 2020 goals and let us know if you are setting any goals this year. Email us at podcast[at]semitogether.com or send us a voice memo.

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