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How to finish 2021 strong

- Wits University

There are many ways to use the remainder of the year to set ourselves for success says experts.

It is said that there are four months in the year - January, February, June and December instead of the twelve months reflected on the calendar. This mostly stems from the feeling that the year is over when it gets to June. This perception can leave one feeling excited or anxious depending on where they stand with their personal goals.

However, psychologist and author of Tea and Tissues Professor Karen Milner in the Department of Psychology says people need to be more kind to themselves and acknowledge that while the year generally goes by quickly, the past 18 months have been eventful, full of trauma and distractions that have made it hard for achieve personal goals. However, despite the changes and ongoing disruptions, one can still finish strong.

Wits Communications asked Dr Chantelle Murray, Head of the Human Resources Development Unit and Prof. Milner, for advice on how to maximise on what remains of 2021.

Q: How should individuals be treating the rest of the year? 

CM: This is a critical time in history. The forces of change are at work on all-fronts and we have the opportunity now to really harness technology and rapid learning to stay ahead, and to stay relevant.

This is not the time to become complacent. This is the time to shift gears, dig deep and purposefully reposition ourselves.

All available literature points to the critical skills required for the 4th Industrial Revolution – and given that we are in this country, and in this University at this crucial time, we are ideally positioned to spearhead positive change: at home, at work, and in our communities. The rest of 2021 should be focused on doing the research around scarce and critical skills, priority learning for 4IR, and actively seeking out opportunities to learn, to share and to innovate.

KM: We need to take a moment to acknowledge what a very difficult year this has been globally and in South Africa. Covid has taken so much from us and the country was plunged into chaos through the recent unrest, which has been frightening and unsettling. Many of us are distracted and distressed. We need to treat the rest of the year as a period of consolidation and rebuilding – for the country but also for our own goals and futures. We need to Acknowledge the difficult times we have faced, Accept that this is our reality and Adjust to our changing circumstances. The most productive months of the year are still ahead of us and we need to focus on what we can still achieve going forward.

Credit: Luca Upperz @unsplash

Q: What can individuals still do to make this a meaningful year?

CM: Once we have a clear idea of the skills you need to stay in touch, and get ahead, you need to put your aspirations into action.

Seek out the most cutting-edge and readily accessible learning opportunities, join information-sharing groups and forums, actively create spaces and places that allow for reflecting, sharing and innovating.

There has never been a better time to make use of technology to activate learning networks.

To borrow a phrase used by the Vice-Chancellor, this can be, and should be, the opportune time to pursue that “moonshot moment”.

KM: We find meaning in our lives from a variety of sources, including family, religion (or spirituality) and work. Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl says that the search for meaning is one of the most powerful needs that people have and that meaning can be found even under the most terrible circumstances. Sometimes, the challenge for us, is to find meaning in ordinary but difficult circumstances. We need to find the meaning and purpose in our own work – whether its putting bread on the table for our families, making sure that the university is clean and well maintained, or ensuring university processes run smoothly, we all have a role to play in the wellbeing of our family and the education of our nation. Take advantage of the opportunities that Wits provides for improving our ability to do all of the above and seek support when it seems difficult.

Q: When is a good time to set goals? Is it a good idea to plan for the year on New Year’s eve?

CM: Given the rapid pace of global change, and the implications that the digital revolution will have for modes of work, and ways of living, goal-setting is not an isolated, annual or static event. One literally needs to ride the waves of change, much like a surfer in the ocean – and with each wave, comes reflection, goal-setting, purposeful action, and evaluation.

It is an iterative and dynamic process which moves us forward again and again. If we are actively shaping our goals, we do not need to wait for others to do that work for us – we own our forward movement, and we are able to determine the course of our lives.

KM: We all love the idea that the new year is a fresh start and the year lies ahead of us full of opportunity. There is nothing wrong in starting the year optimistic and full of hope. But, the ‘resolutions’ we make on new year tend to be wishes rather than goals. Goal setting needs to be a more formal process where we set out clearly and measurably what we would like to achieve in the year and, as importantly, HOW, we will go about achieving this. In other words, we don’t only need to set out our final destination but also the pathways and steps that need to be taken to get there. It is unlikely that that path will always be clear of obstacles, so we need to reassess throughout the year, in case we need to change direction or strategy to still achieve our end goal.

Q: What is the benefit of coaching in goal-setting or attainment?

CM: I believe that every human-being can benefit greatly from the structured, objective and challenging space offered by a coaching conversation.

It is an investment in the Self. And in the hands of a skilled, intuitive Coach, it becomes one of the most insightful catalysts when we feel depleted, unsure, anxious, overwhelmed, negative or confused.

Essentially a good Coach holds a mirror up in front of us, and offers us the opportunity to remember our own voice, and our own path.

This is absolutely vital in a time where we are constantly navigating so much noise, pressure and chaos, and often, lose our way.

KM: Goal setting can be a very powerful tool in achieving success but it can be difficult to do on our own. A coach can provide the guidance and support necessary to make this a really productive process.

Did you know?

  • Staff and their dependents have access to free coaching through Kaelo Lifestyle, the administrators of the Wits employee wellness programme?
  • The Wits Human Resources Development Unit recently partnered with Coursera, one of the top-ranked international learning platforms. Staff members can access more than 367 courses through the ‘Wits on Coursera’ site. These are clustered under 3 broad programmes: Leadership, Management and Supervisory Development; Development for Professionals in Higher Education; and Personal Learning Themes for Academics.

Kaelo Lifestyle contact details

Call 0861 635 766 OR dial *134*928 OR Send a ‘Please call Me’ to 072 620 5699 OR email Help is available in all South African languages.