Looking forward to 2022?

2022 calendar
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya from Pexels

What are you looking forward to in 2022? To be honest, I’m finding it somewhat difficult.

We have some milestones in our family this year –  a driving test, an 18th birthday, a 20 year wedding anniversary, a 16th birthday, GCSEs, A levels, apprenticeship applications, the London marathon – quite a mixture of challenges and celebrations!  Looking forward to something implies the pleasure of anticipation, using our imagination to think about the fun we might have, the happiness of celebrations.  Some of us like to paint a vivid picture in our heads, planning the details which we want to experience. For us the anticipation is part of the pleasure. Others are happier to let things unfold, to go with the flow. 

After the year that we’ve had there’s a lot of value in not getting too attached to specific outcomes.  Holiday plans curtailed, parties cancelled, another family Christmas thwarted by Covid.  Keeping expectations low might lessen the sting of disappointment, but does it also rob us of the joy of imagined pleasure? 

What about the challenges? Do you look forward to them too? There is the sense of a hurdle to cross, a mountain to climb – pushing through necessary discomfort to achieve the feeling of earned accomplishment.  But we all know that success is not guaranteed.  Top athletes plan every single detail and visualise themselves achieving their goals. They have a team of people around them working through all eventualities and putting in place a plan of action.  Their focus is on anything and everything that they can control.

And that’s the key.  Covid has taken away some of our autonomy.  Unless we lock ourselves away from human contact we cannot control who gets the virus or when. We have no influence over isolation periods or restrictions in place or Department of Education decisions.

So what’s the best strategy?

  • We can refrain from planning altogether to avoid disappointment.
  • We can make loose plans, accept that they may not come to fruition and not get too invested in them.
  • Or we can channel our inner athlete and work out all the details of plan A, plan B and plan C. Sometimes called “If/Then planning” this kind of strategy can remove uncertainty as we have already decided in advance what to do in certain eventualities.  It can also help us maintain good habits: for example if I’m planning a run and I wake up to torrential rain then I will do a HIIT class on YouTube.  

Ultimately we have to find our own balance.  Some will have more of a natural leaning towards going with the flow and others to military precision, and this can be problematic if you are wanting to go on holiday with someone on the opposite end of the scale to you!  

I’m going to make a conscious effort to plan social occasions with friends and family (the precise nature of which may change) and also to be open to taking advantage of spontaneous opportunities.  Last year I took a step back from planning as I found myself in overwhelm a lot of the time – and that’s OK too. But remember that we all need to have things to look forward to and by focusing on things within our control we can reduce uncertainty. 

Whatever your plans I wish you a happy and healthy 2022 (and wish me luck with the teenagers!)

Helen is a research professional, a wellbeing coach and mental health first aider.  She works with individuals helping them find a place in the world where they feel happy, safe and fulfilled.