We each have the opportunity to determine our 2021, despite the difficulties that confronted us throughout 2020 and that may well continue throughout the year ahead. Sadly, there is no way to escape the struggles, challenges, and losses that have affected us all deeply. 

Yet, there is a path for each of us to determine how we will move through 2021. That path starts by deciding what is most meaningful and digging deep to find the reasons that make that meaning worth the effort of committing to do something each day—especially when you are already feeling tired and overwhelmed.

Find The “So What” That Makes Your Effort Worth It!

It’s not that we don’t know what to do, we often just don’t feel compelled enough to commit to do it.

At a time when just getting through each day may seem overwhelming, finding the “so what” that means the most to you can enable you to turn 2021 into a year of breakthroughs, purpose, and progress.  

Ask yourself:

  1. What’s My “What?” What changes do I most want in the year ahead?
  2. What’s My “So What? Why do those changes mean so much to me? 
  3. What’s Within My Power? What can I decide to do to achieve my wants?

Overcoming the Barriers that Get in Our Way of “Deciding and Doing.” 

When our desire for the change we want and our “so what” are bigger than our tolerance for our current state, we force ourselves to make a decision in the direction of the change we want. 

The only way to get unstuck is to make one decision at a time to move in a direction that you choose. Your decision is your power.

Three Common Barriers and Three “Decide & Do It” Prompts to Make Your Wants Reality.

Barrier #1:  Not Knowing. 

Often, the answer to the question, “What do I most want?” is, “I don’t know.” However, most of the time, it is not that we don’t know, but rather that the immediate seems overwhelming and what we most meaningfully want seems out of reach. 

“Decide & Do It” Prompt #1: Excite Yourself—Boldy and Fearlessly.

When you hear yourself say “I don’t know,” to the question, “What do I want?” ask yourself, “If I did know, what would that be?” Wait to hear the answers—they’re there—and probably ready to leap out at you! Excite yourself with your answers—feel freedom in expressing them and allow them to be as “big” or “small” as you wish.

The things that you most meaningfully want might emerge from the first thoughts you have. Allow those first thoughts to come, make a note, and then dig deeper. For example, “I want to stop drinking,” “I want to eat healthier,” “I want to make more time for me,” “I want to get fit,” “I want to find my passion,” “I want to feel happier,” “I want to change my relationship,” “I want to meet someone,” “I want to be happier in my work,” “I want to find work,” “I want to change my work,” I want to change my life!” 

For now, just make a note and allow yourself to express what you most meaningfully want.

Barrier #2:  Too Vague to Visualize.

Often, we don’t turn our “want” into a clear image that is real enough to take shape. If we can’t see it in our mind’s eye, our brain has no ability transform it into something real. Neuroscience shows us that our brains act on our visual and mental cues—it looks for solutions in our day-to-day lives and brings our attention to those things so we can act on them.  

The great news is that you have a dedicated function within your brain, your Reticular Activating System (RAS), that arouses and alerts you to the things around you that you have identified as important. The more you visualize and mentally focus on your most meaningful wants, the more your RAS will draw your attention to the things around you each day that can help you realize those wants.

“Decide & Do It” Prompt #2: Stand in Your Scene and Bring It to Life. 

Turn the wants you identified above into an image as real as a scene of which you are standing in the midst. What are you seeing, smelling, feeling? Stay with the scene until it feels something of which you are a part. 

Ask yourself some simple questions about the new scene you want to experience. For example:

“What will I look like and be wearing when I lose that 10 pounds? How will I feel when I look in the mirror?”

“What will I look and feel like when I reduce my drinking?”

“What will I be doing each day in my next work endeavor? Where will I be? What type of people will I be working with?”

Remember—if you hear yourself answer, “I don’t know,” ask yourself, “If I did know, what would that look like?” If you can’t visualize it and “feel it,” you’re limiting your ability to make it happen (your RAS needs your clarity!)

Each day as you wake, and before you sleep, run through the scene so it becomes more familiar and enhanced. Keep adding to the scene—visualization is the first step in transforming your desire into doing.

Walt Disney’s quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it,” is not just fantasy, it’s the reality of neuroscience!

Barrier #3: Allowing the Feeling of Overwhelm to Stop You from Doing.

Throughout these times of COVID, feelings of overwhelm and depression have become even more common. More than ever, we need to identify realistic choices each day to move forward. Only you know what is realistic for you given all you are experiencing. 

Meet yourself where you are so you don’t add to your sense of overwhelm with unrealistic expectations that only set yourself up to let yourself down.

“Decide & Do It” Prompt #3: Break It Down to Do It—Commit to New Daily Habits.

Identify the smallest thing you can do today on the path to the most meaningful things you want. Break down what you want into steps that you can accomplish each day. Then, commit to doing just one step as part of your daily schedule. If you don’t have a daily schedule, now is the perfect time to create one—keeping to your schedule will heighten your sense of accomplishment, especially when you feel you might be stagnating!

Creating and committing to an achievable daily habit has been shown to be an essential element in creating personal change. You might even try a habit app – here are some suggestions from The Best Habit-Tracking Apps of 2020.

If you feel overwhelmed at any time as you create your daily schedule, don’t dismiss that feeling—listen to it. Be guided by it. What is it telling you? Slow down? Speed up? Eliminate unnecessary elements in your life, or toxic people, or toxic habits? List any toxic elements of your day and replace those elements with new replacement habits that will lead you to all that is most meaningful to you.

One day at a time, you’ll create the 2021 that you determine. Decide it and do it!


  • Kathy Andersen

    Award-Winning & Best-Selling Author; Speaker; MPA, Harvard University.

    Kathy Andersen is an award-winning author and internationally recognized for helping people, communities, and organizations achieve happiness, purpose, and impact. Kathy's award-winning book, Change Your Shoes, Live Your Greatest Life, and accompanying workbook, Change Your Shoes, 365 Life Resolutions, have helped readers internationally to overcome difficult circumstances and step into happiness. In Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s Option B, (2017), Kathy’s story is shared to help others face adversity, build resilience, and find joy.  Kathy offers a pragmatic and personal, yet deeply insightful and thought-provoking path to overcoming hardship and embracing happiness with purpose and impact by combining western research and practice on leadership and positive psychology with teachings and practices of mindfulness and well-being from Kathy's work and training with Buddhist monks in India, along with Kathy’s own life experience of overcoming a childhood of sexual abuse.