When we are stressed out or have taken one of life’s knocks, it’s easy to lose sight of our goals or put them aside for a better moment. Financial stresses particularly cause breakdowns in one or more of the five areas of true affluence: relationships, time, health, money and business or career.

Life’s knocks can include deep losses, which reduce our trust in ourselves, make us feel like failures and impact our capacity to realize our goals, such as losing a:

  • Person – spouse, significant other, child, relative, friend or pet, caregiver
  • Place – home or investment property
  • Position – job or title in a company (downsizing), bonus, retirement, income
  • Pet – family too
  • Possibility – death of a relationship, business or ecosystem dream almost realized

When I became the primary caregiver for my husband, David, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2015 and passed away in my arms in September 2016, I was devastated and my goals shifted from building my business to taking care of him. As a widow, I am still stressed out, facing life without him, which has profound emotional and financial consequences for me. Emotionally, David always had my back, believing in me even when I did not trust myself, comforting and reassuring me of my value when I had doubts. Now, that’s gone. Financially, we had two incomes, and now there is only one, but expenses have not gone down by much. I have been almost paralyzed by grief with the attention span of a fruit fly and a spotty memory. I stepped out of my business-building activities when David was sick and there was a cost in my business’ momentum and revenue generation.

In order to reach my goals of relaunching Affluence Code consulting, launching Bad Widow consulting and selling David’s legacy of paintings, I created a strategy for reaching my goals, no matter how I am feeling or what is going on in my life. 

FACT: When we are stressed, our capacity to think and act effectively diminishes.

Observing this behavior in myself, I knew I needed to develop a structure to keep going for my goals, even when I was incredibly sad. Here is my 3-tiered strategy for reaching my goals, under any circumstances:

1) Clarify your goals specifically. Choose three to focus on. Identify which activities move you forward to reach your designated goals fastest.

2) Set up a spreadsheet (and there are lots of options, free and paid, including Google) for tracking your actions

     * Write 3 goals at top, including how many (ex., 20+ calls/week), how much (ex., painting sales of $10,000+), what goal (ex., publishing a book). You can also add a ‘by when’ date, if you wish. 

     * Write Actions to Goal in top left corner and Action columns (Action #1, #2, #3). I have seven action columns and my daily goal is two actions towards one of my goals each day

     * Put dates (I do weekly and have a spreadsheet per month, and a tab per week) on the left-hand side under Actions to Goal. Instead of a to-do list, I put the action steps to reaching my goals in this spreadsheet by date. Usually, we know what has to be done but it gets lost in the chaos of our calendar or never gets in at all. When I get something done, I change the color and bold. No color means move it, follow up or forget it. (See an example of my 3/26-31/2018 goal tracking sheet below).

3) Being stressed out often leads to feeling down, exhausted and overwhelmed. We may not recognize what we ARE getting done and this provides a clear, calm look at our real-time actions and results. My goal-reaching spreadsheet allows me to stay on track, no matter how I feel. Even on my husband’s birthday, when I cried all day, I still did the follow-up activities on my spreadsheet. Finally, it’s essential to CELEBRATE your wins. Practically, by pausing and celebrating, we get a burst of energy to launch us into the next phase and the side effect is a happier mood. Try it.

Please share how this strategy works for you in reaching your goals. Enjoy!


  • Alison BW Pena

    Bad Widow Consultant and Speaker

    Alison Pena aka Bad Widow lives in NYC with her boyfriend, Wayne. She met and married David Beynon Pena, an incredible artist, in October 1996 and was widowed in September 2016. She is a consultant, speaker and author. For fun, Alison loves hanging with friends and family, music, travel, Maine, doing open mics, writing, exploring and learning new stuff. Alison started BadWidow.com to offer resources about how to reclaim resilience and resourcefulness after a loss or transition, including work, relationships, health, money and love. She supports clients to 1) re-engage with life fully, 2) reinvent yourself and 3) rebuild networks after loss or transition.