As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted people’s lives and shifted priorities, a majority of Canadians put major life decisions on hold over the past 15 months, a new survey published Wednesday showed.
Physical restrictions and mental challenges got in the way of people achieving their goals this past year, with more than 50 per cent of Canadians saying they were unable to meet objectives.
The feeling of stagnation from not being able to check things off from their bucket list has taken a psychological toll on people, experts say.
“People really want to be back in the driver’s seat of their lives and that is a challenging and daunting reality,” said Brynn Winegard, a business-brain expert who partnered with belairdirect on the survey.
Krista Roesler, a life coach based in Toronto, said the pandemic has stifled and stopped so many people all over the world in their tracks.
“Many changes in our daily routines have triggered so many changes to life plans as well, causing us to put off making big decisions,” Roesler told Global News.
Over the past year, she said she has seen an “uncharted volume” of personal and business relationship breakdowns among her clients as a result of the pandemic.
“COVID has introduced so much fear and uncertainty of an unknown future for us all for many generations to come.”
Top goals and priorities
Despite the challenges, 83 per cent of Canadians are still optimistic about their future plans. And many made sure to reach their targets this past year.
Among the top three goals that came to fruition during the pandemic, 44 per cent of respondents were successfully able to renovate their home or cottage.
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Forty-two per cent said they were able to learn something new, while 27 per cent reached their fitness goals.
With restrictions on large gatherings, many engaged couples took a pause on tying the knot during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more single people have begun searching for a spouse.
“We have seen young people who feel the sudden need to compensate for all the lost time and loneliness due to COVID and now only date seriously to find their ‘perfect’ life partner,” said Roesler.
The travel industry was among the hardest-hit sectors as countries moved to close their borders and impose strict measures when the coronavirus pandemic first emerged.
Only six per cent of Canadians said they were able to fulfill their dream of exploring the world last year.
Considering the circumstances, adjustments have had to be made, with six in 10 Canadians shifting “some of their priorities” regarding their plans and dreams because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roesler said this was a “positive change.”
“People have had time to reflect on what really matters to them.”
In the absence of extra luxuries and other distractions, Roesler noted that people were focusing more on basic values such as time with friends and family, work-life balance or being in a job they are passionate about.
“These basic values are what people are likely to prioritize after the experience of the pandemic.”
Playing catch up
With the pandemic forcing people to play catch-up in terms of what they had originally planned, Roesler advised setting realistic expectations and taking a fresh start.
Roesler said the SMART approach can help in reassessing and chasing your goals: keeping your goals specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound.
“We all feel behind,” she said. “The first step to take is to explore and write out where you are right now and where you want to be.”
Winegard said it was important for people to “take it easy on themselves.”
“There’s this impending sense of having to make up for lost time, to get so much done.
“You set yourself up for failure when you expect way too much of yourself.”
She also advised against making a laundry list of things to do each day in favour of focusing on the highest priority instead.
If needed, people should not be afraid to seek professional help to set them on the right path for achieving their life goals, both Roesler and Winegard said.