Setting Goals in the Face of Uncertainty

by Kelly · 13 comments

in Thoughts On Frugality

Today is my first day of school. I’m starting a Masters in Marketing program at a local university. I’ve been planning for this day for more than a year, without ever really being sure that it was going to happen. It was only about a month ago that I was approved for the government grant I had applied for last year. Without this grant, going back to school would have been financially impossible; there was no way I could set any goals without knowing if I was part of this program or not.

So therefore I was in a state of limbo for the past year, at least as far as future projects went. That’s a difficult state in which to live, not knowing how much money I would be earning, where I would be working, when and if we would be moving… you name it, I didn’t know it.

In fact, the situation I was in was like any other sort of transition: unemployment, changing careers, company take-overs, cross country moves etc. And in my opinion, not knowing where you are going is especially difficult when you are not in control of the outcome.

So how do you set goals or make plans when you don’t know what is going to happen? Here are the two ways I handled it.

  • Control what you can. OK, so I didn’t know if I was going back to school or back to work. But I did know that I would be signing my children up for reading classes in English, so I had to prepare and plan for that in my budget.
  • Accept that you can’t control everything. You can call it giving yourself up to a higher power, accepting the inevitable, or just resigning yourself to the situation, but I find that accepting things helps when there is nothing else to do. There was a point at which the waiting seemed interminable. Stressing about it made it worse and certainly didn’t help the decision happen quicker.

How do you handle situations when you can’t plan for the future? How do you set goals when you don’t know what you’re aiming for?


1 Melissa, Multitasking Mama September 8, 2008

First of all congrats on starting the masters program! How exciting! I can completely relate to how difficult it can be to set goals in times of flux. I try to make my goals more broad such as taking care of myself, sticking to my priorities, etc. Those type of goals can include things like going back to school but are also fluid enough that you can work towards them no matter what’s going on in your life. Great post and happy first day of class!

2 Dana September 8, 2008

I find it very difficult to set goals when I don’t know what I’m aiming for. If I don’t know – I would not set a goal. I would, however, set a goal on an area that I do have control. ie. if I have no control over how much money we make I do have control over how much I spend and where.

Have a great day!

Dana’s last blog post..Advice for Visiting Walt Disney World

3 Karen September 8, 2008

I hate the feeling of being in limbo! My husband and I waited for 8 months before we found out which grad school had accepted him. For a while we weren’t sure he’d be accepted at all.

These are very good tips for dealing with the limbo state. We handled it by coming up with several different alternative options and by doing what we could to plan for all of them. For instance, we had several different options for where we might move depending on which school accepted him, so we researched the most likely options to have some information on where we might be moving. We also knew that no matter what happened, we’d need to have money saved, so we focused on building our savings. It helped me to work toward a goal, any goal, while we waited to make definite plans.

Good luck on your first day! How exciting!

Karen’s last blog post..My thoughts on automatic bill pay

4 Carol September 8, 2008

Good luck on your first day of school! I think it's great that you are going back to school.


5 Denise September 8, 2008

hope your first day went well. I think this is a time that maybe you just concentrate on one day at a time.

Denise’s last blog post..savoring summer

6 Vintage Mommy September 8, 2008

I do not do well with uncertainty and limbo; I’m a planner.

Nothing was more agonizing than the wait for our adoption, except for those last few hours at the hospital when we were afraid it wasn’t going to happen after all. Still makes me feel queasy and it’s been almost seven years.

I’m thrilled for you that school worked out; you’re already a natural-born marketer, I think! Are the classes in French?

Vintage Mommy’s last blog post..I’m an Older, Married, Adoptive Mother with a Domestic Open Adoption of a Single Child MommyBlogger!

7 Roshawn @ Watson Inc September 9, 2008

It's great that you are going back to school. I agree with your points. Goal-setting can quickly become pipe-dreams without the appropriate plan and perspective.

Roshawn @ Watson Inc's last blog post..Should Cost Be A Factor When Selecting A College

8 My Daily Dollars September 9, 2008

Hope you had a great first day! I agree with Karen, I usually come up with several options, including a “worst-case scenario.” I then keep reminding myself that even the worst wouldn’t really be that bad!

My Daily Dollars’s last blog post..Back to Basics: Renew Your Intentions

9 Zhu September 9, 2008

I want to go back to university but I can’t think of going back full-time, because I’m used to a monthly wage… Something I need to think about.

Zhu’s last blog post..Beihai Park (????)

10 Eponine September 10, 2008

I can’t wait to hear about your first day!

My last big transition was when I decided to leave my office job in Pennsylvania for a high school teaching job in Texas. Although I had been hoping to make the change, I really just lucked into my position, so there was not much planning involved (typical for me, by the way!). I believe I was offered the job on Dec. 7, 2006, and before the end of the year, I was in Texas bracing myself for the first day of school after the holidays. The one thing I did plan (wisely, if quickly) was that I had most of my stuff packed up and stored by a moving company, and I didn’t have my it brought down until March. That gave me time to find an apartment I liked and to make sure I wasn’t going to quit my job and return to PA. 🙂

Eponine’s last blog post..Open House: Why, Why, Why?

11 Lucie September 11, 2008

Congratulations on starting your Masters program! As a fellow student-mom I understand how rewarding as well as how hard it can be.

We have spent more time in limbo than I like to think about. Controlling what you can is key – you will waste a lot of time and energy you don’t have worrying about things that are out of your hands. A lot of our limbo-periods has been for financial reasons. We started our new budget system this month so we will see how our first real (focused and written down) efforts to live more frugally work out!

Lucie’s last blog post..So Much For Mom Solidarity – I Couldn’t Even Get A Warning?!?

12 Kelly September 13, 2008

Well, I survived my first week! Something tells me, however, that from here on out it’s not going to be as easy…

13 Slinky September 20, 2008

I control what I can and plan for the worst! Then I act a bit cranky until I've got an idea of what's going on.

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