The holidays are over, winter is upon us, a new semester has dawned and if you’re like most people, you already have a growing list of resolutions and goals for the new you of the new year. Get organized, work harder, join clubs, graduate, get a job… and so on. It’s the topic of the month, so why not have some of your own! But all seasons pass, and well into the year those goals start fading into oblivion never to be remembered again. Until next January that is. So how do you succeed in setting goals you actually stick to? The answer is not that simple and everyone is different but with a nudge in the right direction you’ll be well on your way to success.
Setting goals can help achieve a desired outcome quicker and can actually increase productivity, but goal setting isn’t a magic trick that will take you to the finish line instantaneously. Often, people are as good at setting goals as they are at letting them fall through. So the problem isn’t that people don’t set goals it’s the type and quality of goals that they set. It’s then no surprise that effective goals have a better chance of becoming realized goals. And effective goals are almost always specific, challenging yet realistic, and always include accommodation and commitment.
Specificity: “Getting an A” sounds like an ideal goal, but it’s a highly ineffective one. Main reason being that it is so general. Months of time, work, and effort go into accomplishing a goal like that. And something so broad is difficult to follow. Daily goals are easier to reach than weekly goals, and weekly easier than monthly… The more specific your goals are the more effective they will become. Design a timeline with concrete steps to achieve your goal and work from there. So a better goal becomes “study for 30 minutes a day” rather than just “get an A.”
Challenge and Realism: Your goals have to be at least a little challenging to provide enough of an incentive to motivate you. If your goals are easily achievable, you are more likely to disregard them and not reach them at all. If they are too challenging you might instead be motivated to give up on them, so it’s always important to find a good balance. The same goes for realism. Your goals have to be attainable, if they are matter-of-factly impossible for you to achieve then they are ineffective goals. Always keep in mind what is realistic for you and what isn’t.
Accommodation: If halfway through reaching the goal you find it to be too difficult, don’t give up completely. Simply readjust your standards and keep working toward it. It’s important to be flexible and accommodating of your own needs in order to achieve success. If you set yourself up to achieve one goal and you do, you will be much more motivated to pursue another. But you must always be willing to make adjustments and adapt to new demands or unforeseen difficulties.
Commitment: And of course, what would a goal or resolution be without commitment. It’s difficult to be committed to something you don’t want to do so make sure your goals are your own and no one else’s. If you’re simply following another’s instructions or jumping on a band wagon then your goals will prove ineffective. If they’re self-set and follow intrinsic motivations then you’re more likely to achieve them. Also, don’t be afraid to share! Publicizing your goals will hold you more accountable and help you stay committed.
While these tips may not be the end all be all to goal setting, they are definitely useful guidelines to help you get started. So take heed and start setting goals you actually stick to. As a wise man once said, “don’t let your dreams be dreams” set effective goals and just do it.
By: Alex Argueta