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How to Set and Achieve (Realistic) Goals

Written by Madi Werynski

It can be easy to fall into the “new year, new me” mindset where you’re set on creating goals for yourself but not set on figuring out how you’ll accomplish them. Goal-setting is basically an art form; it takes planning, persistence, and a bit of creativity here and there. Here’s how to set goals, strive for them, and eventually accomplish them like the star student you are.

Be Specific

When setting your goal, you should be as specific as possible. “I want to lose weight” is not an effective goal. You have to take into account the details. How much weight do you want to lose? How will you do it? Over what period of time? If you set a goal that’s too broad, it will be too easy to give up early. This is where setting a specific timeline is also important. If you decide you have six months to complete your goal, mark it on your calendar right down to the day. This will help you stay motivated and add just enough pressure to push you towards completing your goal efficiently.

Be Realistic

A big part of being realistic is taking into account time. You can’t learn Spanish, become a millionaire, or publish a novel overnight. Setting a realistic goal also means giving yourself a realistic amount of time to achieve it (remember the whole time thing). By doing this, you won’t be intimidated by the size of your goals or rush to complete them and you’ll be less likely to fail. If you break your main goal down into smaller, more manageable steps, you’ll have a much greater chance of achieving your goal efficiently and stress-free.

Take Baby Steps

Your goal won’t overwhelm you if you take baby steps. Completing a series of smaller tasks will help you to achieve your final goal without getting intimidated. For instance, if your goal is to eat healthier and lose ten pounds within six months—and that’s a pretty specific goal—your first step could be eliminating fast food from your diet or drinking 2 more glasses of water each day. Every time you complete a baby step, you’ll feel more driven and closer to reaching your goal.

Talk About it

Whether it’s your closest friends or the entire population of Facebook, telling others about your goal will help a lot. You’ll feel inclined to stick to your goal and do your best to avoid the embarrassment of failure (or flopping, as many of us put it). Plus, this can help you establish a support system of encouragement; your friends and family can motivate you and help you commit to your goal. And who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire a friend to work towards their own goals.

Write it Dooown!

The more focused you are on your goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. By writing your goals down, you’re forced to think about and envision them becoming a reality. Write ‘em down and tack them on your bedroom wall, fridge, bathroom mirror, or wherever you’re always going to see it. Take a picture and set it as your desktop background or lock screen. These constant reminders of your goal will increase the urgency of your goal and up your commitment. Another helpful tip is to journal or log your progress so you can keep track of how far you’ve come. You’ll also remind yourself of the obstacles you were able to overcome along the way, which can be very inspiring.

Reward Yourself

Incentive. It’s a very powerful tool to keep us on track and dedicated. Incentive can be as simple as rewarding yourself with an extra hour of sleep or watching an episode of your favourite TV show after a long day’s work. Incentive can be especially helpful when it comes to studying—one trick I swear by is placing a small piece of your favourite candy at the end of textbook chapters to help push you through boring segments. When you hit “checkpoints” in your readings, you’ll have a little something to look forward to. Generally, rewards that gratify the senses are the way to go since they’re so immediate.

Know That Challenge = Good

Last but not least, never shy away from a challenge. It’s important to set challenging goals because those are the ones worth achieving. If a task is easy to complete, it’s not as great of a goal. Pace yourself; don’t be intimidated and don’t beat yourself up if it takes a little longer to reach a goal than you anticipated. Goals can constantly be updated or altered to suit you and your lifestyle. If you want it and work for it, your perseverance will pay off.

Remember: you can do it! Don’t let people tell you otherwise. And certainly don’t ever think that giving up is a good option. Just go for it and know that I’ll be cheering you on in the sidelines. Rock it, guys!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.