It’s the last quarter of the year – that annual time when people start to gear up for the holiday season and plan for the new year. Thanksgiving is the period when many people look back to reflect on the year and appreciate their accomplishments. With this reflection also comes the realization of that which can be improved or achieved in the new year.
Unfortunately, people often get caught in setting unrealistic goals for themselves. “I will find my soul mate.” or “I will land the perfect job.” may sound nice, however, may not be sensible, especially if there hasn’t been a detailed plan in place to achieve such goals.
Here are some tips to help you form appropriate goals for yourself:
- First, look at the big picture. Create a long-term goal for yourself. Think of what you would like to accomplish by the end of the year.
- Your goal needs to be based on something that requires your persistence and effort throughout the process, and not just a finished product. This will allow you to maintain control.
- Make sure the goal is not based on factors you can’t control. For instance, “I plan to get accepted to at least one graduate school of my choice.” is a better goal than “I need to get accepted to the same school that my parents attended.” This is because you can take steps that will allow you to get into a great school, although you cannot control exactly what school that will be due to many factors that are unrelated to persistence and effort (e.g., number of applicants).
- Ask yourself if your goal is This is a good time to check in with your friends and family. Keep two things in mind:
- Are you pushing yourself to accomplish something new? Something that will force you to leave your comfort zone? To set an appropriate goal, you must anticipate setbacks and challenges. If you know you can reach your goal without too much effort, then you may end up procrastinating. If that’s the case, revise your goal so that you are forced to do something more challenging in order to learn and grow.
- Are you hoping to achieve something that will require more than one year to accomplish? If so, determine the interim goals involved to reach your longer term goal. Make sure your immediate goal is attainable within the next 6 to 9 months.
- Find a way to measure your goal. In other words, how will you know if you are getting closer to reaching your goal?
- Give yourself a way to check in and make sure you are “on track” to accomplish your goal. The more information you have to allow yourself to check in, the better! This way, if you are not on track to reach your goal, you can adjust immediately, rather than waiting until too much time has elapsed.
- For example, for the goal, “I plan to get into at least one graduate school of my choice” you can research the type of grades that school expects and make sure that your grades are consistent with what the school wants. You can research the test scores they require and determine if your scores are within that range. If you measure your performance and you are not doing as well as expected, figure out immediately what you need to do differently.
- If you try different methods to meet your goal and your measurements are still off, you may need to adjust your initial goal (go back to steps 1 through 3).
- Now, create a plan to achieve your goal. Create a timeline for what you need to do each (month, week, day, hour) to achieve the final goal.
- Each part of your plan is actually a mini-goal.
- Reward yourself for reaching each mini-goal! Write down why you are proud of yourself, have your favorite meal, or plan to spend some extra time relaxing or taking a break that night.
By following these tips, you can set more appropriate and achievable goals for yourself in the new year. Not only will you reach your established goals, you will also learn and grow through the experience. That makes accomplishing your goals even more satisfying and rewarding, because you’ll know that you have attained success through hard work and persistence.