June 28, 2017

“What are your goals in life?” To be a millionaire? To get paid to watch Netflix all day? Does that count as a goal? When we hear the word “goals,” it’s usually accompanied with the above question. And while it’s always great to have dreams for yourself, “goals” doesn’t have to be this hoity-toity term reserved for way down the line when you’re supposed to have your life altogether. You could be setting and accomplishing goals for yourself right now. It may sound like a big feat but whether it’s being elected to a campus leadership position by your peers, scoring an awesome internship, or earning better grades here’s five tips on how to start setting goals for yourself.

1. Identify A Realistic Goal

Yes, this one sounds like a no-brainer and just states the obvious but identifying a reasonable ambition can be the ultimate difference between a successful and missed goal.  We’d all love to be like those people who set ridiculous goals for themselves and somehow manage to fail up. But the reality of it is, you should be aware of your limitations. That’s not to say you should be dissuaded from setting high goals, but if you’re trying to obtain an accomplishment that’s—to be blunt— out of your league now, you’ll give up and be less as enthusiastic to set goals ever again. For example, if it’s your goal to take on a management position in an organization you’ve just joined, then, unfortunately, that’s not a feasible goal. However, if you’ve been a part of this organization for a couple years and feel as though you could handle the role of a leadership position, then go for it! Also, don’t be afraid to set mini goals for yourself. Just because you’ve got a long-term goal on the back burner doesn’t mean you can’t still be accomplishing your mini goals.

2. Think Briefly About Why This is Your Goal

Another surefire way to set yourself up for a “failed” goal is to be working towards a goal for the wrong reasons. Is this what your parents want? Is this what your friends are doing now? Has a professor or mentor told you this is what you should be doing? Take a minute to personally reflect on your ambitions and make sure it’s mainly you who wants to accomplish them. Granted, “mainly you” is used because while sharing the same kinds of goals with your family and friends is great, your personal enthusiasm for your goals should never be in question. There’s no doubt having a moral support system is just a bonus, but at the end of the day, it’s your journey so make sure it’s for something you care about!

3. Know Yourself & Know Your Limits

For once, it’s all right to be a little cocky. Knowing yourself goes hand in hand with setting reasonable goals. While we’re all guilty of stretching the truth about our capabilities in some way or another, deep down, we are more than aware of our competence … or lack thereof. These are your own personal goals so there’s really no point in lying to yourself, now is there? If you’ve got the goods to back it up, aim high. However, if you’ve just started or are still learning, know your boundaries.

4. Make Deadlines

College offers amazing opportunities, connections, and a foundation from which you can start your life; however, there is one nasty habit students are plagued with during and even after college—procrastination. Admittedly, it’s extremely useful for accomplishing tasks on time with minimum effort, but it’s not the best mentality to adopt when you’re supposed to be putting your best foot forward. The difference between a “goal” and a “to-do list” is goals take time and can’t be done at the last minute; otherwise, everyone would be accomplishing their goals left and right. Goals take time and patience, so set deadlines for yourself and consider rewarding yourself for making your deadlines. A relaxing massage, some new kicks, or maybe a much-needed day off is enough to motivate anyone to meet deadlines.

5. Be Accountable to Someone

Accountability and deadlines go hand in hand. Setting deadlines is all good and well until you don’t meet one and decide, “Screw it, setting goals is totally overrated.” You’ve only let yourself down—big whoop. But when you tell a friend or a family member about your goals and deadlines, now you’re letting that person down too. Nine times out of 10, you’ll meet the deadline the next time. Even those of us who are a bit shy or maybe aren’t comfortable sharing their goals with others can still be accountable. Write sticky notes to yourself as reminders or words of encouragement.  When you write them while you’re strong and dedicated to accomplishing something, you’ll read them later and remember that initial enthusiasm and ambition.

Ultimately, you should remember there is no such thing as a “failed” goal. Maybe it wasn’t the outcome you were looking for, but consider what you learned and how you grew! Look at everything you accomplished! At the end of the day, you gave it your all and you were out in the world trying and that’s something you should be proud of.