Whether you set New Year resolutions or not, goals play an important role in our lives. Over time, we may set different goals for our education, career, wellness, spirituality, family life or other important areas.
Setting goals can help us articulate the things that are important to us and help us develop our strengths. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you set successful goals this year and into the future.
Sometimes, when we try to tackle large goals or too many goals all at once, it can feel overwhelming. Set yourself up for success by focusing on smaller goals that you can accomplish one at a time that will eventually help you work towards larger ones. It can also be helpful to start with goals that you know you can accomplish. Starting small can help you build confidence in your abilities and help you form habits long-term.
Here are a few examples of small goals that can help you build toward larger ones:
Be honest about your current habits
As you start narrowing down your goals, it can be helpful to reflect on your current habits and the things that may have prevented you from achieving your goals in the past.
For instance, if you’re not a morning person, it may be difficult to start jogging in the early mornings before class. Being honest with yourself will help you identify barriers and find ways to overcome them. For this example, it may be easier to jog in the afternoon between classes or in the evening before dinner.
Creating goals around habits or routines you already have in place will help you accomplish them with fewer setbacks.
Recruit a support system
It can be hard to stay motivated, especially if our goals span a longer period of time. When we get discouraged or feel like we’re not making progress, it can help to have a support system in place to keep us on track. Think about the people in your life who can encourage, motivate or hold you accountable. Recruit them to be part of your support system, and lean on them when you’re in need of encouragement. Spending time with people who are supportive of our goals and are willing to help us overcome challenges can make all the difference.
Use the SMART method
Sometimes we may find that the goals we set are too general or unrealistic. Setting SMART goals can help us set more specific and meaningful goals. Here are some things to consider when setting SMART goals:
Narrow down your goals to something clear and specific.
Ask yourself: What am I specifically trying to accomplish?
Quantify your goal, so you can keep track of your progress.
Ask yourself: How will I know when I’ve made progress or reached my goal?
Make sure your goals are realistic and within your control.
Ask yourself: How confident am I that I can achieve this goal? Is it something I can influence or control?
Choose a goal that feels worthwhile, matches your efforts and sets you up for success long-term.
Ask yourself: Why do I want to achieve this goal?
Goals should be time-bound with a start and end date in mind to keep you on track.
Ask yourself: What can I accomplish in six months, six weeks, today, etc.?
While being specific is important for setting goals, it’s also important to give ourselves permission to change course. As we work toward our goals, we may find that they aren’t a good fit or have become difficult to maintain.
Sometimes this happens because the original goals we set for ourselves aren’t as realistic as we thought they would be. Other times, we may encounter setbacks that make it difficult to move forward or make progress.
Remember to check in with yourself and reassess your goals regularly. Evaluating your progress and making adjustments as needed can help avoid overextending yourself or feeling burnt out.
Celebrate small successes
Achieving our goals can give us a great sense of accomplishment. However, if we only focus on the end result, we may miss out on important milestones along the way. In fact, it’s important to recognize and reward smaller successes on the way to larger achievements. This can help keep us motivated and celebrate our progress.
Think through some milestones you may reach while working toward a larger goal. After you achieve each of your milestones, reward yourself with a feel-good activity. For instance, you could treat yourself to a fancy coffee, enjoy a celebratory dinner with friends, relax with an at-home spa day or make plans to do something you’ve been looking forward to.
You don’t have to do it alone. Support resources can help you set realistic goals, identify important steps along the way and stay on track if you feel overwhelmed. Here are a few support resources available on campus.