How to Set Goals…And Actually Achieve Them

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With school starting and fall recruitment right around the corner, it’s time to begin setting goals for yourself. Whether you decide that you want to achieve better grades in a course, get a job, or learn a new skill, here is a  guide for how you can set and accomplish attainable  goals. Regardless of what you want to achieve, we’re here to help you do it!

Set SMART goals

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If you’ve ever felt lost in trying to figure out how to set goals you’ll actually stick to, focus on if your goals are SMART. What exactly does that mean? SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely, and is the tried-and-true way of setting  great goals personalized for yourself

1. Specific:

Firstly, it’s important to set goals that are specific and  meaningful to you. If your goal is “to have a successful career”, this doesn’t guide you at all in terms of how to get there. How do you define success for yourself? Can you be more specific about the type of career you want to have? Maybe that goal should look more like “I aim to have a career in finance with job security and a good work-life balance.” The more specific your goal, the more guidance it will provide you in achieving it.

The “S” in SMART can also refer to the significance of your goal – why exactly do you want to achieve this goal? What does it mean to you? Is having a successful career your goal because you want to make money, or for another reason? If you’re intrinsically motivated to achieve the goal, and keep reminding yourself why you want to achieve it, you will keep pushing yourself until you do

2. Measurable

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Next, you should always be able to keep track of your goal progress.  Each goal will be different in terms of how you measure it. For example, if your goal is to “get fit”, this doesn’t establish any sort of benchmark to measure your goal. How exactly will you know when you are “fit”? What does fitness mean to you? Thus, you need to measure your goal by a more specific and personalized standard. An example of a measurable fitness goal may be “to be able to run 2km without taking a break”.  You know that once you are able to do this, you have achieved your goal.

Moreover, it’s important to establish measurable ways to track your progress. It can be difficult to stick to your goal, and creating a system to keep you accountable to your goal can really help with this. If your goal is to be able to run 2km without stopping, your plan to keep you on track can be  “to run 2km at least 3 times a week”, which will keep you accountable to meeting your goal every week. So, the first goal “to get fit” has become “to be able to run 2km without stopping by training 3 times a week”. This is a much more measurable and specific goal which you are more likely to stick with!

3. Attainable

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Although we’re all for setting ambitious goals (the biggest growth happens outside of your comfort zone!), if you set your goal too high you may lose the motivation to continue pursuing it, and end up disappointing yourself when you don’t get there.

Make sure that when you set a goal, you know how much work you will need to put into it – the bigger the goal, the more work you’ll need to do. If your goal is to land your dream job, you should know exactly the type of skills you need, connections you’ll need to make, and positions you need to hold  in order to make your goal a reality. Are you willing to put in ample time networking with people and  taking skills development courses? You also need to set attainable deadlines. Becoming getting that dream job can be a long term goal, not something that you will accomplish before the end of the year.

Setting attainable goals is also much better for your self-esteem and mental health. Reaching your goals makes you feel good, and motivates you to pursue bigger ones in the future!

4. Relevant

Why is this goal important to you? What makes you want to pursue it? Is it a worthwhile goal? If you’re pursuing a goal for the right reasons, it’ll make them much easier to stick to and achieve. Say your goal is to learn french. What is your motivation for doing so? Is it a requirement for a job that you really want? Or is it out of passion for the language (maybe you want to move to France someday!). Knowing why you want to achieve your goal can help you to keep going when you lose motivation. 

Moreover, you should also understand the goal in relation to yourself. Is this goal right for you? Are you in the right place to pursue this goal right now, or would you be more successful if you waited until later? Ask yourself if this is the right time for you to learn french, or if you would be more successful doing it later on. 

5. Timely

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There’s no time like the present to work on achieving your goals! Setting timely goals means aiming to complete your goal within a realistic timeframe, and also to establish ways to measure your goal progress. This will help keep you on track to meeting your goals and will provide you with a schedule to stick to.

Going back to our goal of being able to run 2km without stopping, you can specify a time frame within which you want to accomplish this, and create a plan to keep you on track with your goal. The time frame could be “by the end of the month” and your plan to reach it could be “to train at least 3 times a week”. Adding a time component to any goal helps keep you accountable to yourself, and provides benchmarks by which you can measure your progress.

It is also helpful to write your goal plan down so that you remember to stick to your goal. If you use a day planner, note the days where you should be working on your goal, and the day by which you should have your goal completed.

Break down your goals into do-able chunks

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So your goal is to land your dream job. You’re not just all of a sudden going to get the job unless you complete all the requirements, and work to make yourself a viable candidate! The goal “get your dream job” is a big and daunting one, but if you break it down into the smaller “sub-goals”, it’s much more achievable!

So, to land your dream job you need skills, connections, and to work your way up in positions. Take these different components and break them down into their own goals, or “sub-goals”. One of your sub-goals could be to take some online skills development courses to gain necessary skills for the job. Another could be to connect with and message 10 people on LinkedIn who can help you get a job. 

Once you begin breaking down that huge goal into much smaller, do-able chunks, you’ll find that you will stay so much more motivated, and your goal mentality will be more organized! If you’re a visual person, you can even make a goal planner to visualize your goals and break them down into smaller goals, and then check them off when you’re done. Bonus – this way gives you wayyyy more items to check off on your checklist. Admit it, checking things off of a checklist is quite possibly the most satisfying thing ever.

Regardless of what your goal is, summer is a wonderful time to start thinking about the things you want to accomplish during the rest of the year. Why not start thinking about your goals now? Just remember to make them SMART, break them down, and never give up!


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