January is the month of New Year’s resolutions – discounted gym memberships, free calendars, half price journals and schedules, cook books with new recipes for the year, etc. It seems as if everyone is ready to ditch their old habits from the previous year and start a fresh positive life. However, as January ends, this hype slowly fades away. Why?
Failure to stick to new year’s resolutions is primarily because most people only define something they want to achieve, with no concrete action plan to help them achieve it. Even the simplest sounding resolutions, such as “I want to watch less television,” can easily fail without an action plan. What will you do to combat the urges of watching TV? What will you do with your extra time? How will you reward yourself? These are all things you need to consider to ensure success in maintaining your resolution.
Personally, my new years resolution is to become a better student – but how can I truly achieve this in 2017? And how can you all successfully stick to your resolutions? You start by goal-setting! Goal setting is a powerful tool that, if used correctly, can help you achieve almost anything you set your heart out to achieve. However, there are some crucial steps you must follow to increase your chances of success.
STEP 1: Set your goal.
Define what you want to achieve. Then, ensure your goal is SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound)
- Specific – Make your goal as specific as possible. It is better to have multiple specific goals rather than one generic goal because the less generic the goal, the easier it is to remain focused. For example “I want to be a better student” is a very weak and generic statement. Let’s break this generic goal into two specific goals by trying to define what needs to be achieved to become better student – this could include weekly attendance, daily study habits, active participation in class, etc. With that in mind, some possible specific goals could be “I will attend all my lectures” and “I will complete all the assigned problem sets by their due date” (fun fact: these are also my goals for this semester).
- Measurable – Ensure that there is a way for you to track your progress and measure your success. How will you know that you have reached your goal? In the example mentioned above, I would know I reached my goal if I completed all the assigned problem sets by the due date.
- Attainable – This is where you need to use your common sense to realistically estimate your ability to succeed. For example, if you usually attend only about 50% of your lectures, setting a goal to attend 100% of your lectures is unrealistic because that requires you to double your attendance. Setting a goal to attend 70% of your lectures is a lot more attainable because it’s only a 20% increase in attendance.
- Relevant – Make sure that when you set a goal, that it is relevant to your career, personal life, or aspirations for the future! For example, I am a student, so I often set goals to help me become a better student. However, it wouldn’t make much sense for me to set a goal to become a better pet groomer! I don’t have a pet, nor do I want to pursue a career in pet grooming, so this goal is not productive.
- Time-Bound – Due dates are wonderful motivators. When you set a time limit for your goals, it gives you a powerful way to measure your success. For example, “I want to stop procrastinating writing my novel” is a weak goal. With a little bit of tweaking and a time limit, that same goal can be very powerful; “I want to stop procrastinating writing my novel. I will write at least 5 pages a day for 3 weeks – this way, I will have 100+ pages of my novel finished by the end of 3 weeks.”
STEP 2: Understand the importance of the goal
This step isn’t often talked about in most basic goal-setting manuals, however, I find it extremely helpful when it comes to staying focused. Every time I set a goal, I make note of why I set that goal in the first place. For example, my goal is to take one nice picture a week to add to my photography portfolio. What is the purpose of this goal? The purpose is that I want to improve upon my photography skills because I want to pursue a side-career in photography in several years. Having the big picture is a great motivator!
STEP 3: Devise an action plan with a rewarding system
Finally, once you have your well articulated goal, you will need a plan to achieve it. I will expand more on creating a good action plan in my post next week. Stay tuned!