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SMART Goal Setting for Students

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The beginning of the school year is an excellent time to reflect on your goal-setting strategies and to be honest with yourself about how often you actually achieve the goals you set. Often, goals are not missed because you weren’t capable of achieving them, rather it was much more likely that the goal just wasn’t set up properly! 

The most critical part of setting a goal is making sure it is achievable, and possibly more important – giving yourself the space to make tweaks and changes along the way to achieving it. Your goals today may not be your goals in one week, one month, or one year from now!  And that’s ok. So how do you set achievable goals, and leave room for you to make changes as you go? By making SMART Goals! 

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. If your goal is each of these things, you have set yourself well on the path to being successful!  So let’s look at each piece individually…

Make Your Goal Specific 

When setting your goal, make sure you know why you are setting it for yourself, and how you will know you achieved it. Know what you will need in order to achieve your goal, and who you will need to help you. Ask the following questions:

  1. What is it I want to achieve?
  2. Why do I want to achieve this/why is this important to me?
  3. Who will I need to help me, or who is involved in this goal?
  4. Where will I need to go to achieve this?
  5. What resources or tools will I need to achieve the goal?

As you go through these questions, you will get a better sense of how important the goal is to you, and whether or not you will need to rethink your goal. Knowing the specific details will help keep you focused and motivated, and will help ensure you are successful in achieving it!

Make Your Goal Measurable

Have you ever set a goal for yourself that you didn’t end up achieving because it was just too big a goal?  You wanted to get better marks, or you wanted to study harder, or you wanted to read more. These are all excellent ideas, but they are also incredibly vague. Read more – does that mean 1 book per month or 5?  If you want to improve your marks, is that a 1% increase or a 10% increase?

When setting your goals – make sure you know exactly what the goal is. If your goal is to get into running, make sure you can measure it – be able to run 5k without stopping. A goal that is not specific is easy to give up on or to just do the bare minimum. Setting a specific goal will help keep you motivated, and give you something you can work towards without any confusion over what exactly it is you are trying to do. Being able to measure your goal will help give you goalposts (I can run 2.5k! Halfway there!), and as you reach each milestone you will get an extra boost of motivation!

Make Your Goal Achievable

Setting goals for yourself is a wonderful exercise, but only if they are achievable. Do not set yourself up for failure by setting a goal that you were never going to be able to complete. Let’s go back to the running example – don’t set your first goal to be running a marathon, start with 1 kilometer!  When you achieve that goal, then set yourself a harder one. Starting with a Marathon is asking to miss your goal and feel bad, whereas setting a goal that you know is possible will set you up for success, and will motivate you to set an even harder goal for yourself.

Ask yourself the following question about your goal: how realistic is this goal, and what roadblocks might be in my way?  The more concrete and realistic your goal, the better chance of attaining it!

Make Your Goal Relevant

Think carefully about the goals you set yourself – are they for something you want, or something someone else wants for you?  We all face outside pressures – from our parents to our teachers, friends and family. They generally want the best for us, but they don’t always know what will actually make us happy or feel fulfilled. When goal-setting, reflect on why you are setting the goal for yourself. Is this something that is actually important to you?  

A goal that is not a priority is a goal that will not be achieved.

Make sure that the goals you set are relevant to you. Goals should not be set to please someone else, rather they should be set because you want this for yourself, and achieving it will bring you a sense of pride and fulfillment. Think carefully about how important achieving the goal is to you – would you be just as happy if you didn’t achieve it?  Then perhaps your goal needs to be tweaked!

Finally – Make Your Goal Timely

Have you ever experienced having a goal that you just can’t help but procrastinate on? You set a goal to read more books, maybe you even used some of the above steps and told yourself you just needed to read one book that was a minimum of 100 pages. And even though you really do want to achieve this goal, life just seems to keep getting in the way! The problem – you didn’t set yourself a time limit! 

When goal-setting, it is important to ensure that you have set yourself a timeline. You want to read a book by October 1st, or you want to run 5k in six months. Without a deadline, you are opening yourself up to procrastination. Your goal is likely being set because it is important to you, but you just haven’t found time to do it yet. If you do not set yourself a deadline, or put timed check-ins along the way, you may just find that life continues to get in the way!

Now, what are you waiting for? Go set some SMART Goals!

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