An ancient Chinese proverb notes that no wind is favorable if one does not know to which port one is sailing.
Studying or working without a goal is similar to setting sail without a destination in mind. If you do not know what it is that you want to achieve then there is no point in the entire exercise.
What is a goal?
Goals are nothing but an aim. It is something that you want to achieve. Goals provide a student with a set of standard against which he / she can measure his/her progress. It allows students to know where they want to go and what it is that they want to achieve. The effects of goals are two-fold. Firstly they help in giving a direction to the efforts of the students. Secondly, they help in providing a measure of their progress.
So how do you go about setting goals?
Setting smaller goals is the best way for goal setting. As a student, you should set small and achievable goals. Goals that can be easily achieved will not only help you come closer to the bigger and ultimate goal; it will also give you a sense of accomplishment, thus boosting your self-confidence. As students, when you achieve short-term goals, you gain a sense of self-efficacy.
In the words of Michael Jordan, the famous basketball player, in his book “I can’t accept not trying: Michael Jordan on the pursuit of excellence”:
I approach everything step by step….I had always set short-term goals. As I look back, each one of the steps or successes led to the next one. When I got cut from the varsity team as a sophomore in high school, I learned something. I knew I never wanted to feel that bad again….So I set a goal of becoming a starter on the varsity. That’s what I focused on all summer. When I worked on my game, that’s what I thought about. When it happened, I set another goal, a reasonable, manageable goal that I could realistically achieve if I worked hard enough….I guess I approached it with the end in mind. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there. As I reached those goals, they built on one another. I gained a little confidence every time I came through.
…If [your goal is to become a doctor]…and you’re getting CS in biology then the first thing you have to do is get Bs in biology and then As. You have to perfect the first step and then move on to chemistry or physics.
Take those small steps. Otherwise you’re opening yourself up to all kinds of frustration. Where would your confidence come from if the only measure of success was becoming a doctor? If you tried as hard as you could and didn’t become a doctor, would that mean your whole life was a failure? Of course not.
All those steps are like pieces of a puzzle. They all come together to form a picture….Not everyone is going to be the greatest….But you can still be considered a success….Step by step, I can’t see any other way of accomplishing anything.
Ronald Taylor (1964) compared the goals of underachievers and achievers. He found that underachievers either had no particular goals, or if they did, aimed impossibly high. Achievers, by comparison, set realistic, attainable goals that were related to their school work.
Robert Wood and Edwin Locke (1987) found a significant relationship between goals and self-efficacy: Students with a stronger sense of efficacy also set higher, but reachable, goals. They also pointed out that more challenging goals prompt higher achievement.
Listed below are some pointers to help you get started with your goal setting.
- Make a list of the things that you really want to do or achieve.
- The goals in the list should be doable goals. Take care not to set goals which are too low or too high.
- Your goals should be specific in nature. Don’t list vague goals like I will do better in the next exam.
- Break the goal into smaller goals which can be more easily achieved.
- Set a deadline while giving yourself adequate time.
- Make provisions for any unforeseen events that may cause an obstruction.
- Make a list of all the resources and people who might help you.
- Keep going back to your goal and update/modify it regularly.
- Don’t stop till you reach your goal(s).
Last but not the least, don’t give up. Remember that each step that you take is taking you closer to your goal. After all goal setting is really knowing what you want to do, why you want to do it, when you will do it and how you will do it.