Setting and Achieving Personal Goals
A goal is an objective or an end result of one's actions. A goal may be something one works toward or something one would like to improve upon (Michaels, et al., 1988). Short-term goals, such as passing a test or doing well in a contest, are sought over a relatively short period of time, while long-term goals, such as finishing college or succeeding in a certain career, take longer to accomplish.
Personal goals encompass a variety of life's endeavors, including academic performance, career achievements, and personal fulfillment. Setting and achieving one's personal goals requires self-monitoring. Examples of academic goals are given below. Strategies for setting and achieving general goals, course and study goals, and career goals are then discussed.
Examples of Academic Goals
Academic goals do not only include passing a test or earning a certain grade on a project or in a course. A variety of goals related to self-awareness, time management, test taking, writing, study habits, and other aspects of academics may guide students along the path of academic success. The following sample of academic goals is from Michaels, et al. (1988, p. 80-86).
Goals Related to Self-Awareness, Self-Monitoring, Self-Advocacy and Problem Solving
- I will use grades and test marks to monitor my success in a specific course.
- I will identify specific strategies I may use and use those strategies in a consistent manner.
- I will realistically evaluate my performance on a specific task and then give myself praise or criticism as that performance warrants.
- I will actively involve myself in the learning process by constantly checking information being processed to determine if it makes sense.
Goals Related to Test Taking
- I will develop an ability to relax before taking tests in order to avoid test anxiety.
- I will listen and/or read all directions carefully before beginning an exam.
- I will plan an exam budget so I can best monitor and use my time wisely.
- When taking essay tests, I will outline what I will say before I begin writing it.
- I will save tests when they are returned to use as study guides for future exams.
Goals Related to Time Management, Task Attack, and Task Follow-Through
- I will estimate the amount of time a given assignment should take.
- I will compare actual task completion time with my initial estimate.
- I will schedule specific daily study times prior to exams in order to successfully learn materials.
- I will work steadily and in a sustained fashion for a given time period (specify time ______).
- I will task analyze long-term assignments in order to break them into manageable short-term tasks.
- I will decide which of many tasks should be completed first.
Goals Related to Study Habits
- I will select the main ideas or key points from written paragraphs.
- I will study in a distraction-free environment.
- I will focus on how newly acquired information relates to previously learned material.
- I will use a previewing strategy when reading textbook assignments.
- I will use a tape recorder to record class lectures.
- I will keep notes and assignments in an organized manner.
- I will use mnemonic devices and memory techniques to assist recall and retrieval.
Goals Related to Writing
- I will demonstrate an ability to write clear, concise, coherent sentences.
- I will use a proofreading technique to monitor my written expression.
- I will learn to use a word processor in order to edit and correct my written material.
- I will use a tape recorder to aid in my retrieval of lecture materials and using the tape I will write down the key ideas to study.
- I will use the spelling check with my word processing program to monitor and correct my spelling errors.
Goals Related to Reading
- I will gain main idea and key information from a textbook chapter.
- I will use the context to gain the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary words.
- I will demonstrate an active involvement in the reading process by using a visual imagery technique while reading.
- I will use textbooks on tape.
- I will use a reading preview strategy to aid comprehension.
Goals Related to Mathematics
- I will learn to appropriately use the resources available on campus to upgrade my math skills.
- I will seek out peer tutoring on campus for difficult mathematical concepts.
- I will use my math textbook to locate the solutions to difficult math problems.
- I will complete homework assignments in a timely manner.
- I will use a calculator so that difficulty with math facts will not impede my ability to solve complicated problems.
Goals Related to Social Skills
- I will appropriately ask for help or assistance from a fellow student.
- I will appropriately ask for help or assistance from an instructor.
- I will demonstrate appropriate listening skills.
- I will monitor my feelings.
- I will appropriately engage in class participation.
- I will demonstrate an ability to stand up for my rights.
General Goal-Achieving Strategy
Adapted from Aune and Ness (1991), the following goal-setting worksheet helps individuals plot a course of action for achieving a goal. It breaks the goal into several parts, making the goal more manageable, and it delineates time frames for finishing each part.
Show Me An Example Of A Goal-Setting Worksheet
Course and Study Goals Strategies
In education, goals are important for guiding one's work. Setting out specific course and study goals helps to motivate one to learn. Developing a realistic plan of action for achieving those goals helps one to avoid procrastination, unnecessary stress, and failure.
One strategy for setting personal study goals is provided in the Personal Goal Chart section of the Motivation page.
Walter and Siebert's (1993, p. 50-61) approach to setting and achieving course and study goals is summarized below with some additions.
Consider how information about the course may be obtained.
- Potential sources of information are: the instructor, academic advisor, course syllabus, course schedules, assigned course materials, course outlines, other students who have taken the course or instructor, class discussions, and student manuals and programs.
Set a realistic goal for the course.
- In most cases, the goal students set is a particular grade for an assignment or for the entire course.
- Be realistic when setting a course grade or an assignment grade as a goal. Consider the following factors when setting grade goals:
- Do I have previous experience in or knowledge of this subject?
- Am I interested in this subject?
- How similar or different are my preferred learning style and the instructor's teaching style?
- How does the way the course is graded compare with my preferred way of demonstrating understanding.
Determine what types of tasks are required to achieve the goal.
- Attending classes? ... How many?
- Participating in class? ... In what manner?
- Reading the assignments? ... How many? How carefully?
- Taking lecture notes? ... How completely?
- Writing papers? ... How many pages? How many references? What style or format? Expository or interpretive?
- Taking tests or quizzes? ... What minimum scores are needed?
- Completing special projects? ... What are the requirements?
Set up a study schedule to accomplish each of the required tasks.
- Factors to consider when planning a study schedule include:
- What steps are involved in each task?
- How much time will it take to complete the steps of each task?
- When must each goal be completed?
- How much can I reasonably expect to do in the time I have?
- How much daily work must I do to finish the tasks on time?
- Are there specific requirements for completing the tasks?
- How will I be required to demonstrate that I have achieved the goals?
- Specific guidelines for setting up time and activity planners are given in the Time Management page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack.
Record your progress toward completing tasks and reaching your goal.
- One way to record progress is with a calendar.
- Purchase or design a daily, weekly, and/or monthly calendar.
- Think of a short description of each step required to complete each task for achieving the goal.
- Record the brief description in the appropriate place on the calendar based on the due dates you identified in the previous step.
- Cross off each step and task as they are completed.
- Another way to record progress is with a check list.
- Specify each task (or the corresponding steps of each task) required to achieve the goal.
- Prioritize the tasks in order of importance and ease of completion.
- Determine when each task (or step) should be completed.
- Record when each task was actually completed.
- Record how you will reward yourself for completing each task.
- Record whether or not you rewarded yourself for completing a task.
- Record whether or not you rewarded yourself for achieving the goal.
- Evaluate your actions against your success at achieving the goal.
- A sample check list might look like this (Walter and Siebert, 1993, p. 56):
- Show Me An Example Of a Goal Setting Checklist
Reward yourself for completing tasks and reaching goals.
- Rewards might include things like taking a walk, watching a tv show, going to the movies, having a sundae, taking a nap, reading a magazine, or calling a friend.
- Take your reward whenever a task is completed on schedule.
- Do not reward yourself if a task is not completed on time.
- The reward for achieving the goal should be "bigger" than the rewards for completing each task.
Career Goals Strategies
Guidelines for assessing one's career interests are quoted from Jewler and Gardner (1993, p. 164-174). When setting career goals, one must consider life goals, personal interests, personal skills, personal aptitudes, personality characteristics, and work values.
- In general, what kind of work do you want to do after finishing your education?
- What career fields or industries offer opportunities for this kind of work?
- What role will college play in preparing you for this work? Will you be required to attend college in order to enter that career field?
- What specific things do you plan to do to enhance your chances of getting a job when you graduate?
- Do your career goals seem compatible with your other life goals and values?
- Is it likely that you will need to transfer to another college in order to get the education you need for your career (Jewler and Gardner, 1993, p. 164)?
Consider Your Personal Interests
- Take a standardized inventory or test with a career counselor or guidance counselor.
- Look through college catalogs for courses that sound interesting. Write down several of them. Note why each course interests you.
- Make a list of all the classes, activities, and clubs you enjoyed in high school or since then. Note why each activity interested you.
- Write down any activities outside class that you intend to pursue at college (Jewler and Gardner, 1993, p. 166-167).
Consider Your Personal Skills
- Use the following table to identify your best skills. (Jewler and Gardner, 1993, p. 167).
- See Assessment and Activities for the Personal Skills Inventory
Consider Your Personal Aptitudes
- Aptitudes refer to inherent strengths that form the foundation for skills. Aptitudes may be genetic or learned at an early age.
- The following table will help to identify personal aptitudes on which you might try to build your career goals.
- Take The Personal Aptitude Questionnaire
Consider Your Personality Characteristics
- Take a personality assessment, such as the Myers-Briggs Inventory, to determine your personality characteristics. A modified form of this questionnaire is found in the Learning Style Assessment section of the Introuduction To The Learning Strategies Database page.
- Write down ten words that you would use to describe yourself. Ask a close friend or relative to write down ten words that describe you. How do the lists compare (Jewler and Gardner, 1993, p. 169)?
Consider Your Work Values
- Examples of life goals that people often seek to fulfill through their careers are given below (Jewler and Gardner, 1993, p. 169-170).
- See Assessment and Activities for the What Are Your Life Goals Questionnaire
- Examples of typical work values are given below. (Jewler and Gardner, 1993, p. 170-171).
- Take The Work Values Questionnaire