Happy 2017! It’s been years since I’ve made a New Year Resolution, but when I started the 2016-2017 school year I decided it was time to make some goals for the year. Now that the first quarter of school is done, here is how I made them, how (poorly) they held up, and the changes I’m making for the next quarter to accomplish them by the end of the school year.
Why Bother to Make Goals In College?
There are so many other things we could be doing (Netflix) instead of self-improvement. Isn’t going to college enough?
Setting goals is a way to identify and improve upon the important things in your life, and college is the best time to begin. Now that we’re juggling everything from food to budgeting on top of our schoolwork, setting goals can be a powerful way to prioritize. Last year, it was so easy to get caught in the stress of completing assignments that I would skip exercise and meals. By setting goals for all parts of your life, it is harder to neglect them.
Beyond creating priorities, goal setting is also a way to gain a sense of control in our lives. In college, we’re judged against the success of our peers in class according to the will of the professors. When you set your own goals, you alone define their success and you are in control of whether or not you achieve it. You set goals to promote things that are important to you, you are in charge of their completion, and you reap the rewards for your work.
College is also a time period where we decide the kind of lifestyles we want to have. Setting goals and accomplishing them is a great way to explore your values and your ideal you. Self-improvement is a lifelong task, and learning how to go about it now will help you start on the path to achieve anything.
Whether you’ve been setting goals for years, or making your first set for 2017, college is the perfect time to start building your ideal you.
But How Do You Make Them?
I started by imagining my ideal life in 5 years. I asked myself questions like the ones below to try to create a picture of a 24 year old me.
- Who am I?
- What am I doing?
- What is important to me?
- What do I do for fun?
- Who is important to me?
Although I didn’t have well-developed answers for many of these questions, it was a powerful soul searching experience to take the time to imagine my future. It also was clear that the woman I’d like to be in 5 years is a very different person than the woman (maybe more girl than woman) that I am today.
I made a list of adjectives I would use to describe her (Healthy, Strong, Kind, etc.), and using these I worked backwards to see the gaps in my current life. I picked general themes for my goals based on these gaps.
- Mental Health
Your themes could also include Relationships, Spiritual Life, or Hobbies.
Working from these themes, I then brainstormed possible goals.
I came up with a list of 37 possible goals, and started eliminating the ones that didn’t make sense for the school year using the S-M-A-R-T formula for goal setting.
- What? Where? Why?
- How will I know I accomplished the goal?
- Is this goal realistic given my resources (time, money, etc)?
- Is now the right time for this goal? Is it worthwhile?
- Time Bound
- When? What can I do today towards the goal?
I then wrote the 18 left in my Bullet Journal and promptly forgot about them.
Even though I forgot about those goals that I had set at the beginning of the school year, self-improvement is never far from my mind. At the end of every quarter, I reevaluate my life and it was in the process of doing this that I found those goals. Luckily, the deadlines for my goals are two quarters away!
How to Accomplish Your Goals (A Work in Progress)
Since creating my goals and writing them down in my Bullet Journal wasn’t enough to make me complete them, I had to develop a system to ensure that I follow through this winter.
I began by extending my life review to include an analysis of my goals. Within each category, I rated my work towards achieving each goal on a scale of 1-10. I edited some of the goals that no longer seemed achievable or relevant based on my experience this fall. I also brainstormed a list of changes I could make during winter quarter to ensure completion by the end of the year.
Post-Christmas winters in Chicago can be pretty dreary, so it is essential for my mental health that I recommit to exercise and nutrition despite the cold. To do this, I will be working to exercise and cook with friends and family regularly. This will provide the layer of accountability that I was lacking in the fall because it’s harder to miss your run if someone else is counting on you to go with them. I will also include the specific exercise activities (a run, a yoga class, etc.) in both my Bullet Journal and my Google Calendar, rather than just saying “Exercise at 3.”
In addition, I am adding a month-long habit tracker to my bullet journal for January to replace the small tracker that was a part of my weekly spreads in the fall. It should help me to be a little more focused on including steps towards these goals throughout the month. Reviewing this at the end of the month will also provide an opportunity for me to reevaluate my progress on these more frequently than at the end of the quarter. I don’t know how well it will work, but I’m sure I’ll have updates to come.
I learned that even more important than the goals I set is the system I use to approach accomplishing them. It is crucial for me to have regular check-ins and some form of accountability. Hopefully this system will allow me to make some headway, but I’m sure there will be more updates to come.
It turns out that goal setting is also a great way to figure out how you work best on projects without the pressure of school deadlines. I am learning a lot about who I am and what works best for me.
Everyone works differently, so I’d encourage you to go through a similar process to develop your own system for accomplishing your goals. Remember that it is a work in progress, so as long as you keep analyzing your process you can make changes to help you succeed.