Setting goals is a common way to motivate yourself into action. But setting the wrong kinds of goals can have unexpected consequences on your mood. Setting unrealistic goals can cause you unnecessary stress and lead to feelings of failure for not meeting those goals. Setting goals that are realistic can motivate you and help you find success.
How can you set realistic goals? Try using this method! Good goals are SMART, which stands for:
- Specific goals are not too vague and include important details like what, who, when, where, and why. Doing well in class is a great goal, but the goal of studying every Monday is a better and more specific goal.
- Measurable goals let you know when the goal has been met. For example, setting a goal to study for two hours is measurable compared to setting a goal to just study.
- Attainable goals are realistic. Maybe you want to start exercising more – but getting to the Olympics from the couch might be difficult in a quarter. Try setting a goal of a weekly walk!
- Relevant goals can help you prioritize. For example, it might be more important to study for a test that is happening tomorrow than to try to get ahead for readings in another class.
- Time based goals can also help you meet deadlines on time, for example, setting aside a chunk of time a week before a paper is due to write, is going to help you meet your goal of finishing the paper on time (and not at the last minute!).
Lastly, while it might be helpful for you to follow S.M.A.R.T. goals to find success, it’s important to recognize what your individual strengths are and to utilize them. Maybe you perform better under shorter deadlines or setting a slightly higher than attainable goal will motivate you even more to complete a task. Maybe you will benefit more from smaller, easier goals at first. Regardless, be kind to yourself and remember you can always adjust your goals!