Goal Setting Tips
Uni study is the tool of choice to initiate many career and personal goals. Looking at
the big picture of your career path and determining how your courses will impact on
these will help you through the difficult times with your study.
In order to reach our goals and climb those distant mountains we require much more
than a list and hopeful expectations. How often have you set your New Year’s
resolutions only to find the same problems preventing you from achieving your
For example professional dancing appears effortless;
the dancers seem to float and glide across the floor, but behind their performance
lies years of dedicated discipline, perseverance, & technique. Achieving our own
dreams requires exactly the same ingredients. Successful pursuit of our goals is the
basis not just for material success but for the less tangible but ultimately far more
rewarding outcome of a happy and fulfilling life.
"Instead of worrying about what people say of you, why not spend time trying
to accomplish something they will admire." - Dale Carnegie
Step 1 – What do you value?
What are the things in your life that are most important to you? Family, money,
adventure, spiritual development, helping others? Values determine who we are and
what we base our lives and our goals needs to reflect these.
Choosing the uni course that you will enjoy and that will move you closer to your long
term goals needs careful consideration. If you find that you are not in the right course
seek advice from academic advisors early as you may be able to switch before you
have wasted too much time, money and energy. Read the course profile thoroughly
to ensure that it meets your needs. Many students who have the ability to achieve
good marks fail to do so because they are not in a course that is aligned with their
core values.
Don’t set goals just because family or society values them, be authentic, be wildly
eccentric, dance to your own beat and create a life that works for you. Know why you
are taking the time out of your life to study at uni and where you expect that will take
you. Goals that aren’t in sync with your own personal values will make them less
satisfying and you will be unlikely to maintain the momentum required in order to
achieve them.
Step 2 – Brainstorm
Create a list of all the things that you would like to achieve in this lifetime. Don’t put
conditions on them at this stage; imagine that you have everything that you need to
achieve these already, e.g. money, health, opportunity, qualifications, talent.
Write a story of your ideal life, what does it look like, who is with you, what are you
wearing, what is your physical location, use a range of sensory information and
include as much detail as possible to make the scene come alive for you.
Another useful exercise is to imagine that you are looking back from your 100th
birthday bash, who is there, what have you achieved during your long lifetime and
what will you have to celebrate.
Setting the goal first and then working backwards to determine how it can be
achieved will allow you to think outside the square and be more creative. We have
the potential to achieve much more than we often believe.
To accomplish the big goals in life they must first be conceived, believed that they
are possible and then actioned. Make your thinking big enough to contain a life
bursting with possibilities.
Include at least one Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)
Step 3 – Prioritise
Undertaking a university degree is a long term commitment which means that you
will have to make room in your life for it. What will you have to sacrifice in terms of
your time, finances and social involvement and what are the potential rewards?
Start by determining the most important goal that you want to focus on. Ask the
questions ‘Where do I want to put my energy and will this be the best use of my
time? If you have a range of time heavy commitments consider doing your degree
part-time, a fulltime course is expected to consume 40 hours a week of your time.
Rank your goals in their order of importance. Where are you going to start and why
would you bother, we all have only a limited time and energy component in our lives
but the way we spend those precious resources can make all the difference to the
life that we create for ourselves.
It is difficult for our focus to remain on more than one goal at a time without losing
momentum. Determine how long each goal is expected to take and designate short
(within 3-6 months), medium (1-2 years) and long term goals.
Answer these questions and think carefully about what you want to manifest in your
Why is this goal important to you?
What will be the long term outcome?
Do you really want to achieve this?
Set goals under a range of areas that include:
Personal (health, stress management, interests, etc)
Professional (education, career, networking, etc)
Social (family & friends, clubs, fun, etc)
Step 4 – Break it Down
Achieving a university qualification generally takes several years of dedicated study
and application. Ensure that you have all the appropriate information and check with
academic advisors that you are taking the right courses in the appropriate order.
Discovering that you need one more course in order to graduate when you were
expecting to graduate is not an experience that you want to have.
Recent research into how experts achieve their status (K. Anders Ericsson) has
shown that it is not initial grades or IQ that predicts performance and produces
superior results. The keys are deliberate practice over a sustained period of time that
targets your weaknesses and utilizing critical feedback to improve performance.
Most goals worth pursuing are way too big to achieve in one step. They require
planning and breaking down into small bite sized pieces. Make the steps as small as
possible and be sure to reward your progress.
Ensure that your goals are SMART by checking that they fulfil the following criteria
Specific – what do you want to achieve?
Measurable – how will you monitor your progress?
Achievable – is your goal realistic?
Relevant – how useful is this goal?
Timeframe – when will you start and finish?
Step 5 – Flexibility
If you face a barrier to your progress determine what you need to do, is the goal still
relevant, do you need more skills, e.g. maths or self-confidence, or do you need
support? Answer these questions first before you give up on your goal. Be creative,
are there other ways to achieve your desired outcome, remain flexible and open to
Focus your attention on the present, enjoy the process, today
make it enjoyable as possible now. Practice mindfulness
remaining in the present. Becoming trapped by past failures or
until a designated time in the future prevents growth and
thoughts and personality.
creates tomorrow so
which is the art of
putting off happiness
promotes rigidity of
Self-efficacy is the belief that you can achieve your goals. This results in higher
levels of self-esteem, motivation and perseverance. People who are low in selfefficacy tend to blame external factors and give up more easily when they are faced
with a problem. Achieving your goals, seeing others reach theirs and mentoring
support can all assist the development of self-efficacy.
Step 6 – Monitoring
Keeping regular checks on your progress is vital to your success. Obtain feedback
whenever this is available, this provides us with the information that we require in
order to improve our performance. Go over your assignment comments carefully and
if you don’t understand anything go back to your tutor or lecturer and seek
clarification. Practice with old exam papers and ask questions whenever you need
more information.
Review your progress weekly and determine the actions that will need to be taken in
the following week. You will be surprised how much you have achieved and this will
also increase your self-esteem and encourage you to move forward.
Meet with supportive friends, or keep a record by writing down your achievements.
Use a folder to collect evidence of your progress and to collect pictures and ideas for
future goals.
Need Help?
Student Services has a range of supports that you may find useful.
There are many goal setting sites on the internet and books written on goal setting
and time management, read widely and increase your understanding of their
importance to achieving an interesting and productive life.
Talk to successful people, read autobiographies; find out how they reached their
goals. What helped them, how did they overcome difficulties, what kept them
motivated, etc. This will give you both ideas and encouragement to move forward
with your own plans.
Linda Elliott-Ghadami
UQ Student Services 2010