Setting goals is not just for the super-disciplined, put-together people. Setting goals is an important life skill we can all take part and succeed in.
As Plato said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” While Plato’s words dove deeper into the philosophical examination of life itself, we think he would agree that taking time to reflect on the year you’ve just lived and the year ahead is a valuable use of your time off during the winter holidays. Without pausing every now and then to think about what we’ve done and what we want to do, it’s all too easy to find days and years slipping by without any movement forward.
Reflecting and goal-setting can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. We recommend three steps to your process:
All three steps are explained below and can be made your own. And the most important thing to remember when you’re setting goals: no one has a 100% success rate. You’ll slip up or completely fail. That’s ok! Just keep reflecting, keep adjusting, and keep moving forward.
Start with what’s behind you. What were your wins this year? Where did you miss the mark? Reflecting on your year can help you focus in on the areas where you succeed and the areas that could use some attention in 2020.
Here are some sample questions to guide your reflection:
- What did I do in 2019 that I’m proud of?
- What goals did I meet in 2019?
- What is my favorite memory from 2019?
- What goals did I not meet in 2019?
- Do I still want to achieve these missed goals, or are they not as important to me anymore?
- What do I wish I’d done differently this year?
Once you’ve reflected on your year, take some time to think about the year ahead. Based on your reflection, what dreams do you have for 2020? Maybe you had some goals in 2019 that you didn’t reach, but want to keep trying for. Maybe you have a whole new set of goals!
This process may take some time; take a few days to roll ideas around in your head and figure out what you hope to achieve in 2020.
Once you have a list of dreams/goals for 2020, it’s time to break them down into actionable steps. Try and be as realistic as possible when you break down your goals – you know your schedule and limits. Here are a few examples:
Raise ACT score 3 points and get a 30 by the end of the summer
- Find ACT study materials
- Create a study schedule
- Add study time to my calendar (and stick to it!)
- Register for ACT test
Decide where to apply to college
- Research majors and pick an area of interest
- Research schools
- Sort out my reach, match, and safety schools
- Plan college visits and/or talk to alumni
That saying “out of sight, out of mind” is discouragingly true when it comes to goals. According to US News, 80% of New Year’s goals are dropped by February. Stay on track by putting your goals somewhere you can see them (like your bathroom mirror) and asking a friend to check in with you on how you’re progressing toward your goals throughout the year.
Accountability (like having a friend check in on how your goals are going) is really important to achieving your goals. It’s so easy to make excuses for yourself, but much harder to make excuses to someone else. Think about how much more likely you are to go to the gym is a friend is meeting you there! So we highly recommend asking a friend or mentor to help you achieve your goals by checking in with you regularly on how things are going.
Good luck goal setting – you can do it!