4 Benefits of Setting Academic and Personal Goals
Your life contains infinite possibilities and, therefore, infinite choices. Fortunately, infinity tends to become way more manageable when you intentionally sift through it, looking for what excites you and for what can enhance your quality of life. Then, if you write down your favorite ideas, you’ll have something finite to work with. You’ll be able to literally witness the beginnings of motion and direction taking form where there was once only a nebulous cloud of uncertainty.
Once your goals emerge, you will be on your way to living your best life. Let’s look at some key benefits you’re likely to experience by setting goals:
1. You get to discover new options, and yourself
Without deliberately writing down your desires, you’re more likely to overlook much of what life has to offer you. Exploring, whether through talking to others or doing some online research, can reveal possibilities you have forgotten about or never knew existed. Feel free to be creative and have fun as you brainstorm. Devise categories, graphics, priorities, etc. The following questions will hopefully help jumpstart your thinking:
What do you like to do physically?
What hobbies are you interested in?
Do you want to develop a skill?
What projects you want to accomplish?
In what way would you most enjoy helping others?
Do you want to save a certain amount of money for something?
What are your academic goals, short and long term?
As you identify more and more of what brings you joy and excitement, be open to ideas you wouldn’t think you’d be interested in. Cast everyone else’s opinions out of your head and give yourself permission to write down whatever you want.
2. You develop more focus
After writing down everything that seems appealing to you, look for patterns. What themes do you see? What types of personality traits or skills seem to recur? Focus on these ideas as they are most likely to represent the authentic you. Pick a manageable number of goals, maybe three short term and three long term, to develop first. Then write down one action step you can take today to move a little closer toward a goal. Even the smallest step will establish direction and momentum.
3. You gain new motivation to move forward
With goals, you are no longer just going through the motions of attending class, studying, and doing whatever else you think is expected of you. Rather, you have a self-generated source of motivation. To tap into it, try writing down why you want to accomplish certain things. Is it to feel a sense of purpose? To feel joy? To make money? To make family, or yourself, proud? Knowing the reasons behind your desires adds a new dimension of power that you can circle back to when you feel yourself slowing or veering off track.
4. You can more easily keep track of progress
Goals can also serve as progress markers, kind of like checkpoints along the route of a race. Without knowing where you are going, you have no way of knowing how far you’ve come. And without knowing how far you’ve come, you have a greater chance of losing focus and drive. Plus, little goals can help turn a big, daunting task into a few no-big-deals, keeping you laser-focused and feeling good.
Try to remember, as you set and meet and reset goals, to keep patting yourself on the back. Everyone takes little detours now and then, but know that you are making your life, and really the world, a better place with every step you take toward reaching your goals.
Kiley A. teaches SAT/ACT Writing and leads College Application Workshops at Elite Prep Rowland Heights. As the Elite Community Scholars Coordinator, he also works to spread this college preparation guidance to low-income, first-generation students who may not otherwise have access to such support. Above all, he wants his students to know the far-reaching power of their own self-assurance.