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Setting – and Achieving – Meaningful Goals

12/30/2011 10:45 am

Setting and Achieving Goals

"If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you get there."

– Yogi Berra

In education, in work, and in life, goals are at the heart of success, and this time of year, as we prepare for the coming new year, goals are often at the top of our minds. But the sad fact is that 75-78% of new year’s resolutions fail. The majority of those failures come by Jan. 20.

The components of a successful goal:

  • Strong commitment to change
  • Goals that are meaningful to you
  • Coping strategies to deal with problems or barriers that will occur
  • System for tracking progress
  • A plan with smaller, specific steps
  • A support network of friends and family
  • A high sense of self-efficacy – believe in your own will power

The biggest barrier to setting and achieving goals is the limitations set by your own thinking. So the first step is overcoming the beliefs that limit your sense of your ability to reach your goals. Day in and day out, your constant focus should be on your goals so you can get past the clutter and the distractions.

A shift in thinking is required. Stop thinking of your goals in terms of what problems you will face, whose fault they are, and how frustrated they make you. Instead, think in empowering terms: Why do you want to achieve this goal, and what positive impacts will it have on your life? What resources do you have to help you get there?

What to avoid in goal-setting:

  • Goals that are too large and grandiose. Dream big, but tackle goals in smaller bites. You’ll get to those bigger goals eventually, but only if you’re set on a path that includes more immediately achievable successes. Reward yourself along the way.
  • Too many goals. Wouldn’t it be nice to be good at everything? To be a gourmet cook, a stellar athlete, a hard-working provider for your family, and the foremost expert in rainforest insect life or origami? But if you can’t do it all to your desired level of perfection, you’re going to get frustrated and your overall performance will suffer. Focus on what you’re able to excel at here and now.
  • Problem-oriented goals. “I want a job with a stable company that will still be around in 20 years.” It’s understandable to have goals that aim at avoiding problems or pitfalls, but merely surviving will neither inspire you nor push you to new levels.
  • Goals driven by outside influences. Did the character in your favorite new movie make you feel like you’re just not doing enough? After all, she’s a high-powered lawyer by day and an international spy at night – and she still manages to fit in yoga every morning. Are you striving to achieve something not because you want it but because your parents, your boss, or your favorite motivational speaker said you should want it? Or is your goal totally driven by money? If a goal doesn’t mean something to you personally, and if it isn’t truly within your reach, you’ll never get there – or, if you do, you won’t find the personal satisfaction that makes goals so worthwhile in the first place.

At the start of 2011, the WGU Alumni & Career Services Career Café webinar series tackled goal-setting, and as the year comes to an end, it’s a great chance to revisit your 2011 goals, evaluate your success, and lay down your plan for your 2012 goals.

For 2012, WGU’s Alumni & Career Services is offering more goal-setting advice in a new Career Café webinar. The free webinar will air live on Jan. 11, 2012, and you can RSVP to attend now. You can also view the free archived 2011 "Goal Setting" webinar. Full archives of previous Career Café webinars are always available for free viewing.

And sometimes, one of the best ways to be sure you achieve your goals is to share them with others. Once you’ve told people what you intend to achieve, you’re opening yourself up to their words of advice, their encouragement, and that extra motivation to stick with it.

So let us know – what are your 2012 resolutions? Leave a comment via Facebook connect below and you’ll also be sharing your goals with your Facebook friends, who can become your support network and your cheering section as you make 2012 your most successful year yet.

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