Goal-Setting: Beyond the Basics

Leah Kaplan, Mentor

By Leah Kaplan
WGU Mentor, College of Business

At WGU, each student is assigned a personal faculty member to work with them as a mentor throughout their time at WGU. Additionally, each course has its own course instructors, subject-matter experts who are available to help students get through course material. Advice from your mentors and instructors is invaluable as you make your way through your online degree program. But we also want you to benefit from the wisdom of faculty not necessarily assigned to you, so occasionally, The Night Owl features advice from WGU faculty in colleges throughout the university.

In my role as a mentor, I have had the invaluable opportunity to meet and connect with so many different students, each in a different profession and place in life. These relationships have taught me about the meaning and the challenges of commitment and balancing life’s demands. It is these students who inspire me and sustain my motivation to not only assist them on their paths to success, but to achieve my own goals as well.

So how does one maintain the motivation needed to reach goals?

THE KEY is the emotional connection we establish with the value of the goal.

As we move into 2013, goal-setting and new year’s resolutions are on the top of many of our minds. Let’s take a moment to discuss the difference between a traditional goal vs. a value-driven goal.

Goal-setting can be a complex process. Sure, there are commonly cited basics, the widely known components of a “good goal.”

  • Make a goal specific, realistic and time-sensitive.
  • Create benchmarks and mark progress along the way.
  • Announce your goals to others to create accountability.
  • Post goals so they are top of mind.
  • Anticipate obstacles and create plans to safeguard against these.

These tips are great! Often, they can be completely effective on their own. But, when they aren’t, is there a deeper component that is being overlooked?

Step back and take a larger view. What is the true value in achievement of this goal? Dig deeper and connect emotionally to WHY this goal is meaningful and significant in your life.

  • Visualize it. Believe in it. Want it.
  • How will your life be different or better?
  • What new doors and opportunities are opened?
  • What sort of fulfillment or sense of pride will be achieved for you?

Frame each milestone of a goal in the light of possibility and positive impact. Find the emotional satisfaction and rewards, and most importantly, the VALUE OF THE GOAL.

When something has this kind of appeal, we do whatever we need to in order to make it happen! We approach it with determination rather than avoidance.

Along the way, ask: What am I learning about myself? What is the life lesson? What is my resistance to doing the work I need to? Ask yourself these things without self-judgment.

Recently, I found myself avoiding taking a hard look at my finances. I sat and thought and connected to the belief that eventual financial freedom had a value in my life beyond the short-term sacrifices it would take to get there. I imagined one or two years from now being debt-free. How would I look and feel different once I had the ability to take a family vacation without stress or have a nice savings account so I felt safe, no matter what came my way? I consciously decided that this vision, and the feeling of peace, outweighed the short-term aggravations, so I began to make a real plan. Instead of operating from a place of self-deprivation and not being able to buy things, I focused on the possibility I was opening in my future.

I emotionally committed to this goal.

And when I am tempted to lose sight of this new plan and impulsively buy something, I connect back to the positive feeling I want. I am not perfect; I have set-backs. But believing in the value helps me stay the course. And what am I learning about myself? I can be disciplined; I need less than I think; I have used buying things as a stress outlet and a reward. Now I ask myself the hard question: "Is this action getting me closer to what I am ultimately striving for?" I am making a conscious effort to avoid the immediate gratification for something more.

I encourage you to take a moment to think deeper about your own personal commitments and why they deserve your dedication!

Interested in a career with WGU as an online faculty member? We're hiring.

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