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The Power of Writing SMART Goals


College challenges you in many new and rewarding ways, ranging from broadening the practical knowledge in the field to expanding your horizons intellectually. Learning how to set realistic and productive goals for yourself throughout your student and professional life will help you, in the long run, to stay on top of things and make the most of your education. Bill Copel has rightly said that the trouble with not having a goal in mind is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.

Dr Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University, situated in California, performed a study on the art and science of goal setting. She found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams simply by writing them down regularly.

How does writing down the goal have such a profound impact? It is all connected to how human brains work. When you just think about your goals and dreams, you are using only the right hemisphere of the brain, which is your imaginative side. But, when you write it down, you are now using words and making it more cognitive and logical. 

This message then travels through your spinal column with the help of CSF and then every cell and fibre of your being get involved in pursuing it. 

George T. Doran introduced SMART goals in a 1981 paper, and this formula has been used in various forms ever since. SMART stands for:

S – Specific

M - Measurable 

A - Attainable 

R - Relevant 

T - Time-based

  • Specific

For a goal to be achievable, it needs to have an obvious outcome. One should ask, “What exactly do I want to accomplish here?” The clearer the goal, the more likely it is you will reach it.

For example, if you say, “I want to study tonight,” then technically, you could achieve your goal only by reading a word or just one page. But you need to have a more specific plan: What exactly do you want to study? “I want to study 3 chapters of History this week.”

  • Measurable

To achieve something, it is essential to have measurable goals. Take the example above: “I want to study 3 chapters of History this week.” It is measurable. All you need to do is work on it. Make a To-do list, tick and measure your daily progress.

  • Attainable

This means that the goal should be realistic and sensible. The example of studying three History chapters this week is doable; you only need the motivation to accomplish it. If you set goals that do not match your ability or time structure, you won’t attain them. If you say you want to study 5 chapters of History this week, but you know you have an event to attend, it would be impossible. So, consider your strengths, weaknesses, and situations to set a realistic goal.

  • Relevant

For any goal to be achieved, you need to set goals that are meaningful and beneficial to you. If you have a history exam, you certainly need to work on History and not any other subject, as you need to score well in that exam. So, the goal of studying History and not any other subject becomes relevant here.

  • Time-based

Finally, you need a timeline. All your intentions need to have an end date because it creates a sense of urgency, and you work better. Giving yourself a deadline will help you to be aware and motivated to achieve the set goal. You need to set a proper schedule step by step to achieve your goal.

Setting SMART goals also helps with avoiding procrastination. Now that you have a written plan of what you have to do within a timeline, you will work towards it.

It is okay if you feel that you're not able to be consistent initially. One can feel overwhelmed and think that the goals set up by them are unattainable. It doesn't mean that you’re not doing enough. The key to success is consistency. You may feel like you’re the only one lagging, but most people think that way.

You will learn through trial and error. If you feel you are not able to set goals, do not hesitate to take help. You can utilise self-help tools, or avail yourself the option of talking to experts for more support without compromising on your confidentiality. This will enhance and help you to a path of well-being.