Tips and Tricks for Setting Goals That Stick

Go Beyond the Basics

When it comes to personal, professional, and academic growth, setting a goal is the easy part.  But in order to be successful, you’ll need to do much more than simply making a plan. Consider these crucial questions: What is going to make this difficult and how will you achieve in spite of those difficulties?  How will you measure progress along the way? What will you do to maintain your motivation?  

Our executive functioning coaches are trained to take students through the following process when setting goals:

Goal:  Define the goal in terms that are meaningful to you.  Make sure that your goal is fully within your control.  For instance, “Turn in all of my work on time” is a more powerful goal than “Get an A in biology”.  Ultimately, teachers give grades, but you control the quality of your work.  

Obstacle:  Break obstacles to success down into two categories—environmental obstacles and personal obstacles.  That is, take some time to think about both the mental blocks you have and the difficulties the world presents which have kept you from achieving this goal already.  Maybe you forget to write down your homework, and that’s on you. Maybe your teacher only presents the homework verbally which means you miss it entirely at times, and that you can’t change.  

Plan:  Now that you know what you’ll need to overcome in order to reach your goal, consider the supports you can put in place for yourself to make it happen.  In the example above, you might identify an on-the-ball classmate that you can text in the evening for any homework assignments you either miss or forget to write down.  You could even go as far as setting an alarm to remind yourself to take that step. Make sure that each obstacle you identify includes either a support to overcome it or recognition of a skill you’ll simply have to buckle down and learn.  

Do: As you execute your plan, make sure you have in mind a timeline for and measures of success.  It’s unlikely that you’ll fully achieve your goal without any slip ups, so consider tracking your progress.  For instance, count the number of missed or late assignments each week and celebrate as that number slowly shrinks rather than feeling badly when you don’t immediately get everything in on time.  

Review: As you track your progress, consider what is and is not working.  Expect that you’ll need to adjust your plan in order for it to work, and it will be less disappointing when you’re confronted with the reality that changing your behavior is difficult.  If you don’t find yourself following through with your plan, add incentives or additional supports such as an accountability partner. Look for non-tangible reinforcers of a job well done such as less stress or fewer annoying reminders from your parents.  

And, If you’d like help creating a comprehensive plan for a goal that’s important to you, reach out to your director about working with an executive functioning coach who can serve as an awesome support while you get up and running. We’re here to help. 

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