Goals are those accomplishments that we deliberately set out to achieve. They may be small and simple: I’ll do the dishes tonight. Or they may be large, complex, and long term: I want to enjoy my work and do it well, or I want to create a family based on love and respect. We may choose goals in every aspect of our lives: personal, social, academic, occupational, athletic, spiritual. A broad goal, such as good health, may spawn many smaller goals, such as maintaining a regular exercise schedule, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular medical checkups. Some goals are behaviors we want to decrease or increase or maintain.
New Year’s resolutions — those wild promises we make to ourselves after the indulgences of the holidays–are rarely kept, for we try to change too much too quickly. The truth of the matter is that if we want to change a behavior permanently we usually have to change it slowly. Changing a behavior requires some discipline, but not the amount most people imagine. The way to change a behavior slowly is to make a small promise to ourselves, keep it, and reward ourselves. A typical example would be a freshman who has decided to attend his 8 A.M. class the next day. He knows he needs to go to class to pass, so he promises himself that he will go to sleep by midnight. He sets the alarm for 7 A.M. and places it across the room. When it goes off, he reminds himself of his promise and why it is important. As he’s getting ready, he compliments himself on his behavior and tells himself that going to class is important.
How we spend the minutes and hours of our days determines what we accomplish. Thinking about studying will not help our grades. Only studying does. Talking about our weight while we are eating pizza does not cause weight loss. Exercise and a sensible diet will control our weight. Those links from behaviors to accomplishments to goals are crucial. Do our behaviors and accomplishments lead us to our goals or away from them?
Most freshmen would like a satisfying collegiate experience that includes good grades and a social life that is fun and emotionally satisfying. They do not enjoy great amounts of stress. Students can often have other goals about work, family, sports. If your current behaviors will not lead you to your goals, try the following three steps for two weeks. This time management system is not a jail.
Write down three goals you want to accomplish this semester. You may want a 3.0, a date with the redhead in your math class, or a better relationship with your roommate. Your goal may be large or small. If your life seems out of control right now, write down one goal for this week. What will you have to do to accomplish that goal?