Although New Year’s is in our rearview mirror and we are well into 2020, many of us are still working on our New Year’s resolutions.  For some this may be to lose weight.  For others it may be to get finances in order.  But for many students, the goal this time of year is to bring grades up, get into college, or score high on the SAT or ACT.

Before achieving a goal, however, it is important to understand how to set yourself up for success.  It is no coincidence that many New Year’s resolutions taper off in February and completely disappear by March.  So, in order to achieve your goals this year, I suggest you consider the following steps.

1.  Understand your personality

Some people have no trouble at all sticking to a strict schedule in order to achieve their goals.  For these people, many of these steps are not necessary.  However, the majority of people have a varying degree of will power, from 0 to 100.  It’s good to recognize your personality when setting goals and understand what is realistic.  Try to be real with yourself when considering your strengths and weaknesses.

2.  Prioritize what is important

In order to achieve a goal, whether big, small, short-term, or long-term, the goal must be important to you.  If getting straight A’s simply is not important, then it is highly likely you will come up short.  Along those same lines, it is also difficult to have many goals at once.  I suggest you make a list of what is important to you and then prioritize your goals based on that list.

3.  Define the goal

Once you have prioritized those things that are important to you, you must define your goal.  What is the purpose?  Is it for you or for someone else?  Is this a long-term or short-term goal?  A declaration such as, “I want to be healthier” is pretty vague.  Defining it more clearly will give you a better sense of purpose:  “I want to focus on my mental health this year.”

4.  Make sure it is measurable

How do we know if we have achieved a goal if we can measure it?  Take the statement above:  “I want to focus on my mental health this year.”  How can we make that measurable?  Maybe you tweak it to say, “I want to attend one counseling session a month this year.”  That is something you can track and quantify.  When talking about academics, goals such as spending 5 hours on the weekend studying, meeting with teachers twice per week, or reading one book a month are easily measured.

5.  Set a schedule

Achieving a goal is a process.  Even short-term goals take time to accomplish.  And goal setting is really just an exercise in establishing a routine.  All of the goals we talk about, whether health, academic, or personal will require multiple steps to accomplish.  Setting a schedule creates the most efficient means of sticking to the routine.

6.  Provide accountability

After your routine and schedule are set, you will likely need some sort of accountability.  For students who are struggling in school, I often require them to check in with their teachers and even get their planners signed.  Holding students accountable is no different than holding yourself accountable; that is why personal trainers are so popular in January and February!

7.  Reward yourself

As you make progress towards your goal, find a way to reward yourself for your hard work and dedication.  Maybe you can get a massage or indulge in a nice meal with your family.  For students who are sticking to a plan, I encourage them to play sports or spend extra time with friends on the weekends.  Life needs to be fun, so go ahead and have some.

8.  Forgive yourself

Even the most strong-willed people slip up sometimes.  After all, we are only human.  If you are doing a great job with your goal routine but have a backward step, do not beat yourself up.  Some people find a “cheat” day helpful; it gives you permission to “mess up” on the front end.  However, if you find you are slipping on your routine on a regular basis, you may have to re-examine your goal and determine if it is realistic.

If you are trying to make progress in a certain area of your life in 2020 then I encourage you to think about your goals as a process.  Making changes in your routine takes time, but if you set a realistic goal and stick with it, I guarantee you will learn a great deal about yourself.  Good luck!