Our Top Tips for Setting Good Goals

Goals, goals, goals. It might seem a bit odd to be talking about these in March, after all the ‘New year, new me’ period is when we do all of that, right? Not exactly. As you might know, one of Doceo’s values is to champion continuous growth and growth has no deadline. You can think about personal development and goals any month of the year and any day of the week. On that note, let’s go through some top tips for making goals!

1: Know your Ikigai (your why).

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. The reason that gets you out of bed every morning even when it cold and raining and grey yet again. The concept of having and knowing your ‘why’ is so crucial, especially when setting long-term goals. Let’s imagine you commit to writing a book on the experiences of students during the pandemic in the UK. (random topic but stay with me!) Writing a book is a huge undertaking and whilst you might love the topic, there will be days you wake up and you don’t feel like writing 500 words and would rather have a duvet day. There might be times when you lose some of your research that you forgot to back up or your friends suggest more edits than you were expecting. How do you keep going through unexpected moments and setbacks? You remember your ‘why’.

It doesn’t have to be anything groundbreaking but it must be genuine. I remember in Year 11 as GCSEs approached, things got quite difficult academically. Apart from the fact at the time, it was a large academic step-up, I had to learn to balance and prioritise different responsibilities, understand how I learnt information best and of course, try to remain unbothered by mounting levels of competition within the school. It got to the stage where I forgot what I was aiming towards and why so after my Year 11 mocks, I wrote down the exact grade I wanted to achieve in each subject. Afterwards, I wrote down why I wanted those grades and I’ll share that with you today: I wanted my grades to open me up to opportunities not limit me. Despite not having a clear 10-year career plan, I knew that whatever I did in the future, I wanted these grades to act as a helpful stepping stone. It might be that you want a particular grade because you love the subject and want your performance to reflect that or because you’d like to study it further. Whatever the reason is, make it personal to you and remember it.

2: Make your goals SMARTER

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant to you, Time bound. Even better if you evaluate them regularly and review them once the time is up. Let’s say my goal is to get better at A-Level Biology, here’s an example of how I might make this goal SMARTER.

  • Specific: I want to get an A in my end of Year 12 mocks in Biology.
  • Measurable: This would mean an improvement of two grades for me.
  • Achievable: Given that my current grade is a C, I want to improve my performance in Biology by at least 7 marks in each mock exam leading up to the final mocks.
  • Relevant to you: I don’t want to study Biology at university but I want to go to Warwick to study Business and getting an A in Biology will help my chances of getting in.
  • Time bound: I have 7 months from now until the end of year mocks to work on this goal.
  • Evaluate them regularly: Every 6 weeks, I’ll look at my performance in school mocks or extra practice papers I’ve done at home and write down my ‘What Went Well’ and ‘Even Better Ifs’.
  • Review them once the time is up: At the end of Year 12, I’ll review my progress. This isn’t a simple ‘Yes’ I achieved this goal or ‘No’ that failed but rather looking at how much progress I’ve made over the course of the 7 months. If I did get an A, amazing- which techniques helped me? Is there anything I’ll carry forward into Year 13? If I didn’t get an A- what was my final grade? How many marks did I improve by? What worked well and what can I improve? Are there any lessons I’m taking forward?

3: Acknowledge your progress and reward your accomplishments.

Often, we bounce around from one goal to the next without fully acknowledging how far we’ve come or how much progress we’ve made. Sometimes, you’ll set a goal and get nowhere near it but in the process of working towards it, you’ll learn something new about yourself. Plus, when we celebrate an accomplishment, dopamine is released and we feel happy.

4: Ask for help and have an accountability buddy.

This is such a crucial part to not just setting goals but also achieving them. When I wrote down the grades I wanted to achieve at GCSE, I told my close group of friends- it was the best decision ever although it was scary. We motivated each other to keep going- if I hadn’t been to the library in a while, I had a friend who would call me and ask how I was doing (a nice way of her reminding me to get back to work!). Likewise, if one of my friends faced a setback in their revision plan, I would remind them of how far they’d come. Not only does accountability increase your chances of reaching your goal, it makes the process and the end result so much more rewarding. On GCSE results day, we all felt so proud not just of ourselves but of the whole group- against many odds, we did it.

As they say, “No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main” – John Donne

You might be reading this and think it’s too late to set some goals for change- it’s not. However large or absurd that thing might be: write it down, know your why, make it SMART-er and tell a friend or someone you trust.

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