8 Defining Goals

Sonji Nicholas

What you’ll learn to do: explore goal setting and factors that can help or hinder your goal achievement

Wish for it, hope for it, dream of it, but by all means, do it...

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.

—Yogi Berra, baseball player and coach

By the end of this section, you will be able to describe goal setting and how it applies to your time in college. You will be able to describe SMART goals and evaluate strategies for achieving your goals. You’ll also identify motivational strategies to support goal achievement and describe strategies to address factors that might hinder goal achievement.

Formulating Effective Goals

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe goal setting and how it applies to your time in college

There is no doubt that doing well in college is a sizable challenge, especially for first-year students, who run the greatest risk of dropping out. You are faced with new physical surroundings, new social environments, new daily tasks and responsibilities, and most likely new financial obligations. Overall, you are swamped with new challenges! Do you feel confident that you can attend to all of them in a balanced, committed way? What will be your secret to success?

Goals vs. Dreams

Goals! A goal is a desired result that you envision and then plan and commit to achieve. Goals can relate to family, education, career, wellness, spirituality, and many other areas of your life.  Dreams are creations of the mind that are as limitless as the dreamer’s imagination.  While dreams are cost-free and require no action, goals are associated with concrete steps, finite time expectations, and even deadlines.  Dreams may serve as a source of inspiration for development of meaningful goals.

Goals can be big or small. A goal can range from “I am going to write one extra page tonight” to “I am going to work to get an A in this course” all the way to “I am going to graduate in the top of my class so I can start my career with a really good position.” The great thing about goals is that they can include and influence a number of other things that all work toward a much bigger picture. For example, if your goal is to get an A in a certain course, all the reading, studying, and assignments you do for that course contribute to the larger goal. You have motivation to do each of those things and to do them well.

Goal setting is frequently talked about, but it is often treated as something abstract. Like time management, goal setting is best done with careful thought and planning.

Photo of FSW Basketball player dunking a ball.
FSW Basketball Game

As a college student, many of your goals are defined for you. For example, you must take certain courses, you must comply with certain terms and schedules, and you must turn in assignments at specified times. These goals are mostly set for you by someone else.

But there are plenty of goals for you to define yourself. For example, you decide what you’d like to major in. You decide how long you are going to be in college or what terms you want to enroll in. You largely plan how you’d like your studies to relate to employment and your career.

Setting your own goals requires you to introspect and understand what it is that you want to do during your time in college. Perhaps you already started school with a plan in mind. Or maybe you don’t know what you want to major in yet. From choosing your major to studying for your courses to participating in campus life, you are going to have to make choices about what’s important to you and what you are going to focus on and prioritize when it comes to your college career. Your life in school will likely comprise not only what is required of you (graduation requirements, course deadlines, work obligations, etc.), but what you want to do (joining a club, taking an elective course, spending time with your friends and family etc).

Below is a set of questions you can ask yourself to help you understand and solidify your personal goals:

  1. What are my top-priority goals?
  2. Which of my skills and interests make my goals realistic for me?
  3. What makes my goals believable and possible?
  4. Are my goals measurable?
  5. How long will it take me to reach my goals?
  6. How will I know if I have achieved my goals?
  7. Are my goals flexible?
  8. What will I do if I experience a setback?
  9. Are my goals controllable?
  10. Can I achieve my goals on my own?
  11. Are my goals in sync with my values?

As you move through your college career, make a point to ask these questions regularly.

Short-Term, Medium-Term, and Long-Term Goals

It can be helpful to divide your goals into three different time horizons.

  • Short-term goals are goals for today, this week, and this month.
  • Medium-term goals are goals for this year and while in college.
  • Long-term goals are goals from college on.

In order to achieve long-term goals (from college on), you’ll need to first achieve a series of shorter goals. Medium-term goals (this year and while in college) and short-term goals (today, this week, and this month) may take several days, weeks, months, or even a few years to complete, depending on your ultimate long-term goals. Identify what you will need to do in order to achieve your goals. Gain a full view of your trajectory.

Examples of Long-Term Academic Goals

  • I plan to graduate with a bachelor of fine arts degree. My major will be radio-television-film, and my minor will be Spanish.
  • I plan to graduate with a bachelor of science degree in foreign service with a minor in international history.
  • I plan to attain an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN).

Examples of Medium-Term or Short-Term Academic Goals

  • I would like to study abroad in Italy before I graduate.
  • I want to get involved in a community engaged learning project, as part of my preparation for eventual service work.
  • I plan to join the Student Government Association so that I can gain some experience while in college.

Additional immediate goals might be applying for financial aid, getting a part-time job, taking a short leave of absence, speaking with a counselor, and so forth.

Setting SMART Goals

Goals should also be SMART. In this case, the word smart is not only a clever description of the type of goal, but it is also an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. These are all desirable traits for your goals because they not only help you plan how to meet the goal, but these traits can also contribute to your decision-making processes during the planning stage.

What does it mean to create SMART goals?

  • Specific—For a goal to be specific, it must be defined enough to actually determine the goal. A goal of “get a good job when I graduate” is too general. It doesn’t define what a good job is. In fact, it doesn’t even necessarily include a job in your chosen profession. A more specific goal would be something like “be hired as a nurse in a place of employment where it is enjoyable to work and that has room for promotion.”
  • Measurable—The concept of measurable is one that is often overlooked when setting goals. What this means is that the goal should have clearly defined outcomes that are detailed enough to measure and can be used for planning of how you will achieve the goal. For example, setting a goal of doing well in school is a bit undefined, but making a goal of graduating with a GPA above 3.0 is measurable and specific. If your goal is measurable, you can know ahead of time how many points you will have to earn on a specific assignment to stay in that range or how many points you will need to make up in the next assignment if you do not do as well as you planned.
  • Attainable—Attainable or achievable goals means they are reasonable and within your ability to accomplish. While a goal of “make an extra one million dollars by the end of the week” is something that would be nice to achieve, the odds that you could make that happen in a single week are not very realistic.
  • Relevant—For goal setting, relevant means it applies to the situation. In relation to college, a goal of getting a horse to ride is not very relevant, but getting dependable transportation is something that would contribute to your success in school.
  • Time boundTime bound means you set a specific time frame to achieve the goal. “I will get my paper written by Wednesday” is time bound. You know when you have to meet the goal. “I will get my paper written sometime soon” does not help you plan how and when you will accomplish the goal.

Try It


In the following table, you can see some examples of goals that do and do not follow the SMART system. As you read each one, think about what elements make them SMART or how you might change those that are not.

Goal Is it SMART? Explanation
I am going to be rich someday. No. There is nothing really specific, measurable, or time bound in this goal.
I will graduate with my degree on time. Yes. The statement calls out specific, measurable, and time-bound details. The other attributes of attainable and relevant are implied.
I am going to save enough money to buy a new car by June. Yes. All SMART attributes are covered in this goal.
I would like to do well in all my courses next semester. No. While this goal is clearly time bound and meets most of the SMART goal attributes, it is not specific or measurable without defining what “do well” means.
I am going to start being a nicer person. No. While more of the SMART attributes are implied, there is nothing really measurable about this goal.
I will earn at least a 3.0 GPA in all my courses this next semester. Yes. All the SMART attributes are present in this goal.
I am going to start being more organized. No. While most of the SMART attributes are implied, there is nothing really measurable in this goal.


Try writing two SMART goals—something with a one-week time frame and something that you will accomplish over the next year. Make certain that you include all the appropriate elements—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.

Aids to Successful Goal Setting

The following video examines five aids to help ensure that your goal setting will be effective, “take hold,” and serve you in the short and long term.

You can view the transcript for “Five Rules of Goal Setting: How to set SMART Goals” here (opens in new window).

Try It


Achieving Your Goals

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify strategies for achieving your goals

Make an Action Plan

Like anything else, making a step-by-step action plan of how you will attain your goals is the best way to make certain you achieve them. It doesn’t matter if it is a smaller goal with immediate results (e.g., finish all your homework due by Friday) or something bigger that takes several years to accomplish (graduate with my degree in the proper amount of time).

The planning techniques you use for time management and achieving goals can be similar. In fact, accurate goal setting is very much a part of time management if you treat the completion of each task as a goal.  There are many tools available to assist with time management and you should ask your instructor for suggestions.

Here is an example of a simple action plan that lists the steps for writing a short paper. You can use something like this plan or modify it in a way that would better suit your own preferences.

Action Plan
Task Objective When
Choose topic. Select something interesting. Needs to be done by Monday!
Write outline, look for references. Create structure of paper and outline each part. Monday, 6:00 p.m.
Research references to support outline, look for good quotes. Strengthen paper and resources. Tuesday, 6:00 p.m.
Write paper introduction and first page draft. Get main ideas and thesis statement down. Wednesday, 7:00 p.m.
Write second page and closing draft. Finish main content and tie it all together. Thursday, 6:00 p.m.
Rewrite and polish final draft. Clean up for grammar, writing style, and effective communication. Friday, 5:00 p.m.

Social Aspect of Achieving Your Goals

Setting goals can be a challenge, but working toward them, once you’ve set them, can be an even greater challenge. Committing to a goal often means you will be making changes in your life, and changing established patterns and habits is challenging. You might be creating new directions of thought or establishing new patterns of behavior, discarding old habits or starting new ones. Remember, change will always be the lifeblood of achieving your goals.

You may find that as you navigate this path of change, one of your best resources is your social network. Your family, friends, classmates, coworkers, and others can help you maintain a steady focus on your goals. They can encourage and cheer you on, offer guidance when needed, share knowledge and wisdom they’ve gained, and possibly partner with you in working toward shared goals and ambitions. Your social network is a gold mine of support.

Photo of students sitting in the grass outside a building.
FSW Edison Campus

Here are some easy ways you can tap into a goal-supporting, social network:

  • Make new friends: you will never know what someone might teach you without meeting new people and making new friends.
  • Study with classmates: studying with classmates can keep you all focused and contribute to your overall learning, especially if you bring different perspectives and background knowledge to a topic.
  • Actively engage with the college community.  The GPS assignment is a great way to get involved with college activiites.
  • Volunteer to help others.
  • Join student organizations.
  • Get an internship.
  • Work for a company related to your curriculum.
  • Stay connected via social media.

What are some other ways that you build a network of support with the people in your life?

Try It


A Note about Social Media

More than 98 percent of college-age students use social media, says Experian Simmons[1]. Twenty-seven percent of those students spent more than six hours a week on social media (UCLA, 2014). The University of Missouri, though, indicates in a 2015 study that this level of use may be problematic. It can lead to symptoms of envy, anxiety, and depression. Still, disconnecting from social media may have a negative impact too and further affect a student’s anxiety level.  The key is to develop the ability to recognize when social media participation is beneficial and when it no longer serves your best interests.

Is there a healthy balance? If you feel overly attached to social media, you may find immediate and tangible benefit in cutting back. By tapering your use, you can devote more time to achieving your goals. You can also gain a sense of freedom and more excitement about working toward your goals.

Achieving Your Goals: Stick with It!

As with anything else, the key to reaching your goals is to keep at it, keep yourself motivated, and overcome any obstacles along the way. The following are seven methods that highly successful people use to accomplish their goals.

  • Increase personal responsibility: Adopt the mindset that you are the only person responsible for your goals. Hindrances and roadblocks may appear along the way, but you are responsible for navigating around them and overcoming them. Take control of the journey! Your issues are not other people’s problems. They are for you to solve.
  • Reward yourself for completing the task: We are all motivated by rewards. Use rewards to your advantage and give yourself rewards for a job well done.
  • Make certain they are your goals: Again, your motivation level is not as high if the end result is not something you want to achieve.
  • Visualize the results: Keeping in mind the benefits and visualizing the end results of each goal is extremely effective in keeping motivated.
  • Break the goal down into manageable tasks: As with any task, accomplishing the whole is easier when each part is tackled individually.
  • Tap into other people’s energy: Surround yourself with other people that are motivated. As humans, we are social creatives, which means our moods and emotions can be influenced by others. If you are around other positive people that all work toward achieving their own goals, their energy can become infectious.
  • Remind yourself why you set the goal: This last item is of the utmost importance, especially for long-term goals. Sometimes it is too easy to become mired in the drudgery of a difficult task and forget why you are doing something in the first place. Reminding yourself of the end goal helps reinforce everything you do that works toward your goal.

Motivation and Goal Attainment

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify motivational strategies to support goal achievement

Setting goals can be challenging, and staying motivated to achieve those goals can be even harder. Every day we have to make choices about what we spend our time doing. Our time and energy are precious resources and there is often not enough of it to go around when we consider all the different things that are vying for our attention. In school, you’re likely to have more responsibilities than you reasonably have time for. This intense demand on your time and energy can make it challenging to stay motivated to achieve your goals. Here are some strategies you can use to keep yourself on course.

A students desk with a laptop open and a motivational sign that reads "You got this"

1. Set Goals That Motivate You

If your goal is not something you are really interested in, you’ll likely have little motivational drive to achieve it. Think back to when you were much younger and some well-meaning adult set a goal for you—something that didn’t really appeal to you at all. How motivated were you to achieve the goal? More than likely, if you were successful at all in meeting the goal, it was because you were motivated by earning the approval of someone or receiving a possible reward, or you were concerned with avoiding something adverse that might happen if you did not do what you were told. When we’re motivated to achieve something because of an outside factor (for instance, the approval of a parent), that’s called extrinsic motivation. When we’re motivated to do something because we want to or because we enjoy it, that’s called intrinsic motivation. To get the most from the goals you set, you should try to make sure they are things that you are interested in achieving. If you’re truly interested in achieving the goal for yourself, you’ll be motivated intrinsically and are more likely to stick to your goal even without extrinsic motivators like a reward or approval from others.

2. Align Your Goals with Your Values

Another way to leverage intrinsic motivation is to align your goals with your personal values. Do you know what your personal values are? Do you value achievement in school? Then you probably are very intrinsically motivated to study to get the grades that you want. Do you value friendship? You will probably be intrinsically motivated to spend time with your friends, or even join student groups and be part of the campus community. Perhaps you value altruism and find yourself pulled towards volunteering on the weekends. Everyone’s values are different. If you can identify what yours are and find a way to align your goals with your values, you might be surprised how easy it is to stick with your goals over the long term. This ease occurs because when you remind yourself of the connection of your personal values with your goals, you will feel motivation from within to keep working to achieve them. Revisit Brene Brown’s list of personal values and pick out a few that you identify with. How do those values relate to your current goals?

3. Reward Yourself

Maybe you’re working towards a goal for which you have no internal motivation, but that still needs to be done all the same. For example, let’s say that you have to take an introductory science course as part of your degree requirements, but you have no interest in the topic and you don’t find it interesting. The fact still remains that you need to take the course and pass it. Try setting goals for yourself within the course and remember to reward yourself when you achieve those goals. For example, if you set a goal to achieve a B or higher on the midterm exam, give yourself the extra push by saying that you’ll reward yourself by going out to the movies on the weekend or whatever else you might find enjoyable. This reward system can help you push through tasks that you have a hard time internally motivating yourself for.

Try It


4. Reflect on Your Accomplishments

When you’re facing test after test and assignment after assignment in school, you can start to feel like there is no end in sight. You may even start to doubt your abilities and start to feel tired. Is any of this even worth it? This is where it’s helpful to remember your past accomplishments. Write down the things that you’ve done in the past that you’re proud of and how it made you feel when you accomplished those things. You can return to this list later to add to it or to review it when you need a little inspiration and a reminder that you’ve done difficult things in the past and you’re completely capable of achieving your goals now and in the future!

5. Remember to Rest

Another reason why we may feel unmotivated to achieve our goals is because we are burned out and we need a break. This is perfectly normal. If you’re feeling this way, make time for yourself to rest. It’s actually incredibly important that you take time to rest, especially with all the new things you’re doing and learning. It can be hard to find time in your schedule, but if you’re strapped for time, try setting an alarm for 30 minutes or 60 minutes during which you will only do restful activities. It can also help to set aside at least one day of the week on which you do not do anything related to school. It may seem impossible to take that much time away from your responsibilities, and only you can know how much time you actually have in your calendar, but just remember that if you’re having trouble focusing or working productively, some rest can really go a long way to getting you back into a productive mindset and on your way to achieving your goals.

6. Treat Failure as a Chance to Learn

You are probably not going to achieve every goal you set out for yourself, at least not on the first try. Don’t let these “failures” bring you down. It’s completely normal to fail, and when things don’t go the way we planned them to, it can actually be a great learning experience. When you fail, take a moment to think about what went wrong. Did you underestimate the amount of time it would take to complete your goal? Did you have too many commitments to reasonably tend to them all? Did something unexpected happen? Once you understand what went wrong, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do in the future to help correct this failure. If you can, try to make a different choice next time. You can learn a lot from facing difficulties. Remember that tomorrow is a new day and you can still work towards your goals.

Responding to change

Haroon F. Mirza is the director of business development at Intel Corp. Mirza talks about defining moments, how life is all about choices, and how we can create defining moments that can change the trajectory of our lives.

Pay close attention to where he discusses adversity or hardships. He tells a story about a mother and daughter in a kitchen together in order to teach listeners about how we respond to change.

As you listen to this video, write down a few notes where he goes into detail about how we respond to hardships:

You can view the transcript for “TEDxYouth@Toronto 2011 – Haroon Mirza- The Power of One Moment” here (opens in new window).

Hindrances to Goal Achievement: Setbacks and Obstacles

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe strategies to redefine or overcome challenges to achieving goals

Detour sign

Your priorities and goals may shift throughout your time in school. At times, unexpected events and challenges can get in the way of best-laid plans. For example, you might get sick or injured or need to deal with a family issue or a financial crisis, which might cause you to have to take time away from school. Or perhaps you may realize that you need to change your major, which would require a reevaluation of your goals and possibly spending more time in school. We can’t predict the future, and while goal setting is an important part of life, we also need to understand when we should reevaluate.

When Your Goals Get Sidetracked

Goals can become sidetracked. Other events in your life might distract you from achieving your immediate goals, even if they are goals that are really important to you and that you’ve worked hard to achieve. Consider the following scenario in which a student is challenged to reexamine her goals, priorities, and timetables:

Janine had thought she would be an accountant, even though she knew little about what an accounting job might entail. Her math and organizational skills were strong, and she enjoyed taking economics courses as well as other courses in her accounting program. But when one of her courses required her to spend time in an accounting office working with taxes, she decided that accounting was not the right fit for her due to the higher-stress environment and the late hours.

At first she was concerned that she invested time and money in a career path that did not match her disposition. She feared that changing her major would add to her graduation time. Nevertheless, she did decide to change her major and her career focus.

Janine is now a statistician with a regional healthcare system. She is very happy with her work. Changing her major from accounting to statistics was the right decision for her.

Janine could have stuck with her original goal to become an accountant, despite realizing that the job wasn’t a good fit for her. Instead, she didn’t allow the fear of changing her major or adding additional time in school prevent her from changing course once she knew being an accountant wasn’t right for her. Let’s take a closer look at how Janine may have worked through reprioritizing her goals and timeline.

Janine’s choice

Photo of someone working on tax paperwork.Janine’s original goal: Get a degree to work as an accountant.

Janine’s new information: She didn’t enjoy the actual work of being an accountant.

Possible paths forward for Janine

  • Become an accountant anyway
    • Pros: No more additional tuition money or time in school than she originally planned
    • Cons: A life in a career she already knows she won’t enjoy
  • Change her major to follow a different career path
    • Pros: The possibility to follow a career path she enjoys
    • Cons: Potentially more student loan debt and more time spent in school
  • Drop out of school
    • Pros: She won’t have to decide what she wants to major in now that she’s decided she doesn’t want to major in accounting.
    • Cons: She won’t have her college degree and may be no closer to understanding what career path she’s interested in pursuing.
  • Take time away from school and come back when she knows better what she wants to major in
    • Pros: She’ll potentially have more time to think about this big life decision and try out some jobs or internships that would give her a better idea of other fields of work she might be interested in.
    • Cons: It might be hard to get back into school after taking a break; she may not have a plan for how she’s going to support herself during her break from school.

Janine’s choice and the result: Janine decided to change her major once she realized that she didn’t like accounting and that she wasn’t going to be able to apply her accounting major to a career outside of accounting. She ended up in a career that she’s happy with and realized that changing her major was the right move for her.

This scenario represents some of the many opportunities we have on an ongoing basis to assess our relationship to our goals, reevaluate priorities, and adjust. These opportunities exist every day—every moment, really! Remember, you can’t predict the outcome of every choice that you make, but if you take the time to really evaluate the options that are available to you instead of continuing on a path that isn’t working, or giving up all together, you never know what options and opportunities may come your way.

Problem-Solving Strategies

When you’re facing an unexpected event that forces you to change your approach or your goals, there are some helpful questions to consider. Below is a simple list of five problem-solving strategies. They can be applied to any aspect of your life.

1. Define the Problem

What is the problem? Define it in detail. How is it affecting you and other people? What is the cause of the problem? Why is this relevant to your life and the people in your life?

2. How Are Other People Dealing with This Problem?

Are there other people who have dealt with this same issue or issues like it? How are other people dealing with this problem? You might find information about this issue either from the people you know in real life or from articles on the Internet, podcasts, books, or other media. Ask yourself,

  • are others making changes to their own behavior, such as adjusting their time management skills?
  • can they still complete their responsibilities on time?
  • are they accessing outside support and strategies to help them navigate this situation?

3. What Solutions Are Available to Me?

After examining how other people have dealt with this issue, you might want to come up with some of your own solutions (whether or not you incorporate aspects of other peoples’ approaches). It can help to make a list of possible solutions with pros and cons (the benefits of each choice and the drawback of each choice). Write down every solution you can think of; no option is too strange or impossible at this stage. You just want to get all your ideas down on paper so you can evaluate them later. Ask yourself,

  • what is my range of possible solutions?
  • how might these solutions help me reach my goal/s?

4. What Needs to Be Done?

This is the part where you evaluate whether or not your solutions are realistic. Ask yourself,

  • what do I need to do to implement each possible solution?
  • is it possible to do those things?
  • what would it cost me, in money, time, effort, and other ways?

Make sure to think about how each solution might affect the other areas in your life, and what the pros and cons are for your current and future self.

5. Talk It Through with Someone You Trust

Once you have a list of possible solutions, you will probably know deep down which solution you’re most interested in pursuing first. If it helps, talk it through with a trusted friend (this could be a peer, a parent, or anybody in your life that you trust with making decisions). You might be surprised what perspective they bring to the situation that you hadn’t considered.

Try It


Change is Normal

No matter who you are, unexpected things are bound to happen that will disrupt your plans. Remembering this fact might help you feel more at ease when your plans get disrupted. Reevaluating and changing course is a normal part of life. Feel confident that you can return to your intended path in time, and remember that there can be learning opportunities even in the unexpected. Take some time to acknowledge the ways in which you need to regroup. If it helps, seek advice from people who have faced adversity. Line up your resources, be resolved, and proceed with certainty toward your goals.

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

–Henry David Thoreau, author

Student Story: Burnout

This student story was written as part of Lumen’s College Success Student Contributors project. The story student stories are written in collaboration with real college students and college graduates to reflect real student experiences.

This year I returned to school for my postbacc to prepare myself for a master’s degree. I was working really hard in a department I hadn’t taken any classes in before. I had some background knowledge from my undergraduate degree in linguistics, but condensing all the communication disorders and sciences undergrad requirements into one academic year was really difficult.

I was really struggling to feel that I was successful. I viewed my grades as a direct reflection of my intellect, which I know isn’t true. Still, it really wasn’t easy to challenge that idea while I was in the thick of taking classes.

I found myself having to decide which classes I needed a minimal grade to pass, which is something I never had to do in my undergrad. On top of that, my partner was also in school pursuing a degree and I had a really hard time not comparing my academic performance to his.

While I was working on my postbacc to apply for my master’s degree, I felt a lot of imposter syndrome. I felt like I didn’t belong in school and wondered why I was even there trying to prepare myself for a master’s degree.

My career has been centered on working with children, but I know I get burnout. I was worried that I would hit a wall with my burnout and I wouldn’t be able to move past it to complete what I need to complete. In the past, I worked as a teacher’s aid for only two years and I burned out. To me, two years is not a long time.

I’ve changed a lot since then, but I’m still nervous about burnout. I’m worried about putting all this time and money into something like a master’s degree and then burning out on what I went to school for. I know it still might not be the right path for me, and that would be okay.

I had to take a reality check after my midterm when my burnout was making me apathetic about my grades. I saw the grade I received on my midterm and thought “I just don’t care.” I realized I shouldn’t think like that, but I had a hard time shaking the thought. I talked to my instructor and boss about it and I ended up joining a study group with some classmates.

I feel a lot more confident in my academic performance after sitting in that group study session. I know I wouldn’t have the motivation to study without somebody else there with me, but if somebody is depending on me to be present at the study session, then I can do that.


action plan: a set of sequential steps you have identified to help guide you through the process of achieving your goal, often within a certain timeframe and with the help of others

goal: a desired result that you envision and then plan and commit to achieve, often in accordance with a particular timeline

intrinsic motivation: the impetus to achieve our goals that comes from our sense of enjoyment and a genuine interest in the work

reevaluation: the process of honestly assessing the relationship between our values, goals, and sense of enjoyment, which may require us to change our action plan

sidetracked: getting derailed from our action plan, often as the result of an emergency or unexpected obstacle



  1. "98% of online US adults aged 18-24 use social media." The Next Web, https://thenextweb.com/news/98-of-online-us-adults-aged-18-24-use-social-media.


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Defining Goals Copyright © 2023 by Sonji Nicholas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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