Setting goals is easy, but following through is another story. A Baylor College of Medicine expert has some advice about how to set goals and focus on achieving them.
“The purpose of setting goals is to help guide you in the direction that you want to go. I also think that when you set goals and follow through, the accomplishment is that much more satisfying,” said Dr. Jin Han, assistant professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor.
Han said one way you can accomplish your goals is by separating them into short-term, mid-term and long-term.
“I highly recommend separating your goals into these categories because a lot of times when we set up goals we list everything together and it’s not organized, which can create the sense that we are not accomplishing much,” Han said.
Han gave examples of what short-term, mid-term and long-term goals a student might have. A short-term goal would be if a student needed to study certain chapters of a book in order to complete an assignment due in a week. A mid-term goal may be working on a paper that has a due date in couple of months, so creating a timeline might be needed in order to meet the deadline. Lastly, a long-term goal might be becoming a professional in a chosen field of study.
Prioritizing each of your short-term, mid-term and long-term goals can be helpful as well, he said.
“It can be very difficult to do everything on your goal list, but if you know which goals are most important to you, then it may make it easier for you to focus on those and accomplish them,” Han said. “A lot of times we don’t get where we want to be because we don’t prioritize what is most important.”
Having a mentor that you can talk to about your goals is also a good way to help you achieve them, Han said.
“Sometimes there are people who are more experienced than you and they can give you advice that will help you go in the right direction. It is very helpful to have those words of wisdom, especially when you feel lost and unsure of your next steps,” he said.
Being realistic about your goals also is beneficial, Han said.
“Generally, short-term goals are more practical because these are goals that you can see some results immediately. However, you should be practical about your long-term goals. For example, it’s not realistic to set the short-term goal of becoming a CEO of a corporation, but if you set that up as a long-term goal that is realistic. Another example is setting the realistic short-term goal of walking three or four times a week and have a long-term goal of losing ten pounds,” he said.
He also emphasized that you should not give up when you fall behind or feel discouraged.
“When you set up goals you are making them based on your current situation. Unfortunately, we all face difficulties and some of our goals may need to be modified because our situations change. Just remember that accomplishing goals fast does not necessarily mean you will be more successful at reaching long-term goals. Also, if you are going slower than you thought, you can still have a positive outcome. Adjusting to the situation you are in at the moment is a skill and even though the short-term goal may be delayed, perhaps the long-term goal won’t change. You have to be able to see the big picture,” Han said.