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Goal Setting Lesson 1

Goal Setting Lesson 1

Author: R W


 We should all have goals - short term, medium term, and long term, and even lifetime goals. It is important to challenge yourself personally and at school and work so that you are constantly reaching for a better life. In today's workplace, setting and completing goals is a primary way of determining the success (and eventual promotion) of an employee. Goals come in all shapes and sizes, from completing an assignment on time, to eating dinner at home more often, to learning a new craft or skill. This week, we'll explore a process for setting attainable goals.


By the end of this week you should be able to:

  • Define what your goals are for school, and life.
  • Develop short, medium, and long term goals.
  • Identify strategies and skills you need to achieve your goals.

Goals should be a focus point for everyone in our society today.  Today too many people just walk through life be taken every which direction the wind will take them.  During this lesson, I will walk through some basic steps that will help you define the different levels of goals, and help you get on the right track to a brighter future.

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Short vs Long Term Goals



Short vs. Long-term Goals


Students try to view college as a sprint race rather than as a marathon. The sprinter can afford to focus just on the finish line because the race is so short. A marathon runner is also focused on the finish line, but since the race is much longer, he or she has to set a series of midway goals to achieve the overall prize of finishing the race. These smaller, midway goals keep the runner on track and on target for a good finish.


When asked, many college students say that their goal is to graduate. This is absolutely fantastic; however, most have not set goals that lead up to this final achievement. Whether you are obtaining an associate's or bachelor's degree, you need to set smaller goals along the way to help you achieve the big picture.


Why set short-term goals? Starting small and accomplishing smaller goals helps boost your confidence. As you start to build confidence, you realize that your longer term goals are obtainable. We live in an instant gratification society where people want to see results. ( I call it instant oatmeal, throw hot water on it.)  Setting and achieving short-term goals is a way to satisfy these feelings as you work towards your long-term goals.


What is the length of a short-term goal? Typically, it is a goal that can be achieved within the next three months. For example, If I wanted to improve my free throw percentage I could spend 30 mins a day for the next 3 months shooting extra free throws.  By the end of the three months because of the hard work and practice my free throw percentage will go up.


We use long-term goals to guide our overall lives. Long-term goals will not be accomplished within a few months or even a year. Long-term goals are where the marathon mentality takes over. For you as a student, graduating from college is a very important long-term goal. Other long-term goals may include buying house, getting married, or having a family.


Examples of short, medium, and long-term goals are shown in the table below.


Education: Short Term= Have a 3.0 at the end of the quarter for my overall GPA.

Medium Term(1 year) =I will rewrite and update my resume and attend a job fair on campus.

Long Term= I will graduate with my degree, and will be working in the career of my choice.



SMART is a clever acronym that stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. These are the five characteristics of well-defined goals.

  • S - Specific
  • M - Measureable
  • A - Attainable
  • R - Realistic
  • T - Timely


As you create your goals, make sure that they are very specific. One key to being specific when you write your goals is to use strong, decisive, definitive words. Do not use words that are wishy-washy or soft.  They leave you room to not go through with them, and that is not what you are looking for.  You are looking for results!! 


For example, the following non-specific goals:


"I would like to graduate…"

"I might join a club…"

"I may make the Dean's List…"


You want:

"I will graduate in July of 2011..."

"I'm joining a health club today right after class..."

" I will make the Dean's List next quarter..."




A goal is measureable when it is easy to tell whether you have achieved it. For example, a student will say, "I want to be healthy." This is certainly a worthy goal, but how does the student measure progress towards the goal and how does the student know if it has been achieved?

A more specific and measureable goal would say, "By the end of the 11 week quarter, I will be able to run 3 miles in under one hour."

At the end of the 11 weeks, you will be able to measure this goal in a concrete manner. You will either be able to run 3 miles or not.





A goal needs to be something that you can actually attain. This is directly related to creating goals that are specific and measureable. For example, many times people will say that their goal is to "be happy." That is certainly a worthy notion, but how does one attain this goal and how do you know whether you have attained it? Happiness is a completely subjective term that has varying meanings depending on the person, the time, and the situation.

Students will often create the goal of "being smarter." Once again, how does the student tell whether they are actually smarter? Students would be much better off setting a goal that involved making the Dean's List, a very attainable goal.



A major issue that students face when it comes to goal setting is that they have trouble choosing goals that are useful and realistic. Have you ever set a goal and failed to achieve it because it was just not realistic?


For example, a common example of unrealistic goals are weight loss goals. How many times have you heard someone set a goal like the following?


"I would like to lose 20 pounds in the two weeks before my high school reunion."


It is safe to say that losing so much weight so quickly is not a realistic goal for anyone.



All goals need a deadline. Goals without a deadline are not specific enough and need to be restated. For short-term goals, your deadlines may come right from the course calendar or syllabus. If the professor is giving a quiz, assignment, or discussion board post every week, then you know the timeframe in which you need to have your studying done.

Sometimes you may need to take a large assignment, such as a course-long project, and break it down into a series of smaller goals with definitive due dates.


A short clip to go along with the lesson on goals.