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Setting Goals You Can Achieve


In a recent PACE class, we learned how to set goals for ourselves. One of the most profound pieces of information I learned from one of our professors, Ashley Nixon, is that we should only set one or two goals for ourselves at any one time. Below are three tips I’ve learned that could help you set your own goal right now:

Small Steps Lead to Large Results

Ambitious goals are hard to accomplish because they often seem overwhelming. I ran cross country during college and the hardest part of every run was getting out of the door. Logically, the hardest part of the run should be at the end of the run, when I was the most tired. However, I always found that if I persuaded myself to run the first step, then chances are I would run the second, and then the third, and soon I had completed my run. Quite literally, the first step is the hardest.

Similarly, if your goal is to read twelve books a year, then start with reading one word. Persuade yourself to read one word a night. Chances are, you’ll keep reading beyond the first word. Ambitious goals start with small actions.

Set Goals You Can Achieve

Second, I’ve learned to not set goals that I don’t have power over. One of the most common goals set by students is to achieve a certain grade in a class. However, you don’t set your grade—your professor does. What you do have power over is how much you study. You can set a goal to earn an “A”, but if you don’t know the steps to achieve it, then the goal is basically useless. Set a goal to study every night for one hour between now and the end of the semester, and you have a better chance of receiving the A. Even if you don’t receive the A, you learned a lot through your studying.

Make it Time-Bound

Finally, we learned in class to make our goal time-bound. Set a time limit for when you want to accomplish your goal by and give yourself some pressure! A lot of us work best with the end in sight. What if it turns out you hate running, reading, unicycling, or whatever your goal was? You always have the chance to stop, redefine your goal, and start again. By making your goal time-bound, you give yourself permission to change your goal after a certain time if it is no longer working for you.

“He who fails to plan is planning to fail” –Winston Churchill

Humans rarely accomplish amazing things by taking radical steps. Large goals can be achieved through incremental change. Through setting just one goal at a time to make a small change, you can get started on a path to your personal success.

Emily Anderson is a first-year MBA candidate at Willamette University. She is a 2017 graduate of Gonzaga University, where she received her B.A. in International Studies. Emily enjoys PACE because of the opportunity to learn valuable career information, improve her analytical and speaking skills, and build partnerships with not-for-profits in Oregon.



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