Setting Realistic Goals


By Staff Writer Published on November 2, 2013

What does this mean, unrealistic goals? Simply put, it means we bit off a goal bigger than we can chew. It means the goal is so big that we can’t possibly realize success quickly enough to sustain our courage and not give up.

So, how do we set realistic goals? It’s simple! I recommend using the acronym “SMART.” I’ll go ahead and walk you through what each letter stands for:

  • Specific: Don’t fall into the trap of setting vague goals. People often say they want to lose weight, but what does that mean? At what point have you reached your goal? When you’ve lost one pound? Fifty? Instead, set specific goals, such as, “I will lose five pounds a month for three months.”
  • Measurable: In the world of management we say, “If it cannot be measured, it cannot be done.” To achieve your goals, you need to establish metrics that make sense, e.g., “I will average two hours of uninterrupted study per day for each of my classes.”
  • Attainable: If you set a goal that requires a mammoth effort to achieve right at the start, then failure is assured. For instance, you could say, “I will get a perfect score on every assessment I take this year.” But, perhaps a better goal might be, “I will study and work to get 80% or better on every assessment I take this year.” Begin with attainable goals, and then as you achieve success, work to improve upon them.
  • Realistic: Set goals for things you feel passionately about and that will hold your focus and attention for the duration. For example, if you struggle with math, it’s unrealistic to set a goal to become a nuclear physicist. Know where your strengths lie, what you have an aptitude for, and what you can realistically achieve in your program of study.
  • Time-bound: Make sure there is a time-oriented focus to your goals. Do not set a goal that has no set timeframe for accomplishment. Your timeframes must make sense and be realistic. For example, you can’t expect to finish your bachelor’s degree in six months. It’s just not possible.

One more thing that will help you set SMART goals: meet with your Academic Adviser or your Program Coach to help you decide which goals are best for you. Independence University assigns every student excellent advisers and coaches. Tell them about your sort-term and your long-terms goals for your program of study, and then take their advice on how to make them SMART.


Author Bio
Ken Wallin is an instructor at Independence University. He teaches business and management courses. He spent fifteen years in the management consulting industry and was a small-business owner. He served a collective 21 years in the US Air Force and US Army. He was an Airborne Infantry Officer, Psychological Operations Officer, and a Civil Affairs Officer.

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