It’s something we all know: Setting goals can increase your academic performance. But how do we actually go about setting effective goals? It is easy to underestimate ourselves – something especially common among women – and not set goals that challenge us enough, or to set vague goals out of a fear of failure. Overcoming these challenges is thankfully pretty easy. Effective goal setting takes only a little bit of knowledge and two steps.
What makes a good goal?
Research has shown that people who set specific and difficult goals were more likely to achieve their goals. In addition, when we meet goals we have labelled as “difficult” our confidence and motivation increase which makes it progressively easier to set good goals and achieve them. Basically it’s like a video game with levels you must beat. The levels at the beginning are easier yet are still challenging enough require concentration and effort. You have specific objectives to fulfil before moving to the next level, and finishing the game requires progressing through incrementally harder levels until you reach the final boss fight. So goals are just like levels. They are incremental, challenging steps toward a bigger, final goal.
One study compared the goals and success of M.B.A. students. Those who set specific and difficult goals, such as mastering a specific topic or learning a new skill had higher GPAs than those who simply set a numerical goal for their GPA. This is because a goal like “finish the year with a 4.0” is not specific enough. How will you get that 4.0? What do you have to do to get it? What challenges will you face? Those are your goals.
How to Get Specific – The Two Steps
1. Identify your Big Study Goal.
Most likely it will be your desired grades, whether that’s to earn an average of 70-75% in your classes for the semester or get a 4.0 GPA is up to you. You may adjust this goal as you go along – that’s fine! The beauty of life is that things change and the ability to be flexible is just as important as the ability to set goals in the first place.
2. Identify the Micro Goals.
Like I asked above, what do you need to do to reach that goal? This requires asking yourself a lot of questions, such as: What aspects of learning do I find difficult? (E.g. memorising information, taking notes, performing well in exams, writing strong essays, having the confidence to participate in class discussions, etc.) So if you struggle with note taking, then you know one goal is to improve on that.
Easy, right? Literally all you have to do is identify challenges and commit to overcoming them. Your goals should intimidate you a little bit, embrace that feeling and you’ll be rewarded with extra confidence and motivation.
Of course, there’s a lot more to achievement than just the making of the goals, so check out the goal setting archive for more tips!