New Year’s resolutions are really no different than the goals we set for ourselves year-round, except that they are prompted by the façade of a fresh start. Unlike January 1, the new semester really does provide you with a fairly clean slate. The triumphs and tribulations of last semester have no bearing on your new classes, and you have every opportunity to be a better student this time around.
If you are like me, you make new semester resolutions at the start of every term. If you are like me, many of these resolutions are lofty, vague, and eventually unfulfilled. Every semester I promise myself that THIS will be the semester I keep up with my readings all semester. In past semesters I’ve had varying degrees of success with this goal, but I’ve never actually met my objective in full. This could be due to a number of factors, but the easiest one to change is probably the way that I set goals.
Goal setting seems intuitive, but if your goals are not SMART, they have serious room for improvement. SMART goals are:
If your goal is vague, it is difficult to make plans to achieve it.
If your goal is not measurable, you cannot check your progress or know when you have achieved it.
Setting goals that are beyond your reach or out of your control will only end in frustration.
Knowing that you could achieve something is not enough – will you? Set goals you are motivated to work toward and can realistically be integrated into your lifestyle.
If you leave an open deadline, you may find your goals sit at the bottom of your to-do list. School comes along with a lot of dates that will be on your mind anyway (like the start of reading break), giving you built-in reminders if you pair them with goal deadlines.
To end my streak of falling short of my goal, I hereby resolve to read all assigned material by the dates indicated in my class syllabi until the end of the semester. To be realistic, I will allow myself a grace period of one week when I am in the process of studying for an exam.
I also make a list of goals for myself every summer. I usually achieve most of them, with the exception of those that are unrealistic (things I think I should do, but am not sufficiently motivated to). In addition to making those goals SMART, I write them down and post them somewhere that I will see them every day. This instills a healthy sense of guilt when they fall by the wayside. Another great way to achieve the same effect is to share your goals with others, especially if they have similar goals.
Whether you resolve to be a better student, get more involved, eat healthier, or improve yourself in some other way, I wish you the best of luck and encourage you to use all the tips, techniques, and resources available to you. Happy new semester!