Setting and Achieving Goals in Grad School

If you are currently in graduate school or thinking about enrolling, goals are probably on your mind. You might be thinking about short-term accomplishments you need to achieve in order to earn your degree, or long term dreams about your future beyond graduation. Either way, you undoubtedly want to achieve your goals. So how do you do it?

 

Well, there is no perfect formula for turning goals into reality, but employing goal setting strategies may help shape your actions so you have the best chance for success.

Tip #1 – Set goals that you want to achieveAchieve your Goals

This may seem obvious, but it can be all too easy to set goals because they seem appropriate rather than being truly reflective of your personal desires. Take some time to contemplate your true aspirations, no matter how unconventional they may be, so your goals align with your personal values and dreams. Focusing on achieving objectives that matter to you will result in a higher level of motivation, and increase the likelihood of successful completion of these goals.

Tip #2 – Frame your goals so you are the one responsible for accomplishing them

Goals are far more realistic if they are framed in a way that makes the individual largely responsible for making them happen.

For example, let’s say you want to advance within your company. If you make your goal attaining a specific position, your ability to achieve it will depend almost entirely on external factors including; the opinions of those who hire for the position, the availability of the position, and the competition you might have for it.  On the other hand, if your goal is earning a higher performance rating on next year’s review, you are almost solely responsible for the results. You still need your boss to agree with your performance, but you have extracted numerous other people from the equation and, in so doing, framed your goal in a way that makes it more achievable.

Tip #3 – Strive for personal satisfaction

Achieving a goal can result in any number of positive outcomes, including more money, elevated status, or new opportunities, however; your primary motivation for setting the goal should be personal satisfaction. If your motivation for pursuing this goal is anything else, you may find it difficult to stay on course, or fully appreciate your achievements.

Tip #4 – Keep track of your goals

Write down your goals, your plan to achieve them, and track your progress. Create a digital document or keep a journal of your goals, include a list of tasks you will need to accomplish to reach your goals. Cross completed tasks off your "to do" list and add additional tasks as they arise. Monitor your progress to keep yourself on track.

Creating a concrete plan of action may help keep you focused on the big picture, and aid in overcomming unexpected challenges. Understanding the small steps you will need to take in order to realize your overall mission, and formally tracking your step by step progress may help ensure you are constantly moving in the direction of goal completion.

Tip #5 – Keep setting new goals

It is important to recognize an accomplished goal is often just an introduction to a new set of goals. While accomplishing a goal is certainly something to celebrate, it is rarely an end in itself. In some cases, even an unachieved or abandoned goal can illuminate the path to another. A change in priorities is not an indication of failure rather; you are using the lessons learned through the previous endeavor to move toward a more desirable future.

 
 Is it your goal to earn a graduate degree?
  Step 1 is researching programs. 

 

Ann van der Merwe is a singer and music historian based in southwest Ohio. She holds a B.M. in music performance and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in music history.


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