Advice for Goal-Setting

A recent study done by the Institute for Business Value (IBM) showed that goal-setting was one of the significant drivers for success among Hispanic entrepreneurs and top-level executives. In addition, there is plenty of research at the academic level that shows the positive impact goal-setting has on student performance. This blog post provides tips on goal-setting based on my experience and prior research.

SMART is Not Effective for Every Goal

If you google “goal-setting,” the first word that will likely pop up is SMART, an acronym that describes what many believe goals should be. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. The image below explains SMART further.

In my experience, SMART goals work in cases where rigidity (i.e., hard deadlines) exists, and measuring success is essential. An excellent example of a SMART goal is if you have a deadline to complete a school or work project and need to meet certain milestones along the way.

However, I’m afraid I disagree with using SMART goals in other cases where this rigidity does not exist. Setting timelines and measuring whether your goals have been achieved by a particular date can easily lead to de-motivation and stress if and when you fail to meet these goals. Life is fluid, and goal planning should reflect this. 

Life is fluid, and goal planning should reflect this.

Pick Challenging but Attainable Goals

Easy goals provide higher satisfaction because they are easily achievable. However, if all our goals are easy, we fail to reach our maximum potential. Studies show that challenging but attainable goals lead to higher performance. I like to think of the following quote whenever I set my goals.

"Everything we want is outside of our comfort zone and on the other side of fear."

Use Tasks to Achieve Your Goals

A task is an action, while a goal is a specific desire or a want. For example, if you desire to become an engineer, a better way to frame this would be to say you want to graduate college with an engineering degree. The tasks can be broken down into completing specific homework assignments for each class, studying and passing each exam, and pursuing an internship. 

Below is an example of a career-related goal. Click on the button below to download the free template shown in the example.

Be Kind and Forgiving of Yourself

Goal-setting is a way for us to have control over our lives. However, as the pandemic has shown all of us, unforeseen external factors can impact our plans. Therefore, we need to learn to be kind and forgiving when we do not hit our targets.

Change Your Mindset about Goal-Setting

Instead of looking at goals as met or failed to meet, we need to consider them constantly evolving. Our lives are continually changing, as are our goals. This mindset will allow you to remain motivated to accomplish them.

Use Google Calendar and Google Keep

Google Keep and Google Calendar are platforms I use to jot down and keep track of my goals. Google Keep allows me to divide my goals by type (i.e., academic, personal, career-related) and include tasks. Google calendar enables me to designate tasks that need to be completed on specific days and set reminders to ensure I follow through. Both platforms are free and immediately available after opening a Gmail account.

Reward Yourself

After completing your goal, celebrate your success by doing something you enjoy. Rewarding yourself can help keep the motivation going to accomplish your next goal. 

Have a Supportive Environment

Research shows that Hispanics have a higher chance of achieving their goals when they have a supportive environment. My suggestion is to talk to a licensed therapist, mentor, or life coach that can provide the support you may be lacking.

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Stephanie Taboada

The author of this post is a Chemical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate. As a Latina and a STEM professional, Stephanie is passionate about incentivizing Hispanics to pursue STEM. Read Stephanie's blog to understand the benefits that exist in STEM for underrepresented groups. Follow her on social media to know when the next blog posts.

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