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How to make Goals that work: A Guide from YOC

Hi Canada! We are officially one month into 2021, and so we at Youth of Canada wish all of you a safe and happy rest of the year ahead!

For as long as I can remember, I often found it strange how at 12:00 AM on January 1st, the older adults around me suddenly became very joyful, even though I pretty much felt the same. For many people, the New Year brings with it a fresh canvas to work towards improving some part of our lives, hence why people say that a “New Year, means a New Me!”. If you are anything like me however, you might be familiar with the idea of creating amazing goals for yourself with this newfound motivation, only to fall off of them in a matter of weeks/months, so you never reach the end goal. This can be extremely frustrating to work with, especially when you know that you COULD achieve your full potential, but don’t know where to start when attempting to achieve your goals.

All of this begs the question; How do we make goals that work? With that, I have compiled a thorough guideline that YOU can use this year when creating your New Year’s Resolutions, and make sure you can put forth your best effort yet in achieving your goals.

Hold on – Why should I even bother setting goals this year?

At this point, I’m sure many of you still might not be fully onboard with the idea of setting goals this year – I mean, it’s no doubt that it will be much harder to accomplish goals now that many of us are still in Quarantine. However, according to The Peak Performance Center, goal settings gives people:

- A clearer sense of Direction/Focus in life

- Gives one Motivation and Control in Life

- Increases Confidence and Life Satisfaction

- And Much More!

A Concrete Guide to assist in creating Goals:

Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said that "a goal without a plan is just a dream". In this case, we can apply this important lesson to our goal by creating a plan on how we will accomplish goal, for the sake or giving us a sense of structure that makes it easier to visualize the path to our end goal.

When it comes to this part, we can follow the popular acronym SMART, that lays out all the necessary components of a well-thought out goal.

S: Is it Specific?

When setting a goal, it is best to make the goal as specific as possible, for a few reasons; When you set specific goals, it forces you to confront all the necessary questions for a goal from the start:

What is the ideal outcome of my goal?

Why am I trying to accomplish this?

What kind of resources will I need?

For example, imagine your goal is to improve your singing voice – right off the bat, you may understand that it will require you to practice vocal warm-ups, eat certain foods to not irritate your throat, etc. This isn’t bad – but if instead you set your goal as learning how to sing a specific style like Jazz, Theatre, Opera, etc., and set a timer of 10 minutes to practice every day, you will have a more clear idea of what your goal is which can allow you to do research into specific things you need to learn in order to achieve your goal.

M: Is it Measurable?

The best goals are measurable, because only then can you keep track of how well your goal is going by looking back on your progress with tangible data. Going back to my earlier point, it can be very easy to lose sight of your goal’s importance once the initial new year’s motivation wears off, so to help motivate yourself, you should try to set up your goal so that you can be proud of yourself for taking little steps each day to accomplish your goal. If one of your goals is to achieve a certain mark on a test, one way to approach this in a measurable way might be to continue doing practice tests multiple times, and keep track of the score you get each time you do the test. In this way, you can look back on your previous work and see yourself improve overtime, which can be one of the most satisfying feelings. Not only that, if you make sure to measure your goals, you can re-evaluate your strategies as you move along in the year. For example, lets say that you continue to do practice tests to achieve your ideal grade, but you don’t seem to be improving at all – Well, now that you have been keeping track of your marks, you can go back and re-plan your studying strategies (Maybe trying out a different textbook, getting help from a tutor, etc.).

A: Is it Attainable?

Now, this is a part of goal-setting that many people may not want to acknowledge, but try as you may, it is vital to ensure that the goals you are setting for yourself this year are attainable. If you only take away one point from this article, it should be this: Good goals are designed like a workout, in that they will stretch you slightly, but they won’t completely drain you and leave you exhausted. To set Attainable goals, you must know yourself and your limits – something which is especially important while we are in the midst of a Pandemic.

It’s safe to say that many of us have been pushed to our limits (Mentally and Physically) this past year, and there may also be less opportunities to connect with others and collaborate on shared goals, due to strict Distancing rules put in place all over Canada.

With that being said, keep in mind that there is no shame in breaking larger goals into smaller goals, and increasing the difficulty of your goals as you improve. For example, if you want to set a goal to run a 10 km Marathon even though you have no experience in Long-Distance Running, it might not be wise to shoot for running 10 kilometers from the beginning itself. Instead, you could break up the 10 km into smaller goals – Make it a point to learn to run 1 km comfortably, then 2 km, then 5, 7, etc. Before you know it, your formerly daunting goal now seems much more realistic, and you will feel more enthusiastic to challenge yourself.

R: Is it Relevant?

Personally, one of the silver linings I have found from being in Lockdown with my Family over the past few months has been the chance to spend my extra time indoors doing activities that I truly enjoy doing. At the end of the day, when you are able to accept yourself as you are and be true to who you are and what you like, only then will you be able to set goals that match your ideal path in life. This part is a bit self-explanatory in all honesty, so just know this: Since this is the beginning of the New Year, take the time to think about your interests, dislikes, and things that you feel passionate – things like this are usually a big tell into the most ideal activities and pathways for you to take.

T: Is it Time-Bound?

Growing up, I used to be a huge procrastinator when it came to getting projects done. The truth is, if I had a week to finish a project, I would do all the necessary research for the first 2/3 days, leave a huge break to work on other projects, and complete the main part of the project in the final 3 days. This kept up for a while, because it always worked in the end. When it comes to goal setting however, it is not as easy to use this same framework.

This is a pretty accurate diagram of what goes on in my brain when I procrastinate, because part of me knows I have to be productive, but the Monkey in my brain often knows how to take control!

Going back to the earlier example of projects for school, the due date put in place by my teachers helped me to ultimately have a set idea in my mind of how I could chunk up my work to submit the assignment on time, and so it gave me a sense of accountability to work with. Likewise, goals need to have a certain time limit to them, or else they have the potential to extend for very long amounts of time. Right now, I am trying to learn how to play a complicated version of “Beauty and the Beast” on the piano, and I often find myself falling off my regular practice once I ran into problems with the song. Something that helps me stay on track is the habit of creating a schedule using platforms like Google Calendar to assign due dates to complete certain parts of the piece, and so far it has been working well!

All in All, when done right, Goal-setting can enable anyone to find the motivation to try new things outside of one’s comfort zone and reach their greatest potential. Personally, one of my biggest goals for this year is to get an internship this year related to research – to complete this goal, I plan to do research into nearby research opportunities for high school students I can be a part of virtually, or also try reaching out to professors at Universities near where I live. The reason why I am sharing this here is that it will give me a sense of Accountability, and allows my family and friends to support me on the way. Even if you don't fully believe it yet, You truly owe it to yourself to work hard to turn your dreams into a reality.

- Sherin Kalathil

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