I started thinking about my freshman year in college well before my senior year in high school was done.

A lot of these thoughts were confusion regarding where I would go and what exactly I would major in, but as the confusion faded away and my plan started to form these thoughts took a different path. They became goals that I felt set on.

Some were carried over from high school: don’t get any grade lower than an A, study more, and make sure I update and value my planner. Others were brand new: go to the gym, make new friends, get involved in groups, and focus on healthy eating.

These goals are of obvious varying degrees of possibility and as I think more about them I realize that I won’t be able to do all of them. If I try to do all of them I might end up doing none of them, and that would be the worst outcome.

So, how do I pick which ones to focus on and how much importance I put on if I reach that goal or not? There are a few strategies I have to help with that...

Same General Meaning, Different Words

Sometimes the issue is not with the intention of the goal but with the wording of it. For instance, don’t get anything lower than an A. Clearly part of this issue is that when this goal was originally set I knew what it took to get an A; going into this new environment I simply don’t know some factors about my workload and ability.

Also with such a rigid goal, there is very little room for me to accept anything less than perfection. What if I struggle in a class and get lower than the A I strived for? I need to be able to feel bad enough about it that it motivates me, but not ashamed to the point where I don’t try in future classes. This goal will be more effective if it is to do the best I can in my classes and to make sure that they are my number one priority.

Consolidate and Conquer

Forget divide and conquer, some goals need to be made into one before being tackled. In the case of, go to the gym and focus on eating healthy, they can become keep a healthy lifestyle. This simplification means that I can change my perspective on what that means to me when I am able to realize what kind of time I have to commit to that goal. It also allows me to refine the goal next summer when I have a better idea of what is realistic for me. This means that I won’t be back at square one next summer and can instead build off of what I have already done.

Specificity Can Be My Friend

Sometimes a goal is too vague and that leads to it being impossible to ever achieve. This is where study more needs improvement. How much exactly is more and what was the initial baseline?

Yes, I want to make sure I study a lot so that I can do well, but I also need to be able to let myself not feel bad about not studying. I should accept now that I won’t spend all of my free time with my head in a textbook, and to be honest that lack of rest would likely make my studying less efficient and less productive.

To make study more have greater specificity I need to figure out what that goal really means to me. Part of the issue is that I know I should have done more studying in high school, but also I want to work on figuring out new and better ways for me to study. Maybe that means finding a group to study with or re-listening to/re-watching lectures.

So if I combine the ideas that I don’t feel like I did enough studying in high school and I also want to find new ways to study the goal study more becomes, the much more specific, I want to put more effort into studying than I did in high school while refining my studying habits.

Sometimes A Goal Needs Multiple Changes

Some goals need more work than others.

All three of the changes above can be made to the goals make new friends and get involved in groups. Both of them have vague wording which is unspecific and distracts from the actual intention. First, though, they need to be combined because both are about being social and have the same general meaning behind them.

So if the combination is about being social it is a pretty obvious deduction that I want to be social and now I just need the specifics of that. I want to be willing to put myself out there to make new friends and join groups, but I have to also remember that I did say before that my main priority was academics. When those ideas are combined the goal becomes, to be social with those around me and find groups to share and expand my interests while making sure the focus remains on my studies.

Other Times A Goal Is Best Left Alone

Now that I have spent the whole article talking about changing and modifying my goals I want to make it clear that sometimes goals are perfectly fine just the way they were thought of. In my case making sure I update and value my planner is a good goal just the way it is.

Keeping a planner is something I have been working on the past couple school years and has been a valuable tool to keep myself on track and even ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, sometimes I let it go to the wayside, but that’s okay because it allows me to set goals like this one. I know what I need to work on and that’s a start.

Keeping Those Resolutions

Just like New Year’s Resolutions, New School Year’s Resolutions aren’t always kept. It’s not the end of the world, but in general reaching the goals I have set is something important to me. That’s why I go through them and look at how to make them more achievable while still reaching the desired outcome. It might take a little more time and effort, but in the long run, it keeps me more on track and productive.

I hope you succeed in all of your New School Year’s Resolutions,

-Sydney