When I started grad school, I looked at what courses were required to obtain my desired degree. I could choose any that were available, looked interesting, and worked with my schedule. Once enrolled, I downloaded an instructor-designed syllabus. This document laid out due dates for readings, assignments, research papers, and exams. A student looking to succeed could use this outline as a map and follow the steps to get things done in a timely fashion — no muss, no fuss, no last minute panic — if you kept up with the workload.
Earning my degree also required a thesis. This process was not as neatly laid out as course work. The school did assign a research advisor, who was responsible for guiding me through proposal writing and subsequent matchmaking with a thesis director. But when it came to writing the thesis, it was on me. I had to figure out a topic, conduct research, devise an orderly progression of chapters, write, edit, footnote sources, get approvals, and finally upload the manuscript.
I began with the end in mind — my desired outcome. I wanted a degree. Accomplishing that goal had multiple intermediate objectives, including successfully completing mandatory courses and a thesis.
Like others who go to school, I hoped to become smart, or at least smarter, but the process also required being SMART about my goals. SMART stands for:
S – specific, significant, stretching
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – attainable, achievable, action-oriented
R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, results-oriented
T -time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable
When my son wrestled in high school, he had to “make weight” before matches to certify that he qualified for his particular weight class. As I watched him and his teammates prepare for a meet, it occurred to me that their goals were SMART (based on the acronym for goal setting), but not necessarily smart (as in intelligent). The boys would fast, restrict liquids, spit into cans, and sometimes wear sauna suits while exercising, all in the name of reducing poundage. Reaching the goal allowed them to wrestle in the meet, but they would often be dizzy, irritable, and dehydrated; not qualities that are conducive to concentrating in the classroom or interacting pleasantly at home. I give them credit though — they worked hard and were committed.
In a school setting, the syllabus dictates time limits and due dates. Ready or not, the semester will end. If a student doesn’t submit requirements, the consequence is taking an “Incomplete.” If you’re serious about achieving a goal, and not just dreaming about it, you have to act and not just talk. “Do…or do not. There is no try.”* With a personal goal, like writing a book, no one is going to be pushing you, unless you have a publication contract. Our schedules will always be full. We have to carve out the time for people and things that matter most.
Here’s a secret to goal achievement success — Schedule time on the calendar for your task. Don’t just put your goal on a to do list. Whether it’s taking a 15-minute walk to increase your endurance or running through a five exercise weight lifting sequence to get stronger, mark the time commitment on a calendar, like you would a doctor appointment. If you really want to accomplish something, designate a block of time and make it a recurring commitment. Whatever the goal is, figure out and list the underlying steps. Start with one baby step goal — something that’s small enough so you’re not overwhelmed, freaked out, or discouraged. Pace yourself. It takes a lot of training miles before you can run and finish a marathon. Even if you have multiple goals, work on one thing at a time. Thinking about simultaneously organizing the basement, garage, and attic will overpower the best of intentions. Set yourself up for success.
We’re all impatient to get from Point A to Point B, whether it’s taking a trip or accomplishing goals. Figure out how to make it happen.
Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.Albert Einstein
Cathy S.: for all you do, this blog’s for you.
© Joan S Grey, 20 August 2021 ∞
IndexCardCure™: Making progress by being SMART
- *Yoda, “The Empire Strikes Back”