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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Live Your Life by Design, Not By Default ... Adopt S.M.A.R.T. Goals

At the beginning of each semester (and the summer) I formulate for myself a list of goals I desire to accomplish. These are very specific goals, such as: “Bring three guest speakers to classes this term” and “Take students on four field trips this term.” Other goals relate to my own personal and professional development, such as: “Smile more, and greet others more consistently” and “Read five economists’ blogs each week.”
To succeed you must first know where you are going. While possessing long-term goals (e.g., I desire to become successful in my chosen career) is important, to make real progress you must also establish shorter-term S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
Goals give us something to work towards, something to look forward to, and something to keep us motivated along the way. For many, earning a college degree is a lifelong goal, one that can be achieved with a lot of hard work, dedication and proper planning. Yet, establishing a clear path toward achieving your dreams is the one part of goal setting that is most often overlooked. As Yogi Berra put it, "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."
The S.M.A.R.T. Process. Creating educational goals will allow you to focus on your degree program and use your time wisely. To help you begin, outlined below is the S.M.A.R.T. process for establishing goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
Specific — Specific goals are clear, focused, concise and well-defined. A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal.
General: I want to do well this semester.
Specific: I will attain a B+ or better in all my classes this semester.
Measurable — To measure your success, you need to establish timelines, dates, dollar amounts, number of credits, etc. Measuring your progress enables you to stay on track and reach your target dates; as a result, you will experience the feeling of success that will drive you on to achieve your goal.
Not measurable: I will get more involved on-campus this semester.
Measurable: I will attend three campus events this semester I typically would not go to, and join and actively participate in two clubs or organizations by Feb. 20th.
Attainable — Ask yourself: "Is this goal important to me?" When you identify goals that are important to you, you begin to discover ways you can make them come true. You can accomplish most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a realistic time frame that allows you to carry out those steps.
Not attainable: Even though I am shy, I will become the most outspoken person in my Business Law class this semester.
Attainable: I will volunteer to answer a question at least once a week in my Business Law class this semester.
Realistic — A realistic goal is one that you are both willing and able to work toward.
Not realistic: Even though I may have “down days” or may be feeling poorly, and even though I have never done this, I will smile and greet others at all times this semester.
Realistic: I will smile and greet others each Wednesday this semester, when I am walking around campus.
Timely — Set a time frame for your goal; your goal should have a starting point and an ending point.
Not timely: I will attend three events on campus that I would not normally attend.
Timely: I will attend three events on campus that I would not normally attend – one by Feb. 21st, another by Mar. 15th, and another by April 20th.
Factors to Ensure Success with S.M.A.R.T. Goals:
·  Your goals should be written down in positive terms.
·  Your goals should be posted in a prominent place, so you can stay focused. Hang them by your desk or on your refrigerator or by your light switch.
·  The goals need to be your own; what you want for yourself, not what others want for you.
·  Be flexible, your goals can and will change as your circumstances change. Revise your goals each semester, and during the semester if circumstances warrant.
How to get started: Here's a suggested format, devised specifically for undergraduate college students:
§ My name is _____________________________________________________________.
§ These are my S.M.A.R.T. Goals to propel me to a higher level of success this semester: 
    S: Specific; M: Measurable; A: Achievable; R: Resourced; T: Time-Limited.
§ I have made a personal commitment to achieve these goals.
     I will concentrate on 3-5 goals each week. I will schedule time to accomplish these goals.
§ Each and every Sunday I will track (and record) my accomplishments on this sheet, and
        I will then establish times for accomplishing goals for the following week.

MY S.M.A.R.T. ACADEMIC GOALS                             √ when accomplished
I will achieve an average G.P.A. of _________ in all of my classes this term.

I will attend 90% or more of my classes this term.

I will be an active participant in class discussions.

I will go to the Student Learning Center to receive help in the Math Lab.

I will go to the Writing Center to have my draft of my essays reviewed.

I will request a tutor or another form of assistance for a specific class or classes, if & when my average in a class falls below the avg. G.P.A. goal I set for myself

I will meet with an academic support specialist for assistance with time management or study strategies

I will complete the MAPWorks survey this term, print out & review the results.

I will meet with my academic advisor this term to discuss: (a) any obstacles to my ability to excel academically this term; (b) review the results of my MAPWorks survey; (d) develop my course schedule for next term; (d) ideas relating to networking and finding a position within my chosen career; and (f) review a draft of my résumé.

MY S.M.A.R.T. SELF-CONTROL GOALS                   √ when accomplished
I accept personal responsibility for my own success this term.

“9 hours 15 minutes” - I will consistently seek to attain sufficient sleep each night this term, as I may require, to not be drowsy in classes.

·     I will set an alarm on my phone to remind me to prepare to go to bed

·     I will record my progress as to this goal, and record how I physically feel, through reflection in my journal, once each week.

I will plan out each week, using an hour-by-hour calendar, in order to attain 2-3 hours of study time, on average, for each hour I spend in the classroom.

If I have difficulty starting a project or activity, I will say out loud to myself: “Just do it! Do it, do it, do it! Do it NOW!”

I will spend < 10 hours each week watching t.v.,, playing video/computer games.

                                                                                              √ when accomplished
I will smile at all times, every day, when walking between classes and when entering a room

I will greet others (including those I don’t yet know) on campus with a “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” “Good evening,” “Hi,” or “How you doing?”

I will introduce myself three times each week to a student or other person I don’t know, and get to know them better (i.e., I will practice this essential skill)

I will join and participate in the following NCAA sports, intramural sports, clubs and/or organizations this term (at least one of which will require some form of civic engagement):



 3. (optional – I won’t overextend myself)

 4. (optional – I won’t overextend myself)

I will attend the following events / activities on-campus this term:








                                                                                              √ when accomplished
I will develop and maintain a list of potential contacts whom may be in a position to land me a good position within my chosen career area.

I will write in my Journal twice a week to record people and events and other things for which I am grateful.

I will write and mail/deliver thank-you notes 3 times a week to new and existing contacts, family members, friends, and those who have done a service for me.

I will perform 3 random acts of kindness each week, & record them in my Journal.

If I choose to go to parties or other places where alcohol may be served, I will go with a group, and at least one of my friends will be the “Designated Friend” (who will not drink and who will assume responsibility for watching over me, should I inadvertently drink to excess and possess impaired judgment).

I will revise my résumé this term to reflect all of my activities to date, and I will look for “gaps” in the résumé that need filling.

Believe in yourself.
Adopt a mindset of continual self-improvement and growth.
Obtain 9 hours 15 minutes (on average) of sleep to become more productive and to increase your capacity to learn.
When obstacles are presented, use your grit to persevere.
Possess S.M.A.R.T. goals, and review them daily.
Don’t let others – or your own limiting views – define your future.
Ooze confidence.
Continuously work on expanding your “comfort zone” – do one thing each day that scares you!
Choose to want to succeed as much as you want (if you were denied breath) to want to breathe!
Thank those who help you along the way ... doses of gratitude go a long way.

Professor Ron A. Rhoades, JD, CFP(r) teaches Business Law, Retirement Planning, Investment Planning, Employee Benefits Planning, Money & Banking, Insurance & Risk Management, and the Personal Financial Planning Capstone courses at Alfred State College, Alfred, NY. He is an EPLP Mentor, C.R.E.A.T.E. program mentor, serves as advisor to Alfred State's Business Professionals of America club, and serves as academic advisor to dozens of students.

Professor Rhoades is the author of "CHOOSE TO SUCCEED IN COLLEGE AND IN LIFE: Continuously Improve, Persevere, and Enjoy the Journey," a 10-week program for success in college (available for $2.99 in Kindle store at, or in paperback for $6.99). Professor Rhoades may be reached by e-mail at:

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