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Reaching your goals without losing your way

As we near the end of the academic year, many of you will be thinking about what to do next. For those going to university the summer is the time to consider where you are heading and what you want to achieve in your first year. For those moving into their next year of school or just considering what to do next in life it might be time to consider some more long-term goals. Everyone is telling you to focus on reaching your goals, but how do you actually set your goals? Once they’re set how should you prioritize them without having them dominate your every thought?

Set your goals

The first step towards reaching your goals is to think about your immediate priorities. Consider what it is that you want to experience in the near future and what motivates you. After that it’s time to start thinking about how to get there. Work backwards from your end goal and think about the main requirements you’ll need to complete to take to get from A to B. Each requirement will become a step on your journey to your goal. You don’t have to have every individual step planned out, but being aware of the requirements will help. Try not to get caught up in the planning. Part of the journey will be discovering the small details along the way. Start off big and work your way down.

Take action

Starting on the journey to achieve your goals can be daunting, so rather than seeing them as far off concepts it’s important to make them a part of your life. First, think of small steps you can take in your everyday life that will make reaching your goals easier. This might be something as simple as listing your tasks for the day every morning. Once you have a strong base mentality in place, you can start on the bigger things. Break up your ‘requirements’ into smaller achievable tasks and work through them one by one. For example, I don’t just sit down and start writing these articles hoping that I stumble across a great idea. I start with a theme, then write down three main areas I want to cover. I mark out my main points under each heading, and keep breaking things down until I have my argument. Goal setting works the same way. Start with your goal, then build until you have a clear journey.

Prioritize your goals

When we think about where we want to be in life and what we want to achieve it’s very easy to get caught up. Focusing on your big goals is important and we all like to be ambitious, but don’t forget to slow down every so often. It’s also important to take the time every so often to step back and assess the situation. Reaching your goals can feel really great, but occasionally you might need to remind yourself what you are pursuing. If your priorities have shifted it might be time to look at things again and change your route. There’s nothing wrong with realizing you want something different, but take the time to really think about why you want to change.

The best piece of advice I have ever received was to start planning my university thesis in the first week of my final year of university. By the time my deadline arrived 8 months later I was one of the most relaxed people in my cohort. I’m not a genius but I worked towards my end goal bit by bit over the course of the year. In order to start writing early I needed to start research early, and in order to start research early I needed to work out what I wanted to focus on. When I worked back to it, all I had to do in the first week was decide on a theme. Once you work your way back to the basics you’ll find your starting point. Stay calm and focused and you’ll be there in no time.

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