A goal is the objective or purpose toward which an effort is directed. Long-term goals are
large achievements that often take a significant amount of time, such as graduating from college,
being accepted in your profession, buying a house, or making your first million. Short-term goals
provide the smaller steps that you need to take in order to reach your long-term goals, such as
studying, creating an effective resume, or saving a certain amount of money every week.
There are three components that help create a meaningful goal
1. TAKE OWNERSHIP: The first criterion for a meaningful goal is that it must be something
that you really want. This is especially true for all of your long-term goals. Even if a relative
says, "This is something I think would be good for you," unless you yourself truly want to do
it, it will never be a meaningful goal to you, instead it is just something you are doing to
please someone else. In other words, a goal must be something that you choose for yourself
and must be something that you personally value.
An effective way of determining if you really own a goal is to ask yourself the following questions:
• Am I personally and genuinely interested in this goal?
• Am I willing to change old attitudes, behavior, or habits if necessary?
• Am I willing to devote the necessary time to accomplish it?
• Am I willing to sacrifice some comforts and some interests to achieve it?
If your answers to these questions are yes, then the goal is yours, you own it, and will probably me
motivated enough to pursue it.
2. GET REAL: When you set your long-term goals, ownership is not the only consideration.
You also must consider what you can realistically achieve. Setting realistic goals must
involve an understanding of your personal talents, qualifications (physical and mental), and
background to see if they meet the requirement of that particular goal. If, for example, you
are twenty-five years old and have never played a musical instrument, deciding to become a
concert pianist probably would be unrealistic. Your goals must realistically reflect your
You must also be realistic about the requirements of the goal itself. You must decide if you
are willing to master the necessary knowledge and skills. This means you must seek out
sufficient information about the requirements of the goal. For example, if you think you
would like to be a nurse, is the picture in your head realistic? Are you aware of the course
requirements in a nursing program? Some of the courses are very challenging. Have you
realistically learned about the day to day duties of a nurse? Sufficient information about a
long-term goal is necessary to make a realistic choice.
The length of time it will take to reach the goal must also be realistic. Whatever your goal,
you need to establish a beginning point and an ending point when you can say, "Yes, I've
accomplished that goal." Whether you are seeking a two-year or a four-year degree or are in a
program of some other length of time, you should plan the time you need to fulfill the
requirements. Although completing a program in two or four years could be a realistic goal,
you also need to weigh all the other factors that might make those time frames unrealistic for
you. For instance, do you have to work part time? Do you have family obligations that would
make going to school full time difficult? Are there prerequisites that you need to take before
you start your program? These and other factors might mean that your goal would be more
realistic if you allowed yourself more time to complete your degree program.
*When considering your career goals, you might want to visit the Career Services Office. It can
offer you resources such as books, computer software, career testing, and career counseling.
As you evaluate how realistic your career goal is -- or any other goal--you would do well to ask
yourself several questions:
• Do I have the mental ability to accomplish this goal?
• Do I have the physical ability?
• Do I have the talent?
• Do I fully understand what is involved in achieving this goal?
• Do I have the resources--including opportunity, time, and means (financial and other)--to
• Do I have a support system (cooperation from family, advisors, boss, and friends) that I can rely on
• Are there any other factors that might keep me from reaching this goal? If so, what can I do to
overcome these obstacles?
Being realistic does not necessarily mean that you should give up a goal if you don't have the skills,
because skills can be acquired. If you have the ability and desire, you need to focus your energy on
practical and creative ways to accomplish your goal.
3. BE FLEXIBLE: The third criterion for a meaningful goal is flexibility; that is, you must
be willing to evaluate your goal continually and to revise it if necessary. Because
situations change and unforeseen obstacles arise, you must be prepared to face these
possibilities realistically and then make whatever adjustments are needed in order to
reach your goal. Although you may have some setbacks due to your poor choices, other
setbacks are really out of your control. For example, you often have no control over
schedule changes at work, illness, injury, unforeseen expenses, or other circumstantial
However, a setback should not be viewed as a failed grade; it simply means you need to
adjust your plans and your timetable. For example, suppose your old, reliable car finally
gives out on you. It cannot be repaired, and if you buy another car, even a used car, you
won't have enough money for tuition the following term. This might mean that you would
have to drop out of school for a while to earn money to buy the car. This setback,
however discouraging, does not mean you have to quit college completely, but it does
mean you must be flexible enough to adjust your time frame, or make changes to your
lifestyle, perhaps take the bus or find a ride to school.
Source: USCA Academic Success Center 2007
Revised WLC Academic Success Center NLT 2009