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Is Goal Setting imperative for students?

It doesn’t matter where you came from. All that matter is where you are going”- Brian Tracy

All of us have dreams. In a lighter vein, I tell my students that fortunately, dreams are not taxed anywhere in the globe; hence, they are free to dream big. We know what gives us happiness, what we’d love to do, and we may have a fair idea of how we’d go about it. But setting clear goals can be useful in many ways, over and above wishful thinking. Goals are what motivates and encourages us to move forward in life; they are the fuel of our dreams. Students must set goals for themselves, keeping their long-term aspirations in mind. The absence of any goals in life will make an individual live life by default, and will probably experience dissatisfaction and failure going ahead. We know that time waits for none. If we don’t work towards accomplishing our goal in a time-bound manner, then it will just remain just a dream, and never materialize in reality. Goal setting is all about “Living life by Choice and Not by Chance.”

              Here are a few benefits of setting goals in a student’s life:

  1. Goals Give Focus and help in keeping away distractions 

Imagine if you are given a very sophisticated Gun and asked to fire without specifying a target. What would you possibly do then? Aim at any random target which might not be of any consequence to you. Thus, you will be wasting your time, energy, and efforts. You can have the best of the abilities in the world, but without a proper goal, your skills and talent will go unutilized or under-utilized. Just like how sunlight can’t burn an object without a magnifying glass focusing on it, similarly, you can’t achieve anything unless you concentrate and channelize your energy and efforts towards the goal.

  1. Goals Give Direction and encourage to optimize efforts 

Have you ever seen a Tiger attacking its prey? It will first scan the area, identify the target, and stealthily moves in the direction of the target to get close enough and hunt its target successfully. Since the goal is specified and you know the direction in which you need to put effort, your energy doesn’t get scattered aimlessly in different directions. And you shall be able to utilize your optimal energy and efforts in accomplishing the goal. Goals are simply the means to focus your efforts and energy in the right direction. 

  1. Goals allow for feedback which enables to measure progress 

In life, everything is in context to time. By setting goals, you are deciding the benchmarks of performance and the relevant time-line within which you need to complete the task. Goals will help in measuring your progress because you always have a fixed endpoint or a benchmark to be compared. By allowing for feedback, goals let you align or re-align your actions, keeping you on track with your eyes firmly on the target.

  1. Goals Help Overcome Procrastination

Procrastination is probably the single most significant factor which can prevent students from accomplishing their goals. “It’s OK attitude,” or “I still have time,” are some of the factors leading to procrastination of work. Once the goal is set, break it into smaller ones along with time deadlines and create an effective action plan. And work honestly to implement your action plan, which encourages you to overcome lethargy and work intensely to achieve the desired outcomes. Initiate action, no matter how small it is, but keep moving towards your goals.  It’s the persistence that matters more than the pace of your efforts. Be aware of the value of consistency. 1^100= 1 but 1.01^100=2.7049 Remember, a goal is just a “dream with a deadline.”

  1. Goals give you Motivation

If you notice, the root of motivation in your life is your desires, aspirations, and goals. Goals motivate you to be active and begin your day with enthusiasm, energy, and something to look forward to. In the absence of a goal, you might be alive, but yes, you have not lived your life. Exploring the world around you could also be a goal, and it need not be tied to some material accomplishment.  Goals give wings to your dreams and encourage you to soar high by providing a base for your drive. Goals help you to channelize your effort willingly and happily. Resolve in advance that you will persist until you succeed, and you will never, ever give up.

  1. Goals give clarity of action

Locke’s Theory of Goal-Setting puts intentions clearly at the centre of our behaviour and actions. Goals help in deciding what you want to achieve in your life and where you want to be in life. It will take out all the unnecessary sound and clutter around your mind, which helps in eliminating distractions and have the right priorities in life. The process of setting goals and the thought one puts into it, shall direct awareness to the why, how, and what of your aspirations. Goals give you something to focus on and encourage you into action to accomplish the goal.

  1. Goals encourage you to use your strengths

When we consider what is most significant to us, we can get more attuned with our inner strengths as well as our passions. Setting a goal for ourselves and having an action plan to achieve it is one thing, but using all our resources to accomplish it has a whole set of other benefits too. Studies show that realizing and leveraging our strengths to achieve goals can increase our confidence, boost our engagement with others, and even promote feelings of utmost satisfaction. Thus, goals encourage you to utilize all the strengths at your disposal to perform at your best and never give up.

Having realized the benefits of goal setting, let’s know some guidelines to set healthy and aspirational goals.

  1. Let the goals be challenging but realistic

Try to keep things in the right context, as it helps to have clarity of goals and plan accordingly to accomplish the goals. It indicates that the best goals should be challenging yet achievable. It should neither be too easy nor humanly impossible to achieve. 

  1. Set a positive goal. 

The goal should not just bring personal success but also enable you to contribute to society at large.  Through the achievement of your goal, you should also aim at impacting the community positively.

  1. Be mentally prepared to fail along the way.

Resilience is the ability to stay put in spite of setbacks, and obstacles are inevitable in some or the other form in your chosen path. There is nothing called failure in your life; you either win or learn. Every experience is good enough, provided you discover the right lessons from it and evolve into a much stronger and mature individual. Enduring failures makes an individual mentally tough and prepare them for the challenges ahead.

  1. Goals need to be specific and actionable. 

The goals need to be very clear with a distinct boundary drawn around it, leaving no room for ambiguity.  If you feel the goal is massive and intimidating, then you can break it into smaller goals in line with the bigger goal and create a proper actionable plan to be implemented in a time-bound manner.

  1. Set your performance goals, not outcome goals.

 An individual’s perceived value attached to a particular outcome (Goal) shall determine the level of performance required to accomplish it, and based on the level of performance, one decides the quantum of efforts needed — the essence of Expectancy Theory developed by Victor Vroom.

Efforts 🡪 Performance -> Outcome -> Reward

The factors which are in the control of an individual are efforts and performance, while the outcome is dependent on several factors beyond the control of an individual. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on factors under your control and set performance goals rather than outcome goals.

Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita says, “You have a right to “Karma” (actions) but never to any Fruits thereof. Do not focus on the fruits and never be inactive.” 

If parents can incorporate some of these suggestions at home, it will undoubtedly help their kids in advancing successfully toward their goal.

  • Parents need to help in creating a conducive environment at home full of a positive outlook. 
  • Encourage kids to be goal-oriented, which can keep them motivated.
  • Ensure they initiate the first step, which could be small but a critical step towards their goal.
  • Give them access to all relevant resources, which helps to achieve the goal.
  • Once started, ask them to work on their goals steadily and consistently. 
  • A sure way to ensure consistent progress is to form habits and embed them into their daily routine.
  • Use positive reinforcement to add something useful and constructive, and use negative reinforcement to take out something unwanted and destructive from their mind. This way, you can ensure that your kids are always ready for optimal performance. 
  • Keep track of their progress and compare it with the benchmarks set. Tracking of development will help them to revise their plan if required and also motivate them considering the sub-goals accomplished. 
  • Help them to put the right process in place, and it shall take care of the outcomes.
  • Make them realize the significance of Time Management to be productive and efficiently complete their tasks. 

Life is a vacuum.  If you don’t fill it with positive and good energy, by default, it gets filled with negative and destructive energy, because in nature, nothing can exist in vacuum. Hence, consciously and by choice, parents need to ensure that their kids fix some aspirational and motivational goals so that they focus their energy, time, and efforts in accomplishing it.

Prof. Shankar Bellur
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