Goals and expectations

Navigator module iconWhat are Goals?

Everyone has goals for themselves. Some are reasonable, while others may be too much to ask for. We expect ourselves to work continuously and score higher grades. We hope to have the same level of energy every day. Also, we expect ourselves to be fearless. Setting clear goals is the most effective method to attain achievable results that are realistic.

You may have a long-term goal in mind, but the best approach to achieve it is to break it down into smaller, more achievable goals. Big goals are more challenging to achieve since they can overwhelm us and appear far away. If you keep chipping away at the goal, little by little, you’ll get there.

Whether you’re trying to accomplish your greatest dream, or just get off the couch, this module will help you to set and achieve your goals.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” — Zig Ziglar

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Why Do Goals Matter to Students?

We all know how important it is to set goals. For students, this is a crucial stage because it determines where your energy will be directed. Student life is important because it serves as a stepping stone into one’s profession.

Your energy must be channeled properly, yet we frequently overlook how vital these gifts are as we go through life.

There are numerous advantages and benefits to having a set of objectives to work toward. Setting objectives aids in the initiation of new behaviours, the direction of your focus, and the maintenance of momentum in life. Goals also aid in instilling a sense of self-worth.

wickedThe Wicked Problem – 0 to 100 by Catherine McDonald

A story about finding a balance between academics and social experiences in university.

The Wicked Problem
Finding a Solution
Final Thoughts
APA Reference

Activities icon

Activities: Navigate Goals and Expectations Your Way

By the end of these activities, you will be able to identify strategies to support your goals and expectations

  • Identify what barriers are causing you to worry or stress
  • Develop relevant goals to address your concerns
  • Outline strategies to accomplish your goals

Level 1 – Goal Setting Techniques

What can I do to set my own goals?

Task: Write your own short- and long-term SMART goals.

Time commitment:

This activity may take between 30 and 60 minutes to complete.

Steps to Complete

  1. Begin by watching this video called “Introduction to Setting Goals“. The video comes from a fantastic resource created by Ontario Colleges called The Learning Portal. We will share a number of pieces from The Learning Portal throughout this module. It’s great stuff.
  2. Continue reading the following sections on writing SMART goals, long-term goals, and short-term goals:

How to write SMART goals

Unclear goals can be difficult to achieve since you may not know HOW to accomplish them. SMART goals take away this confusion.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Results-Oriented
  • Time-Based

For example:

Unclear goal: “Work out more.”

  • This unclear goal is difficult to achieve since you haven’t yet identified how to accomplish it. What does “more” mean to you? What does “work out” mean to you?

SMART goal: “Run 3 kilometres on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week to improve my mood, energy, and cardiovascular health.”

  • The SMART goal, on the other hand, lays out an action plan. You don’t need to make the decision every day of how to work out, and tracking your progress will be easy since you’ve assigned yourself a timeline and hopeful outcome.

How to set long-term goals

What are long-term goals?

Long-term goals are goals that take a long time to accomplish – perhaps several years, or even decades. Examples of long-term goals are things like becoming a carpenter, learning French, or starting a family. These goals can be intimidating, so it can help to break them down into a series of short-term goals. This can make challenging long-term goals seem more doable.

Take a moment to consider what you really want to do over your lifetime. What do you love doing? What have you always dreamed of doing? Write it down. It’s okay if these goals seem far-off, you have years to achieve them, so make them lofty but reasonable. How do you achieve this goal? One helpful strategy is to work backward, creating short-term goals that will help you to get you closer to these long-term, lifetime goals.

How to set short-term goals

Short-term goals are things that you can accomplish in the near future – maybe in the next year, month, week, day, or hour.

These goals can help you achieve your long-term goals, working as stepping stones to bigger accomplishments.

Sometimes, though, you will have short-term goals that don’t clearly fit into your long-term plans: for example, having a clean apartment. These goals aren’t exciting, but they’re a necessary part of life. When you feel overwhelmed, defeated, or motivated about daily tasks, a to-do list can help you break down these goals and develop an action plan.

Now You Try

Write down a long-term goal for yourself through the “My Goals Map” worksheet . As you write down your ideas, you will be prompted to break your long-term goal down into achievable shorter-term goals. You will end up with a to-do list of things you can do daily or weekly that will help contribute toward your long-term goal.

dig deeperDig Deeper

Review the following additional resources for more information:

Success Checklist

You will know that you have successfully completed this activity when:

  • You have identified a current list of larger long-term life goals
  • You have identified many different options to break these long-term goals into shorter-term daily, weekly, or monthly tasks
  • You are actively completing your daily, weekly, or monthly tasks

Level 2 – Small Rewards for Motivation

How can I motivate myself to achieve my goals?

Task: Consider ways that you can use motivation as a reward for achieving goals.

Time Commitment:

This activity may take between 30 and 60 minutes to complete.

Steps to Complete

Here are the steps you can follow to complete this activity:

  1. Watch the video “Treat Yourself” to learn how you can use small rewards to increase your motivation. Then, consider the following:
      • There are two types of consequences:
        • Immediate consequences: Results of your goal that happen immediately. This can be natural (like when someone claps at your presentation), or a reward that you’ve created for yourself (like a treat after you go to the gym).
        • Delayed consequences: Results that may take days, weeks, months, or even years to happen, like graduating from a program. It can be difficult to persist when you aren’t seeing the daily benefits of all your hard work. In fact, studies have shown that immediate consequences are better motivators than delayed consequences.
      • If you find that you’re struggling to stay motivated, try tricking your brain by creating some immediate consequences for your goals.
  1. Create some strategies for yourself that will bring immediate consequences to your efforts:
      • Buy a fancy coffee and share it with a friend. Take this time to also share your goals and thoughts.
      • Take a hike with a friend. The fresh air will immediately feel good and you will be more energized in your day.
      • Take a break or do something just for yourself. Give yourself permission to read a novel, go to the movies, get a massage.
      • Think of other rewards that are meaningful to you. What would make them motivating? How do they bring value to you?

Success Checklist

You will know that you have successfully completed this activity when:

  •  You are able to identify strategies to help motivate yourself to achieve goals
  • You begin to celebrate not just the big achievements but the small daily wins

Level 3 – Self – Reflecting

How can I overcome other barriers in achieving my goals?

Task: You will identify ways of overcoming barriers that you face in your everyday life as you work toward achieving your goals.

Time Commitment:

This activity may take between 30 and 60 minutes to complete.

Steps to Complete:

  1. Complete the activity called “Navigating Through Barriers” by Algonquin College.
  2. Complete the accompanying worksheet to help problem-solve, fine-tune or reframe your goals to improve your chances of success.
  3. Review your responses to the worksheet every time you face that same barrier. Consider:
    • Are you taking the steps you said you would to overcome your barrier?
    • What parts of your strategy are working well and should be continued?
    • What parts of your strategy are not working well and need to be changed?
    • Are you stuck and need help? Think of a trusted person you could reach out to. Sometimes just discussing an issue with someone else helps to bring clarity to what the next steps should be.
    • Are you facing new barriers? You may wish to complete the worksheet again and identify new motivators to overcome the new barriers.
  4. If you have overcome a barrier, congratulations! We encourage you to share your experience with friends, family, peers, or others if you feel comfortable doing so. Often, many of us are going through similar experiences and could benefit from the advice and wisdom of others. If you choose to share your experience, think of who would benefit from this information and consider ways you are comfortable sharing. It could be mentioning it in class as a tip for other students, having coffee with a friend and walking them through your steps, or even writing an article for your student council newsletter. However you choose to share, you never know whose life you are changing for the better!

Success Checklist

You will know that you have successfully completed this activity when:

  •  You have created a clear goal map with steps to achieve the goal(s)
  •  You have identified what would make your goal achievable
  • You have identified ways that you overcome barriers and challenges
  • You have reflected on the results of your goal-setting and motivators
  • You have considered passing along your words of wisdom to others

Final Words of Wisdom

It is invaluable to get out there and get all of the social experience you can with people of all different walks of life. This will help to improve your empathy, collaboration skills, generosity, and other positive characteristics. Experiential learning through real-world challenges will make you distinct from other students. Your experiences can not only help you grow but may also help those around you. Setting goals for yourself, overcoming barriers, and getting involved in your community can be easier than you might think. Go for it!


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Liberated Learners Copyright © 2022 by Terry Greene et al. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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