Towards the end of my senior year of high school, our class was given an assignment: learning to set realistic goals. To help us with this assignment, we were given an acronym to memorize:
I made a list of three goals.
1. Get into the University of Washington
2. Become a journalist
3. Move out of my parents house
My list only had three goals because I knew that if I had any more, I would lose track with all of them. Over the years, I've been the queen of starting projects I don't finish. I still have the fabric scraps from when I decided I was going to make my own clothes. It's not that I'm lazy, it's that I get excited about ideas really quickly and later realize that those ideas are unrealistic and require more than I'm willing to give. Sewing my own clothes seemed like a unique hobby but I didn't think about how much my hobby would cost. I also wasn't quite ready to become a recluse in a craft room who talks to mannequins. This goal of mine became more and more unattainable, especially after I bought all of my materials and did nothing with them for over a month. The unfinished sleeves of a would-be dress shirt laid on top of my dresser for months as a reminder that I easily get side-tracked from the things I think I want. I didn't want to sew badly enough to invest the time. I did want to go to college and follow my dream of being a journalist.
My list of three goals got me through several long hours of struggle and discouragement. Occasionally, when I jog, I like to imagine I'm running towards chocolate cake. That's what my list of goals was for me: chocolate cake. Anytime I got a bad grade on a test or fell behind, my hope to go to college and be successful gave me the push I needed to try harder and assess what I needed to change.
As much as I believed that nothing I learned in high school would ever stick with me, the SMART acronym did:
S- Specifics of a goal clearly outline exactly what you're trying to achieve. For example, "Do well on the SATs" is not as specific as "Join an SAT prep course to do the best I can."
M- Goals should be measurable by some sort of bench mark. It's important to set bench marks to keep track of your progress and to keep yourself motivated.
A- Attaining your goal requires some planning. You won't be as successful if you set a goal under which the result is not in your control. Goals are about having the drive to make changes in your routine and being able to adjust your plan to reach your final result.
R- You know how capable you are and what kind of lengths you are willing to go to. Don't set goals that you are not wiling to work for.
T- Timeliness creates framework for your goal. This allows you to stay working hard at a manageable pace.
I was forced to memorize this acronym and it stuck with me for quite some time.
I worked hard to get my grades up, built onto my list of extracurricular activities, sent off my transcripts on time, wrote a killer admissions essay and got accepted into the University of Washington.
I budgeted how much I would need to work in comparison to how much time I would spend at school each week and saved a portion of each week's paycheck so that I could move out of my parent's house.
I did not become a journalist, but that was because I got to college and learned about the other fields I was interested in. And then set a new goal. Your goals make you feel accomplished and even when they don't go perfectly according to plan, you still get a result that benefits you in one way or another, whether it is a new goal or a learning experience. Goal setting is important to practice, whether they are short term or long term. They give us a measurement of what we are capable of and encourage us to continue to push for things we want.
(Marina Orievsky studied Communication at the University of Washington where she put her focus on journalism and social media. She has worked with Revolution Inc. and Papersalt since January 2012, contributing blog material about life lessons and about her personal experiences with transitioning from teenage years to adulthood.)