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Strict or Flexible?: Determining Which Type of Goal-Setting Is Effective to Accomplish Your Goals

It is incredibly important to have goals in your life.  We all need some form of motivation to keep us working hard and doing well in the world; otherwise, what is there to live for?  But, is it possible that having such strict goals can actually hinder your future?  What type of goals are productive?  How do productive goals turn into life-limiting decisions?  Through various experiences I have gone through in my life, and those I’ve seen my friends and family go through, I have learned an immense deal about how to set a goal and reach it.

Oftentimes, it is beneficial to set a specific goal.  For example, if you want to get a 4.0 GPA it can be constructive to break that down into getting an A in each of your classes.  As the quarter progresses, you can break that down further into getting an A on each exam, doing all homework assignments, and attending all classes.  By breaking down your main goal into smaller ones, you will be more likely to reach it.  (See my article on time management for more help in this area.)  If you end up receiving a B on a certain exam, you can adjust your goals for future assignments in order to still reach your ultimate goal of an A in this class and an overall GPA of 4.0.  These types of goals are best suited for tasks that can be broken down.  Goals like these are inevitable because you will be taking these courses this quarter regardless of anything else, they are unavoidable events.  How you approach the situation of taking these classes is up to you in your goal-setting.  

Although breaking down tasks into smaller events is favorable in certain instances, there are many occasions where having general and flexible goals are more advantageous to your future.  When there is more chance involved in a decision or outcome, general goals are complimentary.  I found this out first hand during my summer internship search, when I thought I knew I wanted an experience in a corporate setting.  However, because I made my goals flexible, I applied to an internship outside of the corporate field.  I ended up falling in love with a summer internship at an online company (Grubwithus, check ‘em out!) that better suits me and what I want than the corporate setting I originally pursued.
I believe that I got this opportunity by being open to situations and experiences outside of what I thought I wanted.  More often than not, we have no clue what we truly want.  College is a time for us to explore ourselves and figure out what we like and don’t like; however, that learning process does not end after our four-years at a university.  Our quest for self-actualization continues throughout our lifetime.  If we have a narrow-minded view of what we want (read: what we think we want), we are more likely to miss out on opportunities that the world has to offer us.  For this reason, it is in our best interest to make general goals, while keeping in mind that everything happens for a reason.  If we do this, we will know that there is a better fit for us out there when we do not receive something we want.  While rejection is inevitable, in the end, we will end up with the best opportunity possible and achieve our goal in something we may not have thought we were capable of!  

Keep an open mind.  You never know what life can throw your way.  The world may have bigger plans for you than you have made for yourself!

Edited by: Amy Coyle

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