Happy New Year! 2020 certainly provided many opportunities for reflection and gratitude, but I am sure I’m not the only one eager to say GOODBYE to last year and welcome 2021 with arms wide open.

I’ve personally never been one for New Year’s resolutions. But what about New Year’s goals? As Northwood University Professor Leslie Riopel writes in Positive Psychology, “Setting goals helps trigger new behaviors, helps guide your focus, and helps you sustain that momentum in life. Goals also help align your focus and promote a sense of self-mastery.”

See where I’m going with this? 

If you’ve ever met with me, you know that I like to ask what your goals are for the week ahead. The answer I often receive from students speaking about their research or academic-based goals is “Write my dissertation.” What?! You’re going to write your dissertation in a week?! That’s a lot of pressure!

That’s why I like to help students focus on their “Big 3” goals that they can commit to in three broad categories: academic/research; personal/wellness; and connection/social. (Check out the downloadable Big 3 Goal Setting Exercise we have on Engage, under “Documents”! You may also prefer to use more categories as they correspond with the Wellness Wheel Framework.)

Part of this goal-setting process includes reflecting on the previous year. How did you do? What goals did you achieve and where did you want to see more progress? What was the right recipe for success and what were the barriers? If you find yourself starting each year with many lofty goals but struggling to make meaningful progress, it may be time to consider how to set goals that are S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Instead of setting vague, overwhelming goals, break the process down into smaller steps. How about this week planning to read two articles, write two paragraphs of your dissertation, make an outline, or reach out to two scholars? By using S.M.A.R.T. goals, you set yourself up for success, breaking down your Big 3 into achievable pieces that you can complete one day or week at a time. This helps you feel a sense of accomplishment and maintain momentum. We could all use more “I did it!” moments during this challenging time—I certainly think that has been an important part of my wellness plan!

Finally, consider revisiting your goals more frequently than once a year. I revisit goals quarterly, with the change of seasons in New England. You may find that a monthly or term-time review is better for you. These regular check-ins can also help you revise your goals to make them S.M.A.R.T.-er! Give yourself some grace and the flexibility to rearrange. Make each year YOUR year.

So, with that, let’s create some goals for 2021. For inspiration, resources, and ways to stay accountable, check out the S.M.A.R.T. goals worksheet, January’s Virtual Bulletin Board, and this month’s Student Services Blog.

I can’t wait to meet with you and hear about your goals! Until then, remember to be kind and to take good care of yourself and others. Remember to virtually visit B-2. And please “B-Well”!

B-2 B-Well: Stay S.M.A.R.T.