Sydney Scott, a freshman at Southeastern Louisiana University, continues her series on her life and times as a college student. View college life through her eyes and learn alongside her as she journeys to her future career. Make sure you share with your aspiring AND current college students - they’ll be happy that you did!

I'm sure you know the drill: this is the time of year that the gym becomes packed with people set out to achieve their New Year's fitness goals. Every treadmill is full, each locker is occupied, and your 4 PM yoga class is now the scene of a mass migration of newcomers setting out on their quest to get abs. Don't worry, though, by March, you'll have your usual spot in yoga back, and that's a guarantee; 92% of the people you see in the gym now won't still be there in a few months.

So where did all of the people go? They quit! Only 8 percent of New Year's resolutions succeed (per a study that was done at the University of Scranton), which means we aren't very good goal setters.

So what's the answer? Give up? Avoid making positive life changes to begin with? Not at all!

I think it’s odd that so many people feel driven to only start change on January 1st. Rather than choose an arbitrary date and heed the standards of group mentality, why not set a goal as soon as you feel like it?

Instead of resigning completely from any attempt at self-improvement, I decided last year to set goals and not wait until the New Year to work on them: if I was that dedicated, I'd start today. Since shifting my perspective on goal setting, I have learned that my ability to achieve a goal is completely dependent on how I  set myself up to either succeed or fail. I think this will work for you, too.

Now that you're wondering, "Then how on earth do I succeed in goal setting?",  I present you with an answer. Well, somewhat of an answer… Over the last year or so, I have come to realize a few things about the mindset and planning required to achieve a goal I have set for myself, these realizations mainly stemming from personal experience.

My goal-setting formula goes like this:

1. Define a big-picture goal: Start by writing down what you want in total: is it good grades? College fully paid for? If you’re stuck here, ask yourself this: What would I attempt if I were guaranteed success? Once you have something in mind, write it down.

2. Start small: If you’ve never gone to the gym before, don’t start your first day with heavy lifting and a 5-mile run. Many people who set New Year’s resolutions don’t start small, which leads to making big, dramatic changes that can’t be sustained over time. If you want good grades, start by making a goal to get an A or B on your next test. Then start even smaller by making the simple goal just to study. Achieving small goals will help you tackle the larger ones.

3. If lost: Use SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound): If you have ever read a self-help or project management book, you’re probably already familiar with the S.M.A.R.T method. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound. It is a tried and true method of goal setting, and for a good reason: it covers all your bases.

  • Specific: Make your goals specific (like I said, small) so that you know exactly what you want to achieve. It’s easier to act on a goal if it’s specific. Change I want to make good grades into I want a 80% or higher in Biology this semester.

  • Measurable: Make your goals measurable so you can measure your success. If you want to make an 80% in Biology, that’s a good place to start. An 80% is measurable. You can track your progress through the semester, and if your grade keeps falling below an 80, you’ll know that you need to re-evaluate things. Make all goals just as measurable to ensure you know if you are making progress or if you need to go back to the drawing board.

  • Attainable: Set goals that you can attain; if you aren’t good in math, don’t make a goal to make a 100% in your Calc I class.

  • Realistic: This goes along with Attainable: make your goals realistic so that you aren’t overwhelmed. Setting unrealistic goals often leads to feeling like you reaching toward an  impossible task, which makes you more likely to quit or fail. Make sure your goals are possible.

  • Time-Bound: If your teacher gave you homework, but never set a due date, would you do it? Make a time-frame for your goals so you can know whether you are on track or not.

The S.M.A.R.T. method is tried and true, and is definitely a good place to build from, start with, or utilize if you want to up your goal-setting game. I personally don’t always use this method with every goal, but I do rely on the thought process. Once you get the hang of the S.M.A.R.T. method, it sort of gets ingrained in your brain and you start using it automatically in your head.

4. Adjust, adjust, adjust: Being able to adjust your goal is just as important as being able to set a good goal in the first place! Your outlook will change as you start to embark on your journey toward achieving your goal, which means your goal may change as well -  and that is okay. The process of achieving goals is also one of being able to constantly adjust to your current needs and desires: if you no longer feel challenged by a goal you set (or maybe you even feel too overwhelmed), take a step back and identify where you need to readjust.

Knowing that it is okay to divert from your original goal will lead you to be more fulfilled in the achievement of whatever your goal manifests into. Goal setting should NOT be static. Goals that are not flexible are more likely to be broken, so be kind to yourself and adjust your goal to your needs.

Plus -- there are so many resources out there available to you to help aid you in your goal-setting and achievement. If you’re stuck on a goal, get advice from someone you trust, like a Career Compass coach, an advisor, or a parent! And if you’re stuck and need help on an academic goal, get help from the Career Compass ASK ME! App.

So here's my proposal for 2019: Don’t set a resolution. Set a goal. Go about it the right way, and you are sure to see results. If you were guaranteed to succeed, what would you attempt?

About Sydney: Sydney Scott is a development associate for Career Compass’ communications partner. As an intern, Sydney is primarily responsible for social media brand development of clients and assists in grant writing and funding initiatives. While Sydney may be new to the world of marketing and PR, she has a valuable perspective when it comes to brand development. She has had longtime involvement in the fashion blogging community, as well as the equestrian Instagram blogging community. In 2018, Sydney’s involvement in social media led to over 20 offers for brand sponsorships on her personal Instagram account. Her passion for writing has led to her developing a love for grant writing, which she continues to gain experience in. Sydney’s work reflects her fundamental belief that social media success is the key to partnership growth in the current age of technology. Sydney is currently attending Southeastern Louisiana University in pursuit of a Marketing degree, with a concentration on Social Media Advertising. She plans to graduate early and obtain her MBA at UT Austin. 

Follow her on her Instagram account and on the Career Compass social media accounts, which she curates when she’s not studying.