I had an interesting conversation with some of the young people I mentor at Paradigm Initiative. About a third of the current class wrote their UTME exams not too long ago. Before the exams I asked them what their short term goals were. Naturally, all UTME candidates mentioned getting into the University to study a course (of their choice?).
Smiling, I let them know while getting into the university can be a huge stepping stone to greater things, their short term goal was not a very good one. It’s easy to say “My goal is to pass UTME and get admission into BUK to study economics.” It sounds good and you seem focused. However, it fails to meet one very important criteria for good goal setting. The statement is not actionable. Go back and read it again carefully.
I explained to the 2019A DakataLIFE class that a good goal is one that focuses on what you can do. Getting your name on a University’s admission list depends on a number of factors, none of them within an average student’s control. Your goal has to be something you can break down into simple tasks.
I gave the class three questions to think about?
- Have you found out the cutoff marks for your intended course?
- Have you been practising past questions for your subject combination?
- What do you intend to do if you don’t score enough? Wasting another year to write UTME is not an option.
From the answers they provided, we agreed that a more actionable goal would be something like “I will practise past questions for two hours everyday so I can score insert-cutoff-marks to study insert-chosen-course at insert-chosen-university.”
A common mistake in goal setting is to focus on the end result. In the students’ case, the end result was admission. Yet in many cases, that end result might depend on so many factors outside your control, it does not make sense to include it in your goal statement. Rather, ask yourself what can I get started on immediately so I can make definite progress towards my goal? Any goal that is not actionable is a poorly written goal. What tasks are you working on currently that are contributing towards achieving your goal? If you can’t think of any, it may be time to revisit your goal statement to see if it is actionable.