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Set ‘smart goals’

education Updated: Nov 04, 2009 09:23 IST
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A 14-year-old girl gets up at six in the morning and leaves for school by seven. After school, she snacks and watches TV. Then, if she’s not taking a nap, she calls up friends or chats on the Net.

Evening means homework and more TV. Then it’s time for dinner and more calls to friends. She only goes to bed after a dose of lecturing from her parents. Yes, it’s a busy life, but ask her about her goals and she may have nothing to say.

Many young men and women today aren’t very sure of where they’re headed… and don’t think they have the time to set aside a few minutes a day to work out what they want from life. Setting goals and bridging the gap they have created between their minds and hearts, therefore, has no priority for them.

What is a goal? Is it something that drives us ahead in life, or something that nourishes our drive to succeed? According to the Oxford Dictionary, a goal is “Point marking end of race; object of effort or ambition; destination....” Thus, a goal is like an investment that clearly identifies what you want, how you can get it and when you get it.

It is important to have a goal because it changes your perspective of life and you get the will to accomplish more. A goal gives you the ability to resolve conflicts and accomplish extraordinary work. It increases self-esteem.

According to Maslow, a humanistic psychologist, it requires gratification of all the lower level basic needs as well as the full realisation of one’s needs to grow, develop and become what one is capable of becoming. Thus, our goal in life should start from the fulfilment of our very basic needs, such as eating an adequate and nutritious diet to maintain our bodies and mind. The next goal should be safety — physical and emotional — that our families give us and protection from diseases. Then, our goal should be to give and receive love and to facilitate a feeling of belonging by nurturing healthy friendships, proper mate selection, family bonding, club memberships, etc.

The goal after this would be pursuing an interesting career, financial planning for a secure future and gaining greater knowledge.

Once the goals are defined, it becomes essential to reach or achieve them. Ponder on the following points:

Tick-tack:
The goals should be specific and realistic in terms of what we want or what interests us. For example, it is better to try for admission in an engineering college than aim for both medical and engineering.

Measurable: Identify the roadblocks. Find out how each block should be dealt with. For example, you want to become a dancer or choreographer, but do not have the resources to pursue such a career. Cut down on expenses and start saving.

Obtainable: Write down one personal goal and write why this goal is important. Also try to imagine how it would feel if you manage to achieve that goal. Go after it only if you feel it’s worth it.

Challenging: Always set goals that require effort and energy… Just managing to go to school should not be a goal, but to excel in a subject should be. This in return gives a feeling of fulfillment.

Clockwise: There should always be a deadline for achieving a goal. Also, it is better if you work on smaller successes — otherwise you could become frustrated.

Chaining: Outline all the steps for achieving the goal. Each step needs to be broken down into small manageable tasks that can be accomplished. For example, if you want to be a professional cricketer, you must begin by playing the game on a daily basis, and playing seriously. Learn specific tricks, experiment, read books on pro cricketing. It’s not enough to just watch the sport on TV and play for fun on weekends.

This path leads us not only to material success, it makes us happy, too — and that is the ultimate goal in life.

The author is a senior consultant psychiatrist with Moolchand Medcity & Vimhans, New Delhi. Send him an email at hthorizons@hindustantimes.com, marked ‘Dr Nagpal’

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