Resolutions, Goals, and Plans…Oh My!By way of full disclosure, I am a planner. I enjoy setting goals, making lists, and having a plan for where I am headed in my life. Admittedly I am not always successful, but I continue to follow this practice anyway. Why? Because if I make resolutions, set goals, and create plans I believe I will have a better chance of accomplishing things that are important to me. Without them, my chance of success is much smaller.
As we launch into 2018 many of us will take time to reflect on the past year and to ponder the possibilities of the year ahead. There are plenty of voices out there telling us the merits of making resolutions and plans, while another set of voices say do not bother, no one keeps them anyway. So who is right? Well, I suppose that depends on each individual. However, as an academic Dean, I can offer some advice to students and faculty on the merits of making reasonable resolutions, setting specific and measureable goals, and creating plans related to accomplishing academic success.
Set the Table
My first meaningful exposure to intentional planning and goal setting was in high school. My varsity basketball coach required every team member each year to create a plan on how they were going to improve in certain skills such as free throws, lay-ups, conditioning, etc. He told us on an ongoing basis, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Then inferring that if one of us fails, our team fails. Consequently, this truth was instilled in me at an early age and has actually served me well throughout my life. Many experts in the field of time management and goal setting have used this term in various ways. It recently came to my attention that the original saying may have come from Benjamin Franklin, however, I have not been able to confirm the veracity. Regardless, the concept has been around for generations. Tracy (2002) calls this practice setting the table, which is the practice of deciding what you want. Tracy also notes that clarity is key.
What I learned early on was that the act of making a resolution to improve, setting goals, and making plans was what moved me toward progress. Whether or not I was 100% consistent or perfect in working the plans and adhering to my goals and resolutions was not necessarily the determining factor of my accomplishments. However, the act of planning, establishing, and writing them down was actually the key and was the catalyst for success. I am not saying the action part is not important, but without having a clear picture of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go, the actions would just be busy work.
What Resolutions Mean for Students
In a recent conversation with a colleague we were discussing the merits of resolutions, goals, and plans, which became the catalyst for this blog post. We were talking about how resolutions fit into the greater scheme of goals and plans. Being fond of words and their meanings, I went straight to the dictionary for the meaning of the word resolution. The online dictionary gave several definitions of resolution, but the ones that resonated most with me were the ones under the category “Definition of Resolution for Students” those definitions included “something decided on,” “firmness of purpose,” and “the act of solving” (Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, 2017). For me, those definitions are the foundation upon which goals and plans can be built so that students can succeed in their academic pursuits and faculty for their professional development and scholarship. As I think back on the graduate speakers at the October 2017, University of the Rockies Commencement, those were common themes in both speeches. They each decided on earning a degree, they both were firm in their purpose as to why they wanted to earn their degree, and throughout their programs they worked to solve the issues and obstacles that were presented throughout their programs. Lastly, they were able to use their academic resolutions to identify and create their goals, and then to build action plans to accomplish their goals. I highly recommend watching their commencement addresses. The Master’s and Doctoral graduate speeches begin around the 18-minute mark. I think their stories are both inspiring and motivating and are a testament to making resolutions, setting goals, and working a plan.
What You Can Do
Most of us do not need to be convinced of the value of making resolutions and settings goals, we just need to be reminded occasionally that it is worth the extra time and effort it takes to focus on actually write them down. So, in order to be fully prepared to accomplish the things that are most important to each of us in the coming year, I would recommend the following.
- Make resolutions and create declarations of what will be the focus for the coming year. Write these down, keep them in a place where they can be seen on a regular, if not daily, basis.
- Create some SMART goals that will support your resolutions. A simple Google search on SMART goals will provide many options for how to construct them. However, there are many options for creating goals other than the SMART system. Decide which method works best for you.
- Create a plan for how each goal will be accomplished. This plan can be broken down into daily, weekly, and monthly steps. Again, I cannot stress how important it is to make sure these are written down, and that they are somewhere that they can be reviewed regularly. I hope 2018 is all that you wish it to be and that you set yourself up for success in a way that helps you accomplish your academic, work, and life goals.
Written by Dr. Tami Beaty, Dean of Master’s Programs
Resolution. 2017. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved December 19, 2017 from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resolution
Tracy, Brian. (2002). Eat That Frog. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.