Tips for Grads: How to stick with your goals

By Foram Gathia, PhD student
The initial excitement of setting resolutions can wane as the year progresses, and many find themselves struggling to stay on course. The journey toward self-improvement is a marathon rather than a sprint, demanding persistence, resilience, and a strategic approach.

  • Set realistic goals – While it is easy to become over-ambitious, it is a good idea to set achievable goals for yourself. Smaller goals allow you to be flexible, and if you have the mindset that the resolutions are fluid and constantly changing, you can move the goalposts as you make progress.
  • Focus on learning instead of just grades – By learning the material in a way you can use it in a real-life situation, you’re not only improving your understanding of the concept, but you can also improve your grades without the pressure of getting a certain score.
  • Ask for help – Sometimes asking for help is one of the hardest things to do. Taking care of yourself and getting the support you need is vital to your continued success as a student. This year, commit to using whatever resources are available to help when you find yourself in challenging situations.
  • Create SMART goals – Goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Specific goals help to define the desired outcome, making it easier to create actionable steps. Measurable goals enable tracking progress, while ensuring achievability guards against setting unrealistic expectations. Relevance ensures that the goals align with personal and academic priorities, and time-bound criteria provide a sense of urgency.

In the face of adversity or moments of wavering motivation, it is crucial to revisit the initial spark that ignited the desire for change. Reflecting on the reasons behind our resolutions reaffirms their significance, reigniting the passion and dedication required to stay on course.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.