FirstYearUniversity.comOne of our readers recently asked, “what advice would you give for first year students who are struggling, but not enough to be put on academic probation?”

If you haven’t done so, read part I of our advice for struggling first year students, especially if you need help with time management and dealing with distractions.  But, if you need big help getting motivated to study and succeed, read on!

Motivation is one of those tricky things in life that nobody can really teach you.  The fact of the matter is that we’re all motivated by different things and it’s up to you figure out how best to get motivated to succeed at university. One of the best ways to help you become more motivated in school is to set goals.  Goal setting is an often-taught motivational tool that seems easy to implement, but is actually quite hard to master.  Think about it.  If it was easy, you wouldn’t have motivational speakers like Jim Rohn making millions teaching people how to set goals.

The good news is that simple, but effective goal setting techniques can be learned by everyone provided you’re willing to take the following steps to get started. First, you need to identify your short term and long term goals.  Short term goals should focus on things you want to achieve daily, weekly and/or monthly.  Long term goals are bigger goals that take time to achieve.  These are the 5 to 10 year goals that you want to set for yourself.  Generally, you should start by figuring our your long term goals.  Think big and don’t be afraid to put down some really crazy and unrealistic term goals. Believe or not this is the easy part.

Once you’ve identified all the things you want to achieve, it’s time to create your ‘road map’ to achieving these long term goals by writing down very specific short term goals.   This is the tough part of goal setting.  The best advice I can give you is to take your time in writing your short term goals. You need to be realistic, detailed and not be afraid of the work and difficulties that you’ll start to see from this exercise. Take some time to some carefully thought out short term goals that are tied to each of long term goals.  Then you need to start filtering out and focusing your short and long term goals. In the end you want to have 1 to 3 long term goals supported by 4 to 5 short term goals each. If done right, you should come out of this exercise with a strong sense of direction and an even stronger sense of purpose. To keep yourself on track, you should then find a way to remind yourself of your goals everyday.  Write your goals down on something that you can post on a wall or a mirror such as sticky notes or note them in a journal to carry around. One trick that I can recommend is to display your goals as a wallpaper on your cellphone or laptop.

So, that’s the basics of goal setting. It’s a simple concept that’s quite difficult to master. Just remember that the road to success requires small steps, thinking big and being disciplined.