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Success in College Guide: Step 2 of 9

Steps 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Identify your goals and priorities

Outline your mission

You don't have to be a superhero or social activist to have a mission. It just means that you have an idea of what you want out of life. Fortunately, this is the time in your life when you get to take the lead; you get to decide what you want out of it. Knowing who you are and what you want can help set you in the right direction, and the earlier you start thinking about your life mission, the easier it is to make the appropriate decisions and plans to reach it.

So how do you go about developing a life mission? It's not as big and scary as it sounds.

  • Choose your values. Your values are what you hold near and dear to you. They can be principles, standards or beliefs that you find most worthwhile. You probably already have a core set of beliefs that guide you. Think about what is most important to you.
  • Analyze your values, interests, and skills. Are there things that have influenced your thinking and behavior? Think about what you enjoy and what you're good at. What about the skills you've learned from full- or part-time jobs, volunteer experiences, or school and social activities. There could be a connection between your activities and skills and your values. Will any of these skills help you get where you want to go?
  • Set realistic goals. To make your dream future your reality, set some reasonable, short-term and long-term goals for yourself based on your top values. You're more likely to get where you want to go if you set a goal and commit yourself to it. To increase your chances of success even further:
    • Choose some logical steps toward your goal.
    • Take each step and fill out the details. Include the what, when, where and how for each step.
    • Now it's time for action. Do your plan.
    • Keep your plan close by, so you can see how each action step is working and make improvements to the plan as you go.
  • Do some research. Think about your dream job, and then learn more about it. Find out how other people in that field developed the career you want. Do a job shadow. Go to work with someone to find answers to questions like these:
    • What kind of training, education and skills are required?
    • What are the real-life work conditions, the work environment and the work schedule?
    • What are the likely rewards (for example, salary, fringe benefits, room to grow, retirement plans)?
      • Are these rewards important to you?
      • Would other rewards be more important to you?

Based on the work you've just done, define your life mission and start living it with every decision you make. Soon you'll be able to look back and see how far you've come.

Establish your priorities

Once you know your mission, be brutally honest with yourself: Are the activities that take up most of your time really moving you towards your goals? If not, it is time to set some priorities that support your goals, and make sure they get plenty of your time and attention.

Time is a precious commodity; basically, you use it or lose it. The good news is that we all have the same amount of time every day, so use it to your advantage. Since there will always be plenty of diversions to distract you from your goals, practice staying in the driver's seat when it comes to time management. Remember putting off for tomorrow the things you can do today is procrastination. Procrastination is wasted energy.

Here are some time management tools that can bring a sigh of relief to your busy college life.

  • Use task lists and a calendar to manage school, family, and social responsibilities. You have enough important facts and figures to remember right now without committing your ongoing calendar to memory. Use a time management tool to coordinate all of your daily, weekly, monthly tasks, obligations, social events, tests --and anything that is important for you to do.
  • Understand the difference between important and urgent. Important tasks must be done; urgent tasks must be done NOW. Some things can be taken care of tomorrow, later this week, or next week. Really!
  • Work with your natural rhythm, not against it. Everyone has specific periods of peak productivity, so capitalize on your best time of day. If you're a morning person, plan to tackle the most difficult tasks before lunch. Likewise, if you're a night owl, don't force yourself to study or work on complicated projects until late afternoon or evening.
  • Accept that you just can't do everything. Don't be a popularity addict. It may feel good in the moment to be "in demand," but wouldn't it feel even better to achieve the life you really want? Limit your commitments by choosing activities that you truly enjoy and are consistent with your goals. Practice saying no without feeling guilty; the mastery of the tactful decline is a skill that will come in handy throughout your life!
  • Take care of yourself by paying attention to your physical, emotional and financial health. The same rules still apply: eat well, get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, and build time into your schedule for relaxation. Take proper care of your body and it will take care of you. Remember that stress, although it can't be seen, can cause a lot of damage - don't overtax your emotions with too many commitments. Also, pay attention to your financial health as well. Be realistic about your money, create a realistic budget and stick to it. Using a spending plan to control your finances can actually feel great-- it's empowering. Develop that muscle of determined discipline, and watch how it drives you towards your goals.