Goals and Maintaining Motivation Year-Round


I learned the importance of goals back in high school track and field. My coach taught us to develop goals regularly and constantly find ways to achieve them. It was a great lesson because it took my very basic goals such as “set a new personal record” to “I am going to pole vault 15 feet by May”. It is very important to be specific when creating goals. I just recently read in the book, The Compound Effect, a quote by Paul Meyer that said, “If you are not making the progress that you would like to make and are capable of making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined”. I think this statement really hits it home. Clear and specific goals are necessary to make regular and consistent progress.

Specific goals also help you avoid falling into the trap of “working really hard but accomplishing nothing” that we sometimes fall in to. It is a disappointing place where you feel like you’re doing so much but not really getting anywhere. If you’re ever feeling like you are in that place, it is because your work is not focused or you are trying to work on too many things at once. It is better to go all in on one thing and do it well than half-ass ten things and make no progress with any of them. Kylee and I went to go see Made for More by Rachel Hollis last night (author of Girl, Wash Your Face) and Rachel made a metaphor that I really liked. She made the comparison of throwing a boulder into a lake versus throwing in bunch of small rocks—which one makes more of a ripple? By going all in on one thing and making progress in that one area, your motivation and drive that you get from that one area will naturally spread to other areas of your life and you will naturally make progress everywhere. Rachel’s content is mainly directed towards women but the message is universal and I really enjoyed it. We will be hearing her speak at the coaching summit that we are going to this summer and now we are even more excited to go! Ladies—definitely check her stuff out. Guys—buy your girlfriend one of her books or something.


People often find a little extra motivation around the new year so this is an excellent time to capitalize on your newfound drive! To make your motivation actually last more than the first two weeks of the new year, you need to create a plan for each of your goals. By making a plan and accomplishing goals regularly, you can maintain that motivation year-round. The plans need to only be as complex as the goals. Even for simple goals though, I would recommend coming up with three things you can do to accomplish them. For example: if your goal is to cut out soda from your diet, you might stop drinking soda (obviously), come up with an alternative to drink when you crave soda (tea), and keep track of how many days you’ve gone without soda. If you give in to your cravings, document what you had and why you ended up having it. Writing down why you gave in is a good exercise to do because you’ll usually end up finding the reason why you gave in to be ridiculous and you’ll be less likely to do it again. Most importantly, if you do give in, don’t beat yourself up over it, write down your reasoning, and just get right back on the horse. Failing is just a part of the process. The only reason you can’t accomplish your goal is if you give up and you’re less likely to give up if you have a plan! Another great quote from The Compound Effect is “a goal without a plan is just a fantasy”. Don’t let your goals just be fantasies. Go write them down, make them specific and quantifiable, create a plan, and please read The Compound Effect.

Being Adaptable and Staying Positive

I have changed course many times in the last 5 or 6 years since beginning college. I started college at Paradise Valley Community College to run track and study business. I knew it was common for people to switch majors throughout college, but I did not realize how difficult it could be to decide on one. Throughout my two years at PVCC, I fluctuated between business, exercise science, mathematics, and eventually landed on teaching English. I was able to decide on teaching English because I reframed how I was approaching my major. I was struggling to pick a major because I did not know what I wanted to do with a degree once I got it. I decided that I might be better off picking a job and then going back and finding an appropriate major that would set me up for success in that career field.

            I knew that I wanted to see the world and I knew that if money wasn’t a factor that I would be a teacher. So, I boiled it down to wanting to teach, wanting to make money, and wanting to travel. After doing some research I found that teaching English abroad would be the perfect way to achieve all three. I could make a decent wage, live abroad, and teach! My plan, while abroad, was to also study the education systems I taught in so that I could eventually come back and figure out how to help our education system here. What I didn’t realize at the time I made this plan, was that my motivations were backwards.

Celebrating finishing college before going right back to college!

Celebrating finishing college before going right back to college!

            When I transferred to Arizona State University to begin working on my degree in secondary education and began interning in schools, I realized just how poor our education here is. At first, this reinforced my desire to go abroad. I was just going to steer clear of the craziness that is going on here and head out. But, in my last semester of the program during my student teaching, I became interested in graduate school. With graduate school, I would still be sticking around for a while longer, postpone my teaching a little bit, and setting myself up for bigger possibilities for a career in education. Still with the teaching English abroad plan in mind however, I applied for a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MTESOL).

            I realized upon starting the semester in the MTESOL program, that MTESOL is a much more research-based degree based on the theory behind second language acquisition and not necessarily a teaching degree. This realization did two things for me: one, I decided that second language acquisition, while interesting, was not really a career path that I wanted to dedicate myself to, and two, I realized I have an interest in research. So, now I have switched majors at the Associate level, the Bachelor level, and now the Masters level. I have decided to switch out of the MTESOL program and am now in the application process for getting into a program called Learning Sciences.

            Learning Sciences is a little more focused on educational research and considers the systems behind learning in a variety of contexts. I think it is a cool degree because it goes beyond just education in the classroom and studies what learning looks like in other environments and systems as well. I excited for yet another change of pace and can’t wait to see what I can accomplish in a program that I feel is better aligned with my motivations. I have come to realize that I do not need to wait to try help our education system in the future when I can get started on it now.

            Ultimately, the point of this post is not to go on and on about the different kinds of graduate degrees that ASU offers, the point I really want to illustrate is that it is completely fine to decide that you don’t like something and switch gears. You can do all this planning and have it all laid out and the suddenly something new enters your world and changes your perspective on things. Or, you might get started and have an epiphany a few weeks into your new graduate program that perhaps you did not fully understand your own motivations. Whatever happens, it is important to be adaptable. Destinations change so it is important to enjoy the journey. I can view my change in programs as an expensive mistake, or I can view it as a valuable lesson. The choice is mine, and mine alone. I know I can adapt and roll with the punches and I am good at finding the positive outlook in any situation. Having a positive mindset is the key to being adaptable. I believe that if you can develop a positive mindset, you can handle anything. If you are stressed out or unsure about what you are doing or where you are going, you have the power to change all of that. Even if you don’t know what road you are on, know that it is the road for you.


3 Quotes to Ponder:

I’m a big fan of quotes and phrases as a source of motivation and a way to stay positive!

I’m a big fan of quotes and phrases as a source of motivation and a way to stay positive!

 “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose on thought over another”

“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts”

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end”


Comment below how many times you have switched majors/careers or one of your strategies to stay positive!