Educational Goals: These 18 Missteps Kept You from Hitting Them in 2018
As we near the end of the year, your educational goals — like others — are likely coming closer into focus. How many did you accomplish? What’s left on the docket? Is any of it possible in the next few days?
If you’re like us, this time of introspection can be simultaneously disappointing and reinvigorating. On one hand, it’s easy to get down on the failures of the last year. On the other, it’s a great moment to refocus your efforts and surge forward into the new year determined to turn it around.
In the following article, we’re going to discuss some of the main reasons that you probably failed to reach those educational goals still on your to-do list. Calling out the reasons should put you in a better position for 2019. Let’s get started!
1. Not Writing Things Down
Writing down your goals using a pen and actual paper creates a bond between the brain and the page that is hard to replicate with a tablet and stylus or desktop/laptop and word processing program or productivity app. Think about it for a moment.
Your brain conceives the goal. It sends a signal to your hand to write down the goal onto a blank sheet of paper. As you fashion the words, you have time to unpack that goal into several action steps.
This natural act of slowing down gives you a clearer picture, not only of the goal itself but also of the individual steps needed to turn it into a reality. Technology (i.e., smartphones and typing) is designed to speed up the documentation process rather than engage your brainwaves. While it can help catalog your goals, it isn’t as effective with cognition.
2. Failing to Follow Through
Of course, one of the biggest obstacles to achieving your educational goals is failing to follow through with the specific actions that need to be taken. It’s one thing to have the end result in mind, but it’s another to do the tough work that needs to be done to get there.
One of the worst things you can do — and we’ll talk about this more in a moment — is fool yourself into thinking you’re making progress when you’re really not. So keep your eyes on the prize at all moments. Track your progress regularly, whatever your goal is. And if you’re not making headway, try to figure out where the hangup is.
Staying busy in such a manner is useful for making progress on those long-range goals. Employ this line of thinking in the new year, and you’ll be well on your way to reclaiming progress.
3. Staying Too Comfortable
Comfortable is a nasty word when it comes to growth and getting things done. It’s hard to realize that at first because we like to be comfortable. It makes us feel nice, and it can rejuvenate our spirits. But it can also be a productivity killer.
When you stay too long in a state of comfort, you tend to lose quickness, strength, and agility. Your ability to stay alert and open to change diminishes as well. This is as true for mental goals as it is for physical. It’s ideal to keep challenging yourself. When you do that, you push past limits and come out the other side capable of far more than you ever were before.
4. Focusing Too Much on the Easy Wins
It’s always good to set goals that are attainable. But you need to find balance between what is attainable and what is failing to move you forward. For many, it can be difficult to see where the line is. Don’t assume that because you’re accomplishing things that you’re closer to achieving what you need to achieve.
“Baby steps” are great for starters, but if you’re still taking those two years later, you’re developmentally behind in whatever you’re attempting to accomplish. Remember: too many easy wins in the short term are destined to make you a long-term loser.
Just ask any college football team that pads their non-conference only to get buried by every team in their division when the season play really heats up. It’s true for football. It’s true for your educational goals.
5. Too Much Talking, Not Enough Action
Some people think that talking more about their goals will hold them accountable. The thought process goes something like this. Everyone who hears me talk about it will continue to ask how I’m doing, and that pressure will cause me to continue pursuing the goal until completion.
While it’s sound logic, it tends to have the opposite effect for a lot of people. They spend so much time talking about what they’re going to do that they fail to take the appropriate action needed for actually meeting the demands inherent to the goal.
Another thing that can happen: as the goal stays further out of reach, the pressure of what others might think about your lack of progress can compound and lead to you falling further and further behind. While a certain degree of verbalizing your goal may be a good idea, remember that action is the key to achievement.
6. Not Listening to Criticism
Criticism can be hard to listen to, especially when you’ve really given something your all and brought it to a presumed state of completion. Many people will get defensive and push back against what they’re hearing. It’s understandable that you would feel a need to defend your position. After all, whatever you’ve attempted represents hours of your sweat equity.
Writing is an especially difficult thing to hear criticism of. But in every Acknowledgements section to every major bestselling novel, you’ll see a listing of people the author gives credit to for making the work complete. Inevitably, editors, proofreaders, and fact-checkers will be among those individuals.
The lesson: even some of the most widely successful people need a second, third, or even fourth pair of eyes to make their work what it is. What makes you think that you’re impervious to such criticisms? Make sure your first instinct to defend is not getting in the way of someone trying to help you.
If you don’t, you’ll end up failing to meet your goals. You’ll also ensure that they never try to help you with anything else, ever.
7. Seeking Approval Over All Else
Spend all of your time trying to find others’ approval, and you’ll allow flaws in your thinking and work that could prove to be catastrophic. People who tell you what you want to hear may make you feel good for a while, but they’ll ultimately set you up to fail.
We’ve already warned against taking criticism too harshly. That aversion to feedback can push you toward the silver-tongued devils who cause you to persist down a flawed pathway. Don’t fall into the trap of it all just because it puts a smile on your face.
8. Looking Busy Instead of Being Productive
It’s easy to feel like you’ve got it all together if you’re doing something that makes you feel like you’re staying busy. But busy work isn’t going to do you any favors if it has nothing in common with the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Before you take on each new task, have a talk with yourself. Ask the question: how is this getting me closer to my goal? If you’re having trouble answering that or not able to at all, then consider another way. Think of it like running in place when you’re trying to run a race.
Sure, your heartbeat may increase. You may get out of breath. You might even burn some calories. But if the goal is to make it to the end of the race, you’re going to be in the same exact place where you started by the end of it all, and everyone — from the slowest to the fastest — is going to finish ahead of you.
9. Following the Wrong Path Instead of Reversing Course
Nothing is more disheartening than when you’ve worked really hard at something only to find out that you started from a flawed mindset. Every bit of work you’ve done feels productive. It feels like you did good work. But it’s wrong, and everything that came from it is wrong, and now you know that all that time and effort has been wasted!
There’s a temptation when you come to that realization to see it through to the end because the thought of starting over is more disheartening than anything else. Be on your guard. Doing something wrong and completing it is far worse than doing something the right way and not quite reaching the end destination.
In the latter case, you at least place yourself into a better position for future endeavors. That isn’t the case when you persist in failure.
10. Listening Too Much
Listening is a good quality unless you listen so much and to so many people that you have trouble knowing when and where to get started or what to do at critical points in your journey. This will doom you to failure every time.
Eventually, you have to know when to pause the intake and know how to process the information. If you’ve failed to reach your educational goals in 2018, there’s a pretty good chance the inability to do so played a role in it.
Trust. You have it in other people trying to guide you. But eventually, you’ll need to have it in your own abilities.
11. Not Finding a Mentor
For most of our young lives, we listen more to our parents than anyone else. But there is a danger in this as we get older. And the danger is this.
Your parents don’t want you to fail. And they will do most anything in their power to keep that from happening, including keeping you from certain things that could prove to be failures but lead to long-term growth. Furthermore, they lack the niche expertise that you may require to advance in your education and career.
Mentors are different. They understand that failure is a necessary part of the learning curve. And they have the knowledge to ensure the failures you do experience bring you closer to mastery. If you’ve failed to reach your 2018 educational goals, take a moment to consider who the mentors are in your life.
Do you have any at all? Are you too close to the ones that you do have? Look for professionals in the line of work or discipline that you’re pursuing and try to stoke those relationships.
12. Trying to Do Too Much
Taking on more than you can handle will only work for so long. Like spinning plates, they’ll eventually come crashing down should you accept more and more of them. When they do fall, it won’t just be one or two. It will be every one of them that you had in your care.
For literal plates, this isn’t necessarily going to be a big deal. But for the figurative ones we’re talking about — key concepts important to your education, class loads, responsibilities at work — it could mean the end of everything you hoped to achieve.
That said, it’s always possible to take on more as a way of pressuring yourself past your comfort zone. But do an assessment of yourself beforehand. Do you have a history of quitting things when they get to be too much? What is so different about this situation that will result in a better outcome? Be honest with yourself and your own abilities as you answer these questions.
13. Ignoring Fitness
Physical fitness may not seem like it has a place when it comes to your educational goals. But the reality is that it plays a significant role. If your body isn’t working right, your mind will follow suit.
Sadly, many of us allow this part of our lives to fall by the wayside. Some of us realize it and reel ourselves back in before health declines too much. Others wait until they’re way past the breaking point.
What makes this even worse is that it really doesn’t take much to turn around bad physical conditioning. Thirty solid minutes of cardio time per day — provided you’re eating a reasonable diet — can keep you from gaining excess weight and may even lead to weight loss. Thirty minutes! That’s roughly an episode of your favorite sitcom.
Commit to hitting that 30 minutes per day, and you’ll be surprised what your mind will accomplish as a result.
14. Failing to Build a Support System
We’ve already touched on support systems with a few of the other entries on this list, but here’s where we put it all together. What should your support system look like?
For starters, it should consist of the right people. That will include at least one person who will be honest about everything — what you do well, what you can improve on, and what your limitations are. You’ll also need a mentor, who can do all of these things but from a perspective of knowledge and expertise in the field you’re studying as well.
Aside from the people, you need the appropriate resources. Without them, your productivity will decline and you could be working from a flawed starting point (example: using an outdated manual that doesn’t account for modern technological developments).
15. Comparing Yourself to Others
If you’re always comparing yourself to others, one of two things will happen. You’ll either get a false sense of security. As in, you’ll think you’re better at something than you really are. Or you’ll always feel like a failure and bog yourself down in what’s wrong instead of what’s right.
Yes, there is a danger in being satisfied with your work if it means you fail to improve. But at a certain point, you’ve got to start being real with yourself about what your strengths are and what you’re capable of accomplishing.
16. Competing in the Wrong Direction
As an extension of No. 15, don’t spend all your time competing in the wrong direction. Here’s what we mean by this. When you compete against other people, you have as much motivation to tear them down as you do to build yourself up.
Going into any organization where there is this cutthroat mentality breeds a lot of things, but teamwork and cohesion are not two of them. As a rule, turn your competitive spirit inward.
If you spend more of your time competing against yourself, then you’ll become the type of person who can reach new educational heights. As a worker, you’ll be able to take organizations to the next level and foster an external spirit of cooperation.
17. Freezing Up
Freezing up can mean that you fail to take the appropriate action when it’s necessary. This is a fatal flaw of individuals who never learn to trust in their own abilities. They allow too many cooks in the kitchen — too many theories to persist without testing those theories and making determinations based on their own observations.
If you want to get unfrozen, then you have to learn when to let go and accept a reasonable degree of risk. Without risk, there are no rewards.
18. Giving in to Peer Pressure
Peer pressure is not entirely bad. For example, your friends can keep you from making really bad decisions if their hearts and minds are in the right place. But the company you keep means everything as far as this is concerned.
If you’re hanging out with the wrong people or trusting the wrong group on a certain educational goal, then you’ll end up handling things the way they’ve pressured you to. As a result, you’ll make the wrong decision every single time.
Only give in to peer pressure when your friends have proven to be assets instead of detriments. Make it work for you, or avoid it altogether.
Achieving Your Educational Goals Is Within Reach
Don’t feel badly if you’ve made it to the end of the year, and it still feels as if there is more to do. Your educational goals should never be “complete” because learning is a lifelong process. At least, it should be if you’re doing it right. So how are you doing with your 2018, students and graduates-to-be? Did you get everything checked off your list? What goals do you still have to accomplish? Sound off in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by MaxPixel]