Maybe it's time to consider a permanent form of self-improvement. One that can enhance your career, and increase your income. A resolution that can be funded by your education benefits. Resolve to go back-to-school and earn your degree!
Like any other resolution, getting a degree takes time, effort, commitment, and planning. But, unlike other resolutions, once you get started, earning your degree will seem easier as you progress toward your goal. And unlike getting in shape, a college degree doesn't require a lifetime commitment. College degrees don't expire.
The hardest part is getting started. That's where setting goals can help. Goal setting doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, personal goal setting is no different than mission or objective planning in the military. All you need is a set of clear objectives that are well defined, measurable, realistic and time driven.
You can use a simple process for writing down your goals that will assure they are clearly communicated, well defined, measurable, realistic and time driven. The process for this is called "SMART" goal setting:
- ACTION ORIENTED
The following is an example of how you can use this process create your personalized education goal:
SPECIFIC: Your goals need to be clear, focused, concise, and well defined. Avoid general terms and be as detailed as you can.
A vague example: I want to get my degree. A specific example: I am going to get my associate degree in Liberal Arts.
MEASURABLE: It is important that you have a way to measure your success. Check to see if your goal has time frames, dates, dollar amounts, number of credits, etc. It is important that your goal has a way to measure your success.
An un-measurable example: I want to get my degree, someday. A measurable example: I am going to get my associate degree in Liberal Arts, by next summer.
ACTION ORIENTED: The goal must require you to take action, not a reaction. Winning the Lotto jackpot may be one of the few examples of achieving your goals without giving much effort. However, your odds are more than one in 4 million. Check your goal to see if you are including a list of actions you plan to take to accomplish your goal.
A non-action oriented example: I want to get my degree, someday. An action-oriented example: I will take classes and pass all of the general CLEP exams to earn my associate degree in Liberal Arts, by next summer.
REALISTIC: Next, check to see if your goal is manageable, attainable, believable and your own! Letting others set your goals for you leads to low motivation and high anxiety.
A not-so-realistic example: I want to get my degree next month. A more realistic example: I will take classes each semester, pass all of the general CLEP exams, and use my Military Experience credits to earn my associate degree in Liberal Arts, by next December.
TIME DRIVEN/TIMELY: Your goals need to have a starting point, a time-line and an ending point. Goals can also be broken down into smaller objectives.
- SHORT-TERM GOALS or STEPS (goals to be accomplished within the next six to12 months)
- MEDIUM-TERM GOALS (goals to be accomplished within one to five years)
- LONG-TERM GOALS (goals to be accomplished within the next five to15 years)
An example of an undefined time-line: I want to get my degree by the time I get out of the military.
A well-defined (medium-term) time-line: I am going to get started tomorrow taking two classes a semester, and I will pass a general CLEP exam each month to earn my associate degree in Liberal Arts by next December.
Refined SMART Education Goal: I am going to take two classes each semester, pass my general CLEP exams, and use my Military Experience (ACE) credits to earn my associate degree in Liberal Arts by next December.
Critical Success Factors:
- Your goals should be written down in positive terms.
- Your goals should be posted in a prominent place, so you can stay focused.
- The goals have to be your own.
- Be flexible, your situations and goals can and will change as life circumstances change. In other words, if your deadline becomes unrealistic, change it.
- Write down your goals.
- Start contacting colleges and universities to get their help creating your degree plan.
- Develop a personalized action plan.