Do you find that the biggest and most rewarding things are always the hardest to achieve? This is because, to a large extent, our brains are mostly incapable of dealing with large-scale long-term goals. Our minds are very good at focusing on the immediate future: what we want to do on the weekend, what we want to eat for dinner and whether or not we feel like sleeping in. But we are much worse at thinking practically about the long term future: what we have to do to get into the University course of our dreams, what we can do to achieve a high ATAR score. When we think about these goals, it is often hard to figure out how to act on them. Today, I will provide my top 5 tips on how to get your head around your own long-term goals and start working towards them today.

1. Understand your motivation

Before you can start working towards a long-term goal, you need to understand your motivation. What do you hope to achieve? Why do you want to achieve this? How will you feel when you achieve it? The more you focus on your motivation and exactly why you care about the particular goal, the more likely it is that you will work hard towards achieving it

2. Set smaller milestones

As I have said, our brains are pretty terrible at thinking in the long term. If you plan something that you want to achieve in a year, you will either find yourself overwhelmed by the enormity of the task or entirely apathetic and inclined to procrastinate.Ideally, you should set yourself clear milestones of what you wish to achieve at least every couple of weeks. This will make it easier to plan what you have to do.

3. Make a clear plan

“Work hard” is not a plan. “Study every day” is not a plan. “Get better at maths” is not a plan. In order to achieve a long-term goal, it is important to set yourself clear objectives and clear instructions as to exactly what you need to do each day to achieve it. Do this when you are most motivated and make sure you live up to the tasks that you have set yourself.

4. Assess your progress regularly

Every couple of weeks, it is important to check your progress and ask yourself whether or not you are on track to achieve your goal. Try not to think about this in terms of succeeding or failing; rather think about whether or not you can change anything in the immediate future to make it easier for your to achieve your milestones. Perhaps you need a new plan, or perhaps you need to reassess your motivations.

5. Enjoy your successes

A lot of students forget that they are allowed to enjoy their successes. Every time you achieve a short-term goal, every time you make progress towards your long-term goal, you should allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment. We are driven by emotions; the more you link your hard work to positive feelings, the more you congratulate yourself for your efforts, the harder you are likely to work in the future.

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