Michelle's independent resources for ESL Students at Vancouver Community College

This is a Canadian ESL blog for Intermediate and Advanced Students who want to learn and improve their English. Each PAGE above contains thousands of free English lessons, tutorials and practice exercises to help you learn and improve your English grammar, reading, listening, pronunciation, speaking, writing and editing. Some of the resources are Canadian. Others are from around the world.

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

How To Set Achievable Goals

How are you doing with your New Year's resolutions? Are they already beginning to look like wishful thinking - a dream, rather than something achievable? 

According to research by Stephen Shapiro and Opinion Corporation,only 8% of the 45% of Americans who make resolutions are always successful in achieving their resolutions,19% achieve their resolutions every other year,49% have limited success, and 24% NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolutions every year.” 

So... what's the problem? 
Making Resolution vs Setting Realistic  Goals 
There's a big difference between making resolutions and setting goals.  When you make a resolution, you make a  promise to change yourself, or the way you do things. This or these promises are often unrealistic, or wishful thinking. When you set goals,  you make a plan to achieve something specific. 

If you expect to succeed, you need to use strategies to help you achieve your goals. Psychologists and other specialists, say setting SMART goals will increase your success rate. The word SMART is an acronym  for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. 

Using SMART goals is learning how to take small steps before you walk, then walking confidently before you start running.
Think about smart goals as a series of smaller easy-to-accomplish action steps towards achieving your bigger goal. If you use this method you are more likely to develop the self-discipline , dedication and the belief that you can eventually achieve your bigger goal. By using this method you can feel proud that you HAVE achieved yet one more step towards your end goal in instead of always being disappointed with yourself and your progress.

What exactly are SMART goals?  

S= Specific: Make your goal(s) specific, not general. What do you want to accomplish? Saying you want to improve your English grammar is general. It doesn't really mean anything because you don't really know what you really want, or how to measure it. On the other hand, if you are an advanced level student, start with something like " I want to be able to write with only a few verb tense mistakes by the end of the term,  or I want to understand and use prepositions properly 80% of the time."   Don't say you want to improve your communication skills.Try something like this: I want to be able to comfortably carry on a ten minute conversation with a stranger.  

M=Measurable.  Make your goals measurable.  For example, if you want to make fewer verb tense errors in your writing, start working towards that goal by learning which tenses to use in your writing. Start proofreading and editing  your writing. Finally, count the  number of verb tense errors your teacher has marked. Are you making fewer errors each time? Don't give up after one or two tries. Keep doing this over a period of time, and measure the improvement. Are you getting closer to your goal? If you do reach your goal- extend the goal,or develop another one. 

A=Attainable:  Be realistic.  Keep your goals achievable and don't set too many at the same time. For example, if you are not comfortable speaking English out of class, don't think you will be fluent and comfortable at the end of three months. Be realistic. For example, decide that you want to be comfortable speaking in a few non-survival situations.  Then, make a plan and stick to it.  If you never speak English outside of class, decide to join a church, a club, a meet-up group, or a sports team. Do this regularly, and as often as possible. Participate, become engaged rather than sitting back and letting others do the talking. Become as comfortable as you can with that particular group. After a few weeks, try to determine if your comfort level has increased. Continue measuring it. Are you now using your English spontaneously with strangers, at work?

R= Relevant. Make sure you goal is relevant to your needs. Focus on areas you are weak in  rather than on stronger skills.  For example, if your  pronunciation is OK,  leave it alone.  Decide what you DO need to work on now. How about your vocabulary? Do you still use simple words like bad, good nice, interesting, have, be, and do instead of better words that show you are not a beginner.  Determine the  kind of vocabulary you want to be able to actively use correctly in three months. Make sure these words are useful ones for your life - NOT  the kind you will only use once on a TOEFL test. Then, make a plan as to how you intend to accomplish this. Make your plan specific, measurable and realistic.

T= Time-bound: Set a time frame within which you want to achieve your small goals. As I said before, your English will not be perfect in three months. There is no magic. It takes time. But, you can make fewer mistakes in your writing and speaking. You can improve your ability to listen to the news, or understand more complicated instructions at work. You can start feeling more comfortable stepping outside your comfort zone and speaking to English speakers. 

Using the SMART goal approach is one way to work towards becoming successful. In my next post, I will discuss specific methods to use in the SMART goal system  as well as provide some other tips to help you succeed in meeting your goals. I will also discuss specific small steps you can take in each of the skill areas: listening, speaking, reading, writing, pronunciation and grammar.

Let me know what you think, or if you have some suggestions of your own.   


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I never tried to achieve any goal so I am looking forward to see another articular.

  3. I think the article has a good ideas to me, so I want to push myself to practice all of those.

  4. I think your suggestion should help me to study English in a new way

  5. It's very useful to me.I will make a achievable resolution and acheive it in this year.

  6. I Think this is a very good topic to talk about. I have made some resolutions, and the things that I read here, they are just the same things that happened to me as well in the past.

    So, be sure to do one step at a time and achievable goals to be able to complete them.


  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. It is been a while since i made one(change)...... I've found it something new to learned& I'll definitely follow it.Thanks!!!



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