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Thinking with the End in Mind- Keep Goals in Sight

The second chapter of the Academic Success Formula is written by Ashley Mulcahy, a Tutor Doctor franchisee from Orange County, California, who runs an education empire working with more than 100 tutors in 20 cities. Throughout the chapter, Ashley discusses the importance of setting goals and how keeping them in sight at all times can be extremely effective when it comes to productivity, motivation, self-regulation and performance.

Author Stephen Covey believes that all things are created twice. First, we create things in our mind, and it’s then they can start to become a physical reality. The same notion applies to many other aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to setting goals. If we don’t have an end target in mind, it’s actually extremely tricky to determine the path we need to take to succeed. Imagining where you’d like to be later in life gives you a distinctive end goal that you can always be working towards. Once we start using the future image as a reference we can begin to create a ‘blueprint’ for our lives.

In fact, setting goals are much more important than you may first think. We live our day-to-day lives believing that life just happens ‘to’ us, and that luck is the main factor in play when it comes to achieving success. We quickly think that others have it easier because they have more luck, when in reality this is a complete myth. For example, if we see another student graduate with the highest marks, many parents would think “Why can’t my child be like that?” We too easily assume that someone has ‘good genes’ or are ‘naturally smart’, without actually thinking about what it took for them to achieve their goals. Late nights studying and years of academic diligence is the reality behind this particular student achieving their success- not luck. Once we start to realise that we create our own future and every action is our choice, we can start to utilise goals in our everyday lives.

When starting to set goals, it may seem like an easy task, however, there are many things that need to be considered. Firstly, goals should be specific, rather than complex or abstract. For example, ‘Getting all A grades ’ wouldn’t be considered an end goal, but part of the process in achieving something greater. Instead the question should be ‘what are you working towards?’ From here students can work backwards, carefully mapping out the steps and seeing exactly what is required to achieve their goal. If your student said ‘I want to be a Doctor’, getting top marks would be vital, but understanding that these results are just part of the process and not the final achievement is crucial.

Students who don’t have goals are usually easy to spot. You may hear them say ‘I hate school’ or ‘what’s the point?’ resulting in them turning towards instant gratification. For example, instead of studying for a test, they would rather hang out with friends or watch TV. The issue being they only see the here and now, and without a long-term vision, they see studying as useless, especially as academic success isn’t instantaneous. This illustrates the true power of having an end vision as it gives students purpose and motivation.

The key to setting great long-term goals is using the right techniques. Having a visual representation of what you want to achieve is a great way to get started. Think about what you really want for yourself and what your ideal life looks like- including but not limited to relationships, finance, career, travel, home and anything else related to personal growth. Once you start to have site of your goals, imagining yourself achieving them or creating a vision board will serve as a great visual reminder and constantly give you purpose.

Writing down clear and measurable goals is another important step in the process and will help turn your vision of an ideal future into a reality. Studies have even shown that we’re more likely to achieve our goals when we write them down.

Following on from using the right techniques, it’s also important to set goals effectively. Here’s some things to keep in mind.


Goals that include specific performance standards are going to be much more effective. In fact, having measurable targets to aim for improves self-regulation and boosts self-efficacy as progress can actually be monitored. Instead of “I’ll try my best” say “I’d like to get a B.”


Often, it’s better to set short-term, manageable tasks that actively work towards your distant long-term goal, rather than it being your only focus. Proximal goals are not only much easier to achieve, they strengthen your belief that you’ll be able to achieve your goals and result in better self-regulation.


Even though the difficulty of goals doesn’t directly affect performance, it’s still an important point to consider. Having overly easy goals don’t motivate people, the same way people aren’t motivated towards impossible goals. In fact, choosing goals that are moderately difficult seem to have the best effects on motivation and self-regulated performance. That’s why it’s crucial to set realistic goals that you believe you have the skills to achieve.

Personal Mission Statement

Writing out a personal mission statement is a great way to tie your vision and defined goals together. Doing this will help you reflect on your character and look at your inner principles and core values. It should be something you constantly refer back to and be the basis for making daily decisions and important life choices.

Reward Yourself

Rewards are a fantastic motivator, so planning in advance to treat yourself once you have achieved something can help you stay on the path to success. Do this by providing yourself with small incentives while you are working towards your bigger goal. For example, if you want to achieve a C in your English test, you could give yourself a small reward after each study session. Having something to look forward will not only drastically increase motivation levels but will help you keep going if it starts getting really tough.

What’s truly astonishing is just how important setting goals are in every aspect of our lives. Just remember- you’re never too young to start! The earlier we start setting goals, the sooner we can get on the path to success and actively participate in our own future! After all, when we achieve our goals, we become more effective people.