Research cited in Psychology Today found that achieving a goal produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure. And reciprocally, dopamine activates neural circuitry that makes one eager to pursue new challenges. Organizational psychologists Locke and Latham compiled evidence from more than 1,000 studies proving that goals that spell out exactly what needed to be accomplished resulted in far superior performance than generic goals like "trying to do your best." The reason: more focused goals create an unconscious increase in effort and commitment, persist longer and make better use of the most effective strategies.
With no plan for the future, a student can tend to drift, sometimes into real trouble. A career goal provides a measuring stick for progress, bolsters self-esteem and increases commitment, which some students need most of all. Here's a true story we're proud to share:
- Complete an Interest Inventory that matches personality to actual careers.
You can find a variety of inexpensive workbook, CD-ROM and Internet techniques on our products pages. There are more costly and complicated interest inventories, but The Career Game format excels because it’s simple and quick, and offers counselors the choice of being involved in the process a lot, a little, or even not at all. Our self-scoring workbooks can be used with or without computer follow-up. Internet techniques can be used from school or home, and are optimized for desktops, laptops, tablets and even smartphones. They can involve parents as well. Students love to match their hobbies, heroes and favorites to a list of attractive career options. We'll give them a wide range of attractive possibilities at different educational levels. When they find something that resonates, here's an action plan you can copy and offer:
- Put your career goal in writing.
Writing it down is a strong motivator. Be specific. Use action verbs. Specify completion dates. Record your reward for achieving the goal. Knowing exactly what you will gain is a strong motivator.
- Make a list of challenges.
Think of everything that might stand in the way. Then decide what can be done about each obstacle. Design a plan to reduce the influence of each challenge and increase the chance for success in reaching your goal.
- Identify sub-goals.
Break the plan into manageable chunks. Be specific about what has to be accomplished. Decide what you are going to do, and when. Make sure each step is achievable and you have a complete plan of action. Then review it regularly.
- Learn what you need to learn.
If some information or a skill might keep you from achieving your goals, determine ways to fill those gaps and build them into your action plan. Be willing to study and work hard to reach your goals. Think about how much time and effort will be required, and ask yourself if you are willing and able to do what is necessary.
- Enlist the help of others.
Look for role models, people who have already achieved the goals you seek to reach. Ask them for advice and suggestions. Find how they got where they are, and incorporate what you learn into your plan. Your counselor can help you stay committed and motivated.
- Visualize yourself having achieved your goals.
Go through magazines and cut out articles and pictures that represent your goal. Put them where you will see them often. Provide constant reminders to yourself about what you're working towards. Describe your ideal life in the future. Write a few paragraphs describing where you are going, and how your life will be better as a result. Use the present tense as if it was happening right now. This is another way of making your vision real.
- Reward yourself each step of the way.
Let yourself feel good about the plan you've made. Treat yourself to rewards that will give you a lift as you accomplish each sub-goal on your road to success.