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Why it's important to revisit goals

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

At the start of the year, you may have set yourself a language goal. You may even have set yourself multiple goals! If so, congratulations!

Mid-way through the year, it's good to revisit those goals to see how you are progressing and to find out what, if any, changes you need to make. First, let's refresh ourselves as to why it's so good to set goals.

Why you should set language learning goals Goals give us purpose and direction. When we have purpose, we find things meaningful and are more likely to feel satisfied. When we don't have goals, we often drift along and may not accomplish any of the things we say we want to. We can live with a 'one day' mindset and put things off for some unspecified future time that never quite arrives.

What makes a good goal? A good goal is specific and clear. It also has a time-frame.

  • I want to be more fluent is not good as it is not specific and has no deadline.

  • By September, I will be able to chair meetings in English and feel confident in doing so is a good goal. We know exactly what is wanted, and when it is wanted by.

Unsurprisingly, the second goal is more likely to provide purpose as it is easier to know what to do (learn vocabulary phrases, improve pronunciation, role play the situation with a teacher and so on). The first goal, in contrast, will be of little help in knowing what needs to be done next. Your language goals can be anything that feels right for you. You may have an external factor:

  • By December, I will be fully prepared for my IELTS exam and I will take the exam in January

Or, if you learn for personal enjoyment, you may prefer a challenge

  • By October, I will have read Harry Potter in English

Why it's important to revisit goals from the start of the year

A lot can happen in a few months! You may have changed job, had a baby, bought a pet or moved house. You may have over-estimated your free time and energy levels. You may have underestimated the difficulty of your goal. For all these reasons, it's well worth checking in with your intention from January and seeing how you are progressing.

For example, In January, I set the following goals for my language learning (Mandarin Chinese):

  • By the end of March, I will have finished reading two books and will have improved my fluency so I don’t feel so ‘rusty

  • By the end of 2021, I will have reached HSK Level 3 in reading and HSK Level 4 in speaking

My short term goal was a partial success. In fact, I am still reading the second book (in August!), but I definitely don't feel as rusty as I did in January when I first started learning Chinese after a long break.

Interestingly, I have already achieved the longer-term goal! My second book is at HSK level 3. I haven't done a speaking test, but I do know that my speaking ability is stronger than my reading ability so it makes sense that my speaking would be at around HSK 4.

My challenge now is to go back and set a new goal for the next five months (HSK Level 4 in reading, perhaps!) that fits in with the time I have available for learning.

How to assess your earlier goals

I would suggest that you look at your goals as objectively as you can. Any 'failure' to reach your goal can be thought of as a lesson and as useful information, which is what it really is, rather than a disaster or a disappointment. Consider these questions:

Have you:

  • surpassed your goal - if so do you need to stretch yourself more for the second half of the year?

  • achieved your goal - if so what's the next logical step?

  • not achieved your goal - if not, ask yourself why not (unrealistic time / goal too difficult / not enough time) and bear these factors in mind for second half of the year

Although it may feel like a waste of time, the truth is that we are far more likely to make the progress that we actually say we want if we have a roadmap towards our destination. Setting a clear goal clarifies the destination so that you can decide the smaller steps you need to take to get you there.

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