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Example of personal goals for students

5 Goals that Set Students for Success (In-depth)

Jack Cao
Jack Cao
As a student, thinking about the future can give us both excitement and anxiety. With so much uncertainty ahead, here are 5 examples of personal goals that can prepare students for future success.
Table of Contents

What problems are students dealing with anyway?

The biggest problem we are dealing with is our lack of experience and awareness.

We don’t know ourselves enough to have a clear statement on what we are passionate about. We don’t have enough working experience to know what we are good at. We don’t even know where to look for opportunities.

In short, are these your current problems?

  • I don’t know what my strengths are
  • I don’t know what I’m really passionate about
  • I don’t have a mentor to show me what the long-term plan may look like
  • I don’t know where to look for the opportunities
  • I don’t know what career path will really be suitable for me

Solving all these problems will take years of hard work. But these are 5 examples of goals that will give you a few suggestions on how to get a head start in life.

Goal #1: Figure out EXACTLY who you are

We do what we're told, get a job, follow our career path like we’re expected without knowing what we like, what we're good at, what we’re passionate about.

Schools, universities or even our families can’t tell us what we are passionate about or what we aren’t interested in at all. Only we can really know what is meaningful and what is not in our lives.

The goal is to pinpoint exactly what we like and what we don’t like, where our strengths lie and what are meaningful to us.

Start investing time and resources in understanding ourselves. This is a fundamental shift in how a person views his life: every moment can be turned into an opportunity to get to know ourselves better.

A vacation can be more than relaxing: it is a chance to disconnect to reflect and look at the world around us in new eyes.

We can start exploring why science captures our total attention, or why we're so inclined to read all the great literature but can’t stand 10 minutes of math.

Even casual conversations with our friends can be hints to know what others like about us and what they don’t.

The more we start to understand ourselves, the more authentic we can become. What are most meaningful to us will start to reveal itself, and now we have a chance to live life with a purpose.

Learn to love yourself
Learn to love and accept yourself like you are your best friend

Your tools are journals and meditation.

Journals teach us to document and organize our thoughts. Writing things down make it easier for our mind to be clear and concise. If you have never done much personal development work, journaling is a great way to start.

A regular meditation practice connects us to our intuition and sharpens our focus. The gut feeling is one of the most powerful tools to lead us to authenticity. As the mind is quiet, we can start listening to ourselves without being distracted by external noise.

Take actions by committing to build these habits

  • Journal for 10 minutes every night on these prompts:
  • What do I like really like doing today?
  • What bored me and drained my energy today?
  • Meditate for 10 minutes a day

Related: 5 Journaling Ideas for Self-Improvement

Goal #2: Develop an Exceptional Work Ethic

Who we are right now and who we are when we are “successful” are two completely different people. One is inexperienced, sloppy, ineffective. One is disciplined, effective, experienced, and focused.

No one can give us a good work ethic. We can’t buy it with a million dollars. We can’t inherit it from our parents. Work ethic must be earned. We have to dedicate your time and effort to it, accept the pain, suffering and often times force our way through discomfort.

The goal is to build habits of commitment, discipline, and excellence.

We have to choose discipline over fun and entertainment for our long-term development. We will be tempted to take days off, to hang out and spend all the weekends with our friends, but that won’t get us any closer to our goal.

We can hate school, but instead of complaining and feeling like a victim, we can use schools to practice researching, studying, organizing our thinking, socializing, being punctual. No one stays in school forever, but those habits of excellence that one builds will stay for years to come.

The more resistance we overcome, the tougher we become. And the tougher we become, the easier it gets. Then we can level up and be even more effective at what we do.

habit of excellence work ethic
Build habits of excellence in everything you do.

Your tool is the commitment to this mindset and a habit tracker.

It will be so much easy to just live in comfort. Once we set this goal, we agree to sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term satisfaction. The work we're putting in today will allow us to have the skillset to earn our success in the future.

Habits are built through consistency. We can’t rely on our sheer willpower alone, the mind will always find tricks to get us off the journey. A habit tracker is helpful as it reminds us to stay disciplined every day and get back on track when we backslides.

Take action by committing building these habits

  • Develop a fixed sleeping routine: manage your energy and set boundaries for your time. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.
  • Get physical every day: join a gym, take up martial arts, start running, try yoga… whatever it is, physical exercise is the fastest way to get yourself out of your comfort zone.

Related: How many goals should you set at once?

Goal #3: Find yourself a Mentor

Imagine how far we will go if we have been personally mentored by Warren Buffett on investing, Arnold Schwarzenegger on training, Elon Musk on building business and Gary Vaynerchuk on marketing…

But unfortunately, most people don’t have that mentorship. And we can quit way too early. We don’t have the wisdom to see what is ahead if we put in 5 years of hard work. So most people never get a glimpse of their true potential.

The goal is to have a person who has the experience and wisdom that we can ask for advice and direction.

There’s no need to re-invent the wheels. Whatever that we are trying to do, there is someone out there who has already accomplished it. And they have already spoken about how they did it in interviews or boiled it down in a book.

We don’t have to learn by our own mistakes. We can save so much time by learning directly from a mentor who is 20 years ahead of us.

It is best if we can watch them in action through our own eyes. But mentoring can be through books, videos, and online courses. We can learn from mentors by reading their blogs, studying their business models, watching their interviews.

Tim Ferris, author of the 4 hours work week, productivity guru, has an interesting process on how he managed to get his own mentors.

find a mentor
Learn from someone who has 10 years ahead of experience as you

A small notice, we must already have a solid work ethic to implement our mental wisdom in order to see the benefits for ourselves.

Your Tool for this goal is the decision to invest our upcoming years in experience and development.

For our mentor’s insights and guidance, working for free is still a very good deal. This means perhaps we have to work a side job to get earn our living while we invest our time and resources into learning as much as we can.

We must be self-reliant. Mentors can only give suggestions, we are the ones who execute and do all the hard work. Knowing that eventually over goal is to surpass our mentor, we must always be conscious to think for ourselves.

Take action for this goal by:

  • Read Mastery by Robert Greene - the book in which he details the mastery process and all the great masters in history has had mentors.

Related: 7 Meaningful Goals in Life

Goal #4: Expand Your Network

How many opportunities have we missed in the last year?  Seminars, scholarships, workshops, exchange programs to see the world… just because we didn’t know where to look.

But maybe if we asked a friend of a friend, we would have known. Networking opens up new opportunities and brings so much valuable information on the opportunities around us. The bigger our network, the more information we have.

The goal is to increase the quantity and quality of our social circle, so we will get more valuable information and opportunities.

We don’t just want to get to know more people, those people should be adding values to our life and we to theirs. We want to have more high-performing people in our life, who are pursuing big goals and taking massive actions.

Through interacting with these people, we know what other highly successful students, young adults are learning, how they are spending their money, what kind of mindsets they adopt… Inspiration and knowledge rub off on each other. As they get more success, we get more inspiration. As we get more knowledgeable, they get more resources.

Adding values for their life should be fairly easy if we have all those 3 previous goals figured out. Who wouldn’t want to be around a passionate, hard-working individual who knows exactly what he wants and has a mentor guiding him towards that thing?

Notice that misery loves company. We also need to audit out to the toxic, negative people and have to courage to cut off relationships who are doing more harm than good to us.

expand your network
Relationships bring opportunities

Your tools are offline events, social media and the willingness to share.

The easiest way to get to networking is to get out of the house. Going to networking events or offline workshops, seminars… can be uncomfortable, especially when we are shy introvert kids just trying to get ourselves out there.

Social media can be a very powerful tool. In Show your work by Austin Kleon, he details how we can leverage the Internet and social media to authentically reveal our passion. Not just LinkedIn, the Instagram feed or Facebook profile can be our life resume that shows what matters to us. The next thing you know maybe tons of people who connect and share the same passion with ours.

In whichever way, the willingness to share is the mindset for the right kind of networking. No one likes being around a needy and desperate guy who just tries to suck off all the information from other people. But everyone appreciates a guy who is always willing to share his friend with the best opportunities that he knows.

Take action for this goal:

  • Go to at least 1 networking event once a month
  • Start viewing social media as a tool for networking exposure and publish ourselves
  • Read Show your work by Austin Kleon.

Goal #5: Commit to The 5 Years - 5 Paths Rule

With the experience and self-awareness as a student, we can’t really trust our judgment on what fits and what doesn’t fit with our personality, values or strengths. Not without putting ourselves to the test.

The goal is to spend the next 5 years experimenting to find the most perfect career path.

We will dedicate at least 1 year to explore 1 path and see what it has to offer. After 1 year, if we feel like we can gain more from the current field, then stick around for another year. If we don’t see how it fits us, then we try out another lane.

If we are exceptionally lucky, we will have 10.000 hours of practice in 1 craft after 5 years.

Even with no luck, we will still have 5 good chances of exploring what we really like. And even if we don’t find the most suitable job yet, we will know for sure what to avoid.

5 years rule
You can't know what you truly like without experiementing

Things to commit to during these 5 years:

  • Meaning - do the job that means the most to you personally. This can mean taking radical decisions like starting a business, pursuing art or music, working in an NPO or getting an intern in a start-up whose vision you believe in.
  • Learning - success or failures, excitement or boring, you can all learn from it. These are the years of exploration: learn in a practical environment on how the world works and where you best fit in.

Things to detach from during these 5 years:

  • Comfort - to grow is to seek challenge and to accept suffering. You can’t develop yourself if you want to take the easy road.
  • Money - this is not the time to get fancy. Accept that you will live a life without materialistic success. All the money during these years should be spent on furthering your learning and the quest to find meaning in your life.

Your tools are the commitment to not quit in less than a year and to not stay complacent.

The best job can still suck in the first 6 months. Motivation and passion won’t be there every day for you. Cultivate discipline and determination instead.

Being complacent will distract you from your learning. Getting success can be dangerous, it gives you an illusion of a finish line. There is no finish line in the first 5 years of your career. Stay humble to learn and always hungry for more development.

Take action for this goal:

  • Map out the career choices you want to explore in the next 5 years and limit to 5 items. For examples: (1) pursuing my artist career in painting, (2) pursuing my marketing career through social media marketing, (3) pursuing my creative career through writing a blog, (4) pursuing my academic career in researching, (5) pursuing my business career by starting a service/selling a product
  • Get a steady stream of income. You may have to work double jobs to earn your living. Your passion project will be hustle you put in after 8 hours at work.
  • Decide your living expenses. Don’t get fancy on material wealth. You need to finance your passion and learning.
  • Commit to the 5 Years - 5 Jobs rule.


All of these 5 goals are long term goals that will take you months or years to meet. Expecting that you can solve all of them all in a quick fix is wishful thinking.

The best decision we can make is to commit ourselves to the long grind and start working towards our goals. You need to prepare yourself for future setbacks, failures and all the hardship that comes with fulfilling these goals. Having strong, positive, strategic habits is one major part of your support system.

Do you have any other example of how students can develop and prepare ourselves for the future?