Moving beyond setting goals to GROWing with Goals: 2022 and my journey from goal-setting to goal-getting!

Reflecting on the last year, I come to the conclusion that “A goal is only worthwhile if it GROWs you!

The GROW is in caps because in this instance, I use it as a mnemonic to describe the goalsetting process which I use to achieve desired outcomes. The Oxford Dictionary defines a goal as “something that you hope to achieve”, and many allude to the need to ensure that the goal is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) to have a chance of being achieved. That is a philosophy I subscribe to and before I share my experience of goal setting and the rewards this brought me in 2022, I would like to expatiate a little bit more of this idea of Goals and GROW.

First the G, which of course stands for Goals. I found that in addition to the known facts about goals and goalsetting, Goals also need to be connected to, with one’s senses. By this, I mean engaging the eyes, ears, mouth and hands (I am not yet sure how to engage my nose 😊). This was my first step in 2022, I wrote down (using my hands) all I intended to achieve and stuck it on my mirror so I could see it daily. I also read it aloud to myself (engaging both my mouth and ears) as often as I could, and I ensured that the goal connected to my life purpose as I understood it, thereby giving myself more impetus to act.

Next, I employed the R, which for me was getting Resourced. I was honest with myself in determining the skills, connections, knowledge I needed to garner to become the person who could do the goals I had set.

Thirdly, a step which is easily ignored was O for Organised! It wasn’t enough to stop at simply having the goal and getting resourced. There were lots of activities clamouring for my time, but I had to be disciplined in scheduling time for key activities related to my goals.

Lastly, the W, which is for Work! Obvious as it sounds, in the past, I have been guilty of getting into a cycle of planning and analysing without ever actually doing anything! For example, if you have determined that you need to read whilst writing at least 3 hours daily to finish your PhD, then you need to put this in your calendar and actually do it when prompted!

Now to my application of the above and some good news. At the start of 2022, my main goal was to wrap up my PhD by December 2022. I had a lot to do, but I felt it was an achievable goal. However, the more I interrogated that goal, I realised that the underlying desire was not just to finish my PhD, but to get a few good publications, be connected to the academic community and build an academic career. I am glad that I took time to interpret my initial goal as part of the bigger picture because 2022 has ended well! In November, I started a new job working with businesses across west London which used academic skills and competence. Additionally, one of my papers was shortlisted for a special issue earmarked for 2023 and another of my papers was shortlisted as best conference paper for my track in October and that same paper won the best paper award at a PDW in November.

It’s great to see it all turned out well, despite the many times through 2022 when I was down: such as when I got the rejection from a 4-star journal, or when I realised that I couldn’t submit my thesis in 2022 as originally planned. Using the GROW framework I described above kept me focused and that focus eventually delivered on the underlying desired outcome.

GROW provides a framework to resolve the tensions that we may face when setting goals, especially at this time of the year. This blog is written with the intention of offering a solution that eases that tension a bit. I would love to hear from you and how you have used this framework.

Doyin Olorunfemi
PhD Researcher
Birkbeck College, University of London