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In their lively and entertaining weekly discussion of issues related to higher education, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger explore the topics of higher education, lifelong learning, and exercising the brain. Ed and Jennifer practice what they preach, too, by introducing math puzzlers and brain teasers to keep listeners on their toes.

Higher Ed: Want To Set Big Goals But Don't Know How? You're Not Alone. Step One: Think Baby Steps

For many people, goal-setting is an annual ritual perhaps fueled by the New Year and a commitment to make personal or professional improvements. But creating truly meaningful and achievable goals is a more complicated undertaking than simply tossing together a life "to-do" list. In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton answer a listener's question about learning to craft and meet relevant goals.

A Higher Ed listener wrote in as she was struggling to fill out her new planner for 2019. "I am very good at completing tasks that are given to me," she wrote. "But here I am thinking about setting goals for myself and I am unsure of what that means , or what are the steps to take. I actually feel kind of dumb for asking this."

Not at all! Setting and reaching goals is something that can be learned; it may not necessarily be an intuitive process.

Ed says a goal is really the envisioning of a "future potential place" where someone wants to be. That may be easy to imagine, but it not necessarily as easy to think about how to get there. Where to start? Ed says first, to think big, you might actually want to think small.

"To move yourself, you have to create the intermediate steps that are required... that are not that taxing and dramatic, like a resolution," says Ed. "But rather, little things that I can do and then have that become the standard and the norm and then incrementally change."

Other tips for leaning to set and actually achieve goals:

* Think of goals as moving toward something rather than away from something. "I want to feel better physically" is a different framework than "I need to lose weight and exercise more."

* Understand that goals change over time. As one goal is reached, the next goals on the list may need to be altered. Be open to flexible goals.

* Keep a meta-goal in mind as you move through the smaller steps to reach a goal.

Listen to the full episode to hear more about goals and to get the latest puzzler. It may sound easy at first, but be ready for a twist along the way!

This episode was recorded on Jan. 25, 2019.

For all of the Higher Ed episodes, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

Jennifer Stayton is the local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" on KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @jenstayton.
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