Revisiting SMART goals

I have talked about SMART goals on my blog in the past, but I think it is a topic worth revisiting! SMART goals have gotten relatively popular in the past few years. You might’ve heard of SMART goals before, but they are:⁣

🔹Specific ⁣
🔹Measurable ⁣
🔹Achievable ⁣
🔹Reasonable ⁣
🔹Time bound

You can see in the graphic below that sometimes different words are used, but it generally has the same meaning!



I love talking about goal-setting and intentions at different points of the year. There is a narrative that we set goals on January 1st and stick to them all year, but how limiting is that? It is always a good time to work toward a change you want to see in your life. Some 80% of new years resolutions fail. I don’t say this to deter anyone from their goals, but it is important to get real about what’s possible for you and when is a good time to start. Maybe January 1st isn’t a good time for you, but maybe today is a time when you feel ready, willing, and passionate about making a change. Changing behavior is hard work, whether you are trying to floss more, become more self-compassionate, or train for a triathlon, and timing is an important factor to consider.

I thought it might be helpful to share how I used the principles of SMART goals to set my own intentions and goals. I see intentions as larger ideas, hopes, or aspirations. One of my intentions is “Put more energy into healthy friendships.” This intention feels hard to measure and it’s difficult to know where to begin—that’s where SMART goals come in! So for each intention, I came up with 2-3 SMART goals. For the intention I shared above, my goals are 1) Call a good friend at least once a week 2) Reach out to an old friend once a month. ⁣

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Photo by Alex Andrews on Pexels.com


While the goals I listed above are SMART goals, using the SMART acronym as a guide rather than a rule is great. Make it work for you! For those of us who are results-driven, it can be very helpful to choose goals that are measurable. With measurable goals, you can look back at your progress and feel proud of your accomplishments and look back and see where you have room to improve.

I also want to highlight that it is important to practice self-compassion while working toward any kind of goal. Life hardly ever goes according to plan, so it is important to remain flexible and be gentle with yourself while pursuing change. Celebrate the little victories of making baby steps towards your goals and intentions!

Part 6: The logistics of interviewing for graduate school

Ok, so the logistics of interviews were a nightmare for me. I know this year has looked very different due to Covid-19 so many programs are offering interviews virtually. This change has come with a lot of pros and cons.

Pros: Cheaper, easier, safety of being behind a screen, access to notes or other resources, down time

Cons: Unable to see campus, unable to spend time much with students, can’t get a sense of the grad school’s location, limited opportunities to see your potential mentor and other students interact

Thinking back to a time when I have three interviews within four days, I can’t say I’m not a tiny bit jealous of applicants interviewing in 2021. I remember almost missing a flight from Oklahoma and landing in Knoxville before preparing myself to fly to Boston a few days later–talk about exhaustion! To be frank, I would estimate that I spent upwards of $1,500 on travel for interview (planes, ubers, hotels, etc.) not including food. I also traveled from San Francisco to the East Coast and some remote locations (Stillwater, OK; Knoxville, TN). While it was really expensive and took a lot of time, I prefer interviewing in person. It’s also important that I acknowledge that I have many privileges that allowed me to afford to travel to so many places. I had a well-paid job with unlimited time off, which made it possible for me to visit so many schools.

While this year has been different, I still want to share some of the ways I made the interview process more affordable. First, I would recommend starting or using a travel friendly credit card (I use Chase Sapphire Preferred) in order to maximize points for airfare and hotel stays. Second, book your flights as soon as your full itinerary starts coming together. I found this part to be very stressful! You hear back from different schools at different times–and sometimes you don’t have that long to plan. If you can choose flexible, no change fee flights, you should do that! Third, stay with students when you can. Most programs have graduate students who let prospective students stay with them. I know my program goes to great lengths to make comfortable matches by asking about pet allergies, gender preferences, etc. I stayed with current students twice during the interview process, although I wish I did it more. It was a great opportunity to get to know a student well and get the inside scoop on a program! I did not stay with students more often because I was afraid it would feel draining and I wouldn’t have time to decompress; this is a completely valid reason to stay at a hotel or airbnb! I stayed at hotels using credit card points and I found an airbnb for $40/night in Oklahoma (I have some regrets about this choice…sometimes you get what you pay for!). Take care of yourself, but it is also a good opportunity to push out of your comfort zone and get some extra time with students. I also know that the feedback of the student you stay with carries a lot of weight; they don’t care if you go to bed at 8pm or wake up right before it’s time to leave, but they will take note of whether you’re interested in them, are polite, or write them a nice thank you note. Those little things go a long way!

Logistically, interview are stressful. Think about your priorities and what you are able to do time-wise, energy-wise, and financially.

cute dog in glasses yawning on bed
Photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

Ted Talk Friday: How not to take things personally?

A friend and colleague of mine recommended this talk to me during a meeting about a week ago. I watched it and it has really stuck with me. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t take things personally; I think some of it is human nature, but some of this thinking can change. As a student clinician, I liked how the speaker discussed his own experience and how he provided easy ways we can begin to view interactions with others through a less negative and less self-focused lens.

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What did you think of this talk? Were you surprised that the speaker actually became a referee in order to work on taking things less personally?

Healthy Media Use During Stressful Times (Repost)

I had the opportunity to write a blog for the Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP) a few weeks ago on healthy media use and wanted to share it with you! Here is a snippet of the article:

Although social media and the 24/7 news cycle are not new, they have become much more pronounced as much of the U.S. has engaged in social distancing measures. In recent months, the role of the media has been amplified for those of us living in the U.S. who still seem locked in an enduring and grueling election cycle. Even those of us who used to rely solely on standard news outlets may now be scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram to stay up to date on current events (often alternating between two platforms at any given moment).

Check out the SCP website to read the full article!

Ted Talk Friday: The courage to be multicultural

It has been a while since my last post! As you might guess, this semester is kicking my butt; between classes, clinical work, and research I’ve stayed pretty busy. I heard this Ted Talk in class the other day and thought it was quite beautiful; the message around asking questions thoughtfully and remaining curious really resonated with me. I hope you enjoy this talk!

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Did you enjoy this Ted Talk? How comfortable are you with asking questions?

Part 5: A look inside the interview process

I had no idea what to expect when starting graduate school interviews! First, I had not thought too hard about interviews because I didn’t want to get my hopes up that I would even get any interviews. I took a non-traditional path and worked at health-focused start-ups in the Bay Area rather than working as a research assistant in a lab or something that more clearly led to a PhD in psychology; I was not sure whether this difference would help me or hurt me in the application process. Luckily, I think it helped me! I ended up getting a number of interviews, which I felt completely unprepared for.

The first thing I did was lots and lots of research. I heavily researched each faculty member who I was interviewing with; I read all of their papers, listened to podcasts they had been interviewed on, and looked for snippets of their lectures on YouTube. I went all out and I 100% believe it was worth it. This kind of research helps you learn about their research focus, but also about how they engage with the community.

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The other thing that was really helpful was talking to another trusted friend who was interviewing at the same time. My friend was interviewing for clinical programs so we were on different tracks, but he had so much insight into good questions to ask and seemed to understand the unspoken rules of interviewing for graduate school more than I did. We chatted about the process, discussed our anxieties, and answered practice questions with each other–all of which made me feel a little more at ease.

I think anxiety is one of the hardest parts of this process; making it to the interviews means that you are qualified and would do well in a PhD program, but the interviews are all about fit. I kept reminding myself that if the program or faculty member did not see my interests or goals as a good fit for their program, then I probably would not thrive there any way. It has to be a match on both sides. I also remember interviewing at a few places where I felt uncomfortable with faculty or the students gave me bad vibes (I wish there was a better way to describe this!) and, in hindsight, realize those were all great reasons to be comfortable with being rejected, waitlisted, or turning down an offer. For example, I remember one program where students from one lab were talking about favoritism and clearly not including some applicants in casual conversation. Take note of these observations and feelings because they tell us more than what students might say about their experience in a program. If students look and act miserable and say the program is perfect and they wouldn’t change a thing, don’t believe them.

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Lastly, when you get your interview schedule I recommend reading a little bit about everyone who you will interview with. If you are interviewing with every faculty member at a program it might take some time, but coming in prepared with at least one thoughtful comment for each professor indicates preparation and respect.

For the next post I will talk about the financial side of the interview process–how to cut costs, make the most of your visits, and manage anxiety.