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Academic Goals Discussion

Forum Instructions

Each student must post (1) substantial initial post for each with a minimum of 300 words per topic by Wednesday of each week before 11:55 PM. The student must also reply to at least (2) reply posts per topic each at a minimum of 150 words per reply by Sunday of each week before 11:55 PM.

All initial posts and replies must contain at least (2) professional references, one may be the course textbook, properly cited in the current APA format. All replies in the discussion forum should enhance the discussion. All non-informative messages posted in the discussion forum will not be counted towards the required number of replies for that topic.  *Late discussion posts are not accepted in this course.

Initial Post: 30 points

Reply Post: 10 points (5 points per reply)

APA Style Formatting & Required Resources: 10 points

Total = 50 points

Discussion Topic

Go to page 24 in the textbook and respond to the Thinking Activity 1.4 in essay format.  Be sure to use information from the textbook and at least one other Virtual Library resource to support or expand on your writing. 


An Organized Approach to Making Decisions

Identifying and reaching the goals in our lives involves making informed, intelligent decisions. Many of the decisions we make are sound and thoughtful, but we may also find that some of the decisions we make turn out poorly, undermining our efforts to achieve the things we most want in life. Many of our poor decisions involve relatively minor issues—for example, selecting an unappealing dish in a restaurant, agreeing to go on a blind date, taking a course that does not meet our expectations. Although these decisions may result in unpleasant consequences, the discomfort is neither life-threatening nor long-lasting (although a disappointing course may seem to last forever!). However, many more significant decisions occur in our lives in which poor choices can result in considerably more damaging and far-reaching consequences. For example, one reason that the current divorce rate in the United States stands at approximately 50 percent (for first marriages) is the poor decisions people make before or after the vows “till death do us part.” Similarly, the fact that many employed adults wake up in the morning unhappy about going to their jobs, anxiously waiting for the end of the day and the conclusion of the week so they are free to do what they really want to do, suggests that somewhere along the line they made poor career decisions, or they felt trapped by circumstances they couldn’t control. Our jobs should be much more than a way to earn a paycheck—they should be vehicles for using our professional skills, opportunities for expressing our creative talents, stimulants of our personal growth and intellectual development, and experiences that provide us with feelings of fulfillment and self-esteem. In the final analysis, our careers are central elements of our lives and important dimensions of our life portraits. Our career decision is one that we’d better try to get right!

An important part of becoming an educated thinker is learning to make effective decisions. Let’s explore this process more closely.

People who approach decision situations thoughtfully and analytically tend to be more successful decision makers than people who don’t. Naturally, there are no guarantees that a careful analysis will lead to a successful result—often, we encounter too many unknown elements and factors beyond our control. But we can certainly improve our success rate as well as our speed by becoming more knowledgeable about the decision-making process. Expert decision makers can typically make quick, accurate decisions based on intuitions that are informed, not merely impulsive. As with most complex abilities in life, however, we need to learn to “walk” before we can “run” so let’s explore a versatile and effective approach for making decisions.

The decision-making approach we will be using consists of five steps. As you gradually master these steps, they will become integrated into your way of thinking, and you will be able to apply them in a natural and flexible way.

Step 1: Define the Decision Clearly This seems like an obvious step, but a lot of decision making goes wrong at the starting point. For example, imagine that you decide that you want to have a “more active social life” The problem with this characterization of your decision is it defines the situation too generally and therefore doesn’t give any clear direction for your analysis. Do you want to develop an intimate, romantic relationship? Do you want to cultivate more close friendships? Do you want to engage in more social activities? Do you want to meet new people? In short, the decision to have a “more active social life” can be defined more clearly in many ways. The more specific your definition of the decision to be made, the clearer your analysis will be and the greater the likelihood of success.


After implementing your choice, evaluate its success by identifying what’s working and what isn’t, and make the necessary adjustments to improve the situation.

Step 2: Consider All the Possible Choices Successful decision makers explore all of the possible choices in their situation, not simply the obvious ones. In fact, the less obvious choices often turn out to be the most effective ones. For example, a student in a recent class of mine couldn’t decide whether he should major in accounting or business management. In discussing his situation with other members of the class, he revealed that his real interest was in the area of graphic design and illustration. Although he was very talented, he considered this to be only a hobby, not a possible career choice. Class members pointed out to him that this might turn out to be his best career choice, but he first needed to see it as a possibility.


List as many possible choices for your situation as you can, both obvious and not obvious. Ask other people for additional suggestions, and don’t censor or prejudge any ideas.

Step 3: Gather All Relevant Information and Evaluate the Pros and Cons of Each Possible Choice In many cases, you may lack sufficient information to make an informed choice regarding a challenging, complex decision. Unfortunately, this doesn’t prevent people from plunging ahead anyway, making a decision that is often more a gamble than an informed choice. Instead of this questionable approach, it makes much more sense to seek out the information you need in order to determine which of the choices you identified has the best chance for success. For example, in the case of the student mentioned in Step 2, he would need to have important information before determining whether he should consider a career in graphic design and illustration, including asking, What are the specific careers within this general field? What sort of academic preparation and experience are required for the various careers? What are the prospects for employment in these areas, and how well do they pay?


For each possible choice that you identified, create questions regarding information you need to find out, and then locate that information.

In addition to locating all relevant information, each of the possible choices you identified has certain advantages and disadvantages, and it is essential that you analyze these pros and cons in an organized fashion. For example, in the case of the student described earlier, the choice of pursuing a career in accounting may have advantages such as ready employment opportunities, the flexibility of working in many different situations and geographical locations, moderate to high income expectations, and job security. On the other hand, disadvantages might include the fact that accounting may not reflect a deep and abiding interest for the student, he might lose interest over time, or the career might not result in the personal challenge and fulfillment that he seeks.


Using a format similar to the one outlined in the following worksheet, analyze the pros and cons of each of your possible choices.

Step 4: Select the Choice That Seems to Best Meet the Needs of the Situation The first three steps of this approach are designed to help you analyze your decision situation: to clearly define the decision, generate possible choices, gather relevant information, and evaluate the pros and cons of the choices you identified. In this fourth step, you must attempt to synthesize all that you have learned, weaving together all of the various threads into a conclusion that you believe to be your “best” choice. How do you do this? There is no one simple way to identify your “best” choice, but some useful strategies are available for guiding your deliberations.


Identify and prioritize the goals of your decision situation and determine which of your choices best meets these goals. This process will probably involve reviewing and perhaps refining your definition of the decision situation. For example, in the case of the student whom we have been considering, some goals might include choosing a career that will

a. provide financial security.

b. provide personal fulfillment.

c. make use of special talents.

d. offer plentiful opportunities and job security.

Once identified, the goals can be ranked in order of their priority, which will then suggest what the “best” choice will be. For example, if the student ranks goals (a) and (d) at the top of the list, then a choice of accounting or business administration might make sense. On the other hand, if the student ranks goals (b) and (c) at the top, then pursuing a career in graphic design and illustration might be the best selection.


Anticipate the consequences of each choice by “preliving” the choices. Another helpful strategy for deciding on the best choice is to project yourself into the future, imagining as realistically as you can the consequences of each possible choice. As with previous strategies, this process is aided by writing down your thoughts and discussing them with others.

Step 5: Implement a Plan of Action and Then Monitor the Results, Making Necessary Adjustments Once you have selected what you consider your best choice, you need to develop and implement a specific, concrete plan of action. As was noted in the section on short-term goals, the more specific and concrete your plan of action, the greater the likelihood of success. For example, if the student in the case we have been considering decides to pursue a career in graphic design and illustration, his plan should include reviewing the major that best meets his needs, discussing his situation with students and faculty in that department, planning the courses he will be taking, and perhaps speaking to people in the field.

Method for Making Decisions

Step 1: Define the decision clearly.

Step 2: Consider all the possible choices.

Step 3: Gather all relevant information and evaluate the pros and cons of each possible choice.

Step 4: Select the choice that seems to best meet the needs of the situation.

Step 5: Implement a plan of action and then monitor the results, making necessary adjustments.


Create a schedule that details the steps you will be taking to implement your decision and a timeline for taking these steps.

Of course, your plan is merely a starting point for implementing your decision. As you actually begin taking the steps in your plan, you will likely discover that changes and adjustments need to be made. In some cases, you may find that, based on new information, the choice you selected seems to be the wrong one. For example, as the student we have been discussing takes courses in graphic design and illustration, he may find that his interest in the field is not as serious as he thought and that, although he likes this area as a hobby, he does not want it to be his life work. In this case, he should return to considering his other choices and perhaps add additional choices that he did not consider before.


After implementing your choice, evaluate its success by identifying what’s working and what isn’t, and make the necessary adjustments to improve the situation.

Thinking Activity 1.4


1. Describe an important decision in your academic or personal life that you will have to make in the near future.

2. Using the five-step decision-making approach we just described, analyze your decision and conclude with your “best” choice.

Share your analysis with other members of the class and listen carefully to the feedback they give you.

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