By: Cheryl Maguire
“I want to be on the honor roll,” said the student.
“That sounds like a great goal. Let’s talk about how to achieve it,” I said.
When I was a guidance counselor, I helped students create and achieve their goals. Setting goals are important because it will help children to be successful in school, work or any area of their life. The founder of JCPenney said, “Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I’ll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals and I’ll give you a stock clerk.”
Here are some tips to help your child to formulate and reach their life aspirations. These examples are related to school, but your child could create goals for sports, social skills, jobs, or any other area of their life.
Motivation to Achieve Goals
Before creating goals, ask your child what their motivation or reasons for wanting to reach those goals. This will help them to stay focused and overcome obstacles. For example, if their goal is, “To be on the honor roll” and their motivation is, “To help me get into a good college” you can use this concept to remind your child why achieving these goals is important. Using pictures or images as a sign of your motivation can help them to stay focused. In this example hanging a picture of a college campus on the wall would help your child to visual it.
How to Create Goals
Edwin Locke researched goal setting for over 40 years. He found that people who form specific goals had greater achievements than people with non-specific goals.
When creating goals it is important to have the goal be specific, measurable and realistic. Using these three criteria, will increase the likelihood for success. Here are some examples:
Vague vs. Measurable Goals
Example of Vague Goal: I want to get good grades.
Example of Measurable Goal: I will hand in my homework on time every day for one week.
With the first example, it will be difficult to know if you achieved your goals since you didn’t define what “good” means. Does good mean receiving a C or an A grade? Is it for all subjects? Do you want to get these grades for one or two terms or a final grade?
In the second example, a time frame of one week is defined so at the end of a week you know if you achieved your goal if you handed in all assigned homework.
Unrealistic vs. Realistic Goals
It is also important to aim for realistic and achievable goals in order to avoid disappointment. It is easier to begin with small goals instead of large ones.
Example of Unrealistic Goal: I will get a score of 100 on every test this year.
Example of Realistic Goal: I will earn honor roll at the end of term one.
Of course, some students might be able to earn 100 on every test, but most students would be setting themselves up for failure if they attempted this goal.
In general, it is easier to start small and work your way up to larger or more ambitious goals. Also if you write down your goals and put the list of goals on your wall, you are more apt to follow through on a daily basis.
Long Term vs. Short Term Goals
Your goals can be both long term (1 year or longer) and short-term (1 day to 11 months). First, you can define your long-term goals and then your short term goals as steps to help you achieve your long term goals. By creating the short-term goals you will find your long-term goal to be more manageable.
Here is an example:
Long Term Goal: At the end of this year school year I will earn honor roll.
Short Term Goal: I will hand in homework every day this week.
Short Term Goal: I will study and review classwork for one hour every day this week.
It may be overwhelming to think about an entire school year, but if you consider the shortest-term goal of only one hour per day it is more manageable and achievable.
Reasons People Fall Short of Their Goals
The three main reasons I have seen of why students have difficulty in achieving their goals are:
- The student experiences an obstacle and instead of overcoming the obstacle they give up.
- The student didn’t know when they achieved their goal since the goal was vague.
- The student created unrealistic or unattainable goals.
Create New Goals If Necessary
If you don’t achieve your goals, first figure the issue. Then you can create new goals or find the motivation to overcoming the obstacle. Sometimes only minor changes are necessary.
Goal: I will receive a grade of an A in term one in math class.
Short Term Goal: I will complete homework every day.
Obstacle: Current average in math class is a B.
Solution: Discuss with the teacher ways to improve the grade such as extra credit or staying after school.
When your child achieves their goals, praise them for their accomplishments and their ability to set a goal and achieve it. Creating goals is a lifelong skill that will help your child work harder and be more successful in life.