Working toward a goal can be fun! Simplifying a goal (or goals!) into basic steps can help adults and kids understand exactly how to achieve it one step at a time and keeps everyone from getting too overwhelmed. Let’s start breaking down goals!
Achieving any goal requires motivation. Motivation is in everyone, and it’s the energy that drives us to accomplish our goals. Motivation keeps us actively achieving things in our daily lives, but it’s different for everyone. It helps us succeed at large and small goals and encourages us to do our best and be our best selves. Motivation can be found in many different places—from yourself, from others, or even from experiences.
But since motivation is an abstract concept, it can be challenging for kids to grasp. To further kids’ understanding of motivation, try using language like:
- What is 1 thing you’d like to try?
- What makes you want to start and finish things?
- Explain your motivation. For example, if you’re doing a chore, it’s okay to say to kids, “Folding laundry is not my favorite chore and I’d rather do something else, but I’m motivated to do it because we need clean clothes to wear!”
Using language like this can help kids develop a healthy mindset which is useful for boosting motivation. Another key element to staying motivated is practicing positive self-talk. Check out this article to learn more about using your positive self-talk to be successful in your everyday life.
What’s the next step after getting motivated? After you’re motivated to accomplish a goal, set yourself up for success. You can break your goal down into a SMART goal—which means to make sure that your goal is:
- Specific – Answer the 5 W’s to make sure your goal is specific. What do you want to accomplish? Why is it important? Who is involved? Where is the location? When is your deadline?
- Measurable – Having a measurable goal means that your goal can be tracked. You’ll need to ask yourself questions like ‘How will I know when it’s accomplished?’ to set up a system for tracking. Systems can include timelines or breaking your goal down into steps to completion.
- Achievable – Set yourself up for success by making sure your goals are stretching your abilities but still possible for your limits. Ask yourself how realistic your goal is within the other constraints that you’ve set up to make sure you’ll succeed. Make sure your goals don’t give someone else power to influence the end you desire.
- Relevant – A relevant goal is a goal that matters to you personally and aligns well with the other goals you’ve set. Does it seem worthwhile? Does it match your needs?
- Time-based – Every goal needs a deadline that you can work toward, as well as keep you focused on your long-term goal. Do you have things that can be done today to push you toward your long-term goal?
Breaking goals down with the SMART acronym is a great method, but it can be difficult for younger kids to grasp. If kids are struggling with the SMART goal system, another option is to use the acronym GOALS* with them.
- Get a plan – Create a plan for each goal so it’s easy to follow.
- One step at a time –Don’t get overwhelmed! Carry out the plan one step at a time.
- Act on the goal – Keep consistent with your plan and goal to watch it become complete!
- Learn – What did you notice during this time? What worked well? What needs to improve?
- Start again – Accomplishing goals can boost confidence, so what’s a new goal you can achieve?
Adults and kids can also put goals on dream boards and place them in spots that are visible during the day, journal about goals, and practice positive self-talk to stay on track. Regardless of the method you and your kids choose, make sure to revisit your goal often and be ready to revise it as necessary. Keeping goals flexible can help everyone stay positive and give grace when deadlines get pushed back or something comes up.
After achieving the goal, be sure to offer rewards to grow motivation. A reward doesn’t have to be something big or monetary, but could be as simple as a high five, acknowledgment of hard work, or positive words of affirmation like “I’m so proud of you” or “You worked so hard to accomplish your goal.” No matter what the reward is, it’s important to remember that the purpose of a reward is to help grow a child’s motivation rather than replace it.
For more tips and resources for setting healthy goals, check out these 6 must-have resources for goal setting here. We can’t wait to see what you accomplish this year!
*Goals acronym cited from: Benes, S., & Alperin, H. (2016). Chapter 8 Goal Setting. In The essentials of teaching health education (p. 135). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics