Setting Achievable Goals

Latest News Thursday, 12 Sep 2019


I like the idea of kids setting achievable goals. We often refer to them as PB’s and kids often relish the idea of competitively trying to achieve these. I get the feeling that we don’t talk about these anywhere near as much as we should. However, just to digress at this point, I want to look at some strange record-breaking achievements I have been reading about. In breaking a record, you would expect there to be some specific goals! (Is breaking a record a goal or is a goal an essential component to breaking a record?) 

This obviously depends on the record. Getting public attention may be at the heart of some of these ‘records’ and sadly, death awaits the most ridiculous. After all, the most bizarre surely attracts the most attention and sets them apart from the more goal-oriented record holders. (Recently, Dana Hutchings, 41 died after participating in a taco eating competition at a minor league baseball game).

Breaking records without goals seems pointless. Is stuffing your mouth with as many tacos as one can in as short amount of time as one can really an achievement comparable to climbing Everest? Are there goals that can be set for achieving this feat? And is burying oneself alive for a record a worthy achievement? (Janaka Basnayake - died while trying to set the record for being buried alive the longest. I can’t imagine the goals set – if any.) 

Whilst there have always been people who want to challenge and break records, the type of record being broken nowadays is often goal-less. Gorging on tacos seems more like craven media attention and it hardly seems like a great goal to stuff oneself with as many as one can. What makes some push themselves to extremes particularly when some others are so happy lounging around watching them? The answer is in setting goals. 

Motivation stems from achieving a goal, and being competitive. Researchers found that the primary difference between the elite and the non-elite triathlete was that the goal was key, and competition was the second factor. Most people give thought to what they want to achieve then commit to it. 

It is said that people should set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals that motivate you and that to write them down makes them feel more tangible. (They are outlined well here). Then plan the steps you must take to realize your goal, and cross off each one as you work through them.

Keep in mind I am referencing here skill-based goals more than life-goals although they can intersect. There is a strong correlation between self-motivation, personal goals and achievement. So how can kids benefit from sensible goal-setting? I found an excellent website which I reference here. 

Big Life Journal says that by kids setting goals they can then:

  • take responsibility for their own actions, behaviours and learning
  • promotes an affirmative stance
  • forms a habit which will serve kids well in life 

They suggest 5 steps for kids to follow when setting goals.

  1. Let them choose their big goal
  2. What’s something you wish you could achieve and what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
  3. Discuss the purpose of their goal
        a. What’s the greatest benefit to you in doing this?     

         b. How can that help you and others

4. Break the big goal into smaller achievable steps

  • At the top of the ladder would be the big goal broken into bits as the kid works his/her way down the ladder
  • Brainstorm potential obstacles
  • Have a realistic talk about obstacles and what you would do when you confront these. If you give up, what are the consequences?

5. Kids are more likely to achieve their goals when they are written down! 

Understand why one wants to achieve the goal is important. When kids understand the purpose of their goals it is much easier to achieve. For example, some children may want to attain an AMEB Music Grade. This is a realistic and achievable goal. The steps above can be applied to this quite easily and practice routines written down.

‘Four 2014 studies found that this is especially true when students have a self-transcendent purpose for learning. This means that students are more successful when they understand that their learning can also benefit others’. (BLJ) If for example a child says I want an ‘A’ in my music exam because I want a career in music where I can create compositions for others this is self-transcendent. If a child wants to raise a certain amount of money because this would go to a worthy charity cause, this is self-transcendent. This turbocharges goals!

Here are a few ideas that come directly from BigLifeJournal

  • Remind your child of her purpose.
  • Remind her of the plan she developed for confronting this particular obstacle, and help her follow it.
  • Recognize and celebrate small steps toward achieving your child’s goal, including climbing the steps on her “goal ladder.”
  • Instead of focusing on the perceived failure, focus on how she can continue improving. Why do you think it didn’t go so well this time? What could you try next time to keep getting better?
  • Celebrate your child’s effort, determination, and persistence. For example, even if she doesn’t do well on a test, acknowledge the amount of time she spent studying.
  • Teach your child to have positive self-talk by talking positively about both yourself and your child. Teach statements like, “I can do this,” or, “I’m working hard to reach my goals.”
  • If she does experience setbacks or failures, help her put them in perspective.
  • Give examples of your own struggles at her age, or turn to examples of famous people like Thomas Edison, who reportedly tested 10,000 different materials for his electric light-bulb before finding the one that worked. What if Edison had given up on the 9,999th attempt? 

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