The Power of Setting Goals

Helping your child to set attainable goals that support their future aspirations allows them to actively take charge of their learning, while also developing a critical life skill. As September marks the beginning of the school year, this is a great time to start this routine!

When addressing goals, it often helps to take a "long view." Ask your child about how and where they see themselves in 30 or even 40 years. Help them develop a vision of their future, and try to identify what they truly value. How do they prioritize things like relationships, career choices, volunteer opportunities, travel and other elements of a full and rewarding life?

Next, work backward from this vision. Ask your child to identify where they think they will need to put forth extra effort and develop skills that will help ensure they realize their goals. Narrow the focus of your discussion to this year, this term and finally this month. Review last year's report cards and ask them to identify areas in which they succeeded and others in which they struggled. Then create an action plan to ensure that they are able to proactively address any areas of concern.

Avoid the temptation to judge and tell your child what you think. Put them in them in charge of these comments by asking questions such as, "Are you happy with that?" or "Do you think that is good enough to help achieve your goals 30 or 40 years from now?"

Using their responses, work with them to identify what they need to focus on now to increase the likelihood they will achieve their long-term vision. Focus on 3 to 5 areas this year that will allow them to keep moving towards realizing their ultimate goals. Take the time to talk about some key features for effective goal setting, including:

  1. That improvement is gradual, and takes time, patience and persistence.
    1. It is not likely one can go from earning a 3 to a 6 in one term or even one year.
    2. It is similarly difficult to progress from not being involved in arts or athletics to taking part in three performances or three teams all at once!
  2. Development is supported by regular reflection.
    1. Create regular time to reflect and fine tune effort. Ask specific questions in a manner that allows your child to make their own decisions about what to celebrate, and continue to strengthen their efforts to improve.
    2. In cases where your child indicates they are not pleased with their progress, ask them to brainstorm how this could be changed. What can they do? What can you do? Who else might be needed to assist them? Reassure them that the process takes time, practice, and trial and error. Support your child in taking action and putting forth effort that will assist them in realizing their long-term vision.
  3. Effort is sustained by relevancy.
    1. Support deeper reflection at the conclusion of each term, tying progress and effort back to the overall plan of having a happy and successful life. This is more powerful when the goals are your child's and you act as facilitator.
    2. Help them understand how their efforts to perform better relates to their long-term vision. Sometimes the discussion is simply about being disciplined. Ideally, the discussion is about getting so involved in an activity that it becomes a calling.

Sustaining focus on short-term goals can be augmented through the introduction of smaller activities that reinforce those aspirations. Approaches to consider include:

  1. Creating a collage of their long-term vision of life with pictures from magazines and using it as a daily reminder of their dreams and aspirations.
  2. Talking about the day's goals at breakfast or on the way to school, allowing you child to be focused and mindful.
  3. Taking time each day to reinforce the plan and celebrate how putting forth effort now will mean so much over the long term.

At GNS, our positive environment encourages students to be highly engaged and develop a love of learning and doing. Taking time to talk about dreams and tie them back to daily and weekly efforts can help enable students to be better equipped to enjoy their day-to-day learning and realize their goals in the long run.

by Glenn Zederayko, Head of School