Happy 2021! Every new year is an opportunity to improve in some way, and there is no doubt that many people are hoping this year will be an improvement upon 2020. However, when it comes to students and children, goal setting is an important way to set themselves up for success and encourages them to try new things, in and out of the classroom. Apex Leadership Co. offers some simple tips and ideas for helping students set goals for the New Year (or any time of year!).

Tips and ideas for helping students set goals:

Take the Pressure Off

Many people (Forbes reports up to 80 percent!) make New Year’s resolutions on January 1st (or 5th … or 10th) and by February have given them up altogether. This is often because people make resolutions that they aren’t all that committed to or because they feel peer pressured into setting goals in the first place. Especially in the case of children, peer pressure should never be a reason to set a goal. When helping students create goals, encourage them to think of things they truly want to accomplish, try, or change.

Write Down the “Why”

Students may start off the year wanting to ace a math test, make a new friend, read five new books by the end of the semester, or try a new sport or hobby. And these are all awesome goals! However, without really defining why they want these things, the enthusiasm to reach the finish line to achieve these goals can quickly wane. Encourage students to think about what they really want to achieve — and why. For example, if a student wants to achieve the principal’s list, ask them why? Is it because they get to go up on stage to receive a reward and hear their name called at an assembly or because they simply want the satisfaction of knowing they can achieve straight As if they really set their mind to it? Defining why they want to achieve something can serve as a useful reminder down the road when reaching the goal may become challenging or seem overwhelming. 

Don’t Over Do it

Some people are really good at making a change “cold turkey” but for others, this method of attaining a goal is actually very unrealistic. When setting a goal, such as forgoing screen time in favor of nightly reading, it’s easier to cut back little by little (for example, going from 30 minutes of daily screen time to 15 minutes of screen time, then 15 minutes of reading time). This still gives students the satisfaction of doing something they love while adding in time to achieve a new goal, such as reading more in the new year.  

Notebook With an Action Plan

Plan it Out

A goal without a plan on how to achieve it is sure to fall flat fast. Planning is as important as execution! So when helping youth set goals in the New Year, it’s essential to help them create a plan as to how they will achieve the goal. Just as one might stock their refrigerator with fresh fruits and vegetables prior to starting a new health journey, students should have the tools and resources at the ready to help them achieve their goals. If the goal is to wake up an hour earlier each day, for example, make sure the alarm is set! For those prone to hitting the snooze button, make sure it’s out of arm’s reach so it can’t be muted subconsciously in favor of a few more zzz’s. Regardless of the goal, writing out a “road map” of how to get there is half the battle. 

Don’t Give Up, instead “Adjust the Goal”

It’s important that youth understand that goals can be challenging, and that’s okay! Hard work teaches incredible lessons like persistence, perseverance, problem-solving, commitment, and the satisfaction of seeing things through. However, if goals simply become too overwhelming or students start to put too much pressure on themselves to achieve them, it might be time to reconsider the goal. Rather than waiting until the student gets frustrated to the point of giving up, encourage them to check in with themselves on their progress from time to time. Looking back at the progress made (no matter how small!) is also a great way to motivate them to keep going. However, if it’s still too much, maybe it’s time to reset the goal. Make appropriate adjustments so that the students can keep working toward something they want but without unnecessary pressure from themselves or outside sources. 

When setting those New Year’s goals, remember to keep it all in perspective and have fun! Goals are great for encouraging people of any age to better themselves, but they should never become too overwhelming. Apex Leadership Co. wishes students, parents, teachers, and school staff alike a Happy New Year!