Helping Young People Set and Achieve Goals
Every young person is unique, an amazing combination of both genetic data and experiences that shape who they are. Even among identical twins, vast differences in behavior, preferences, and thinking are often observed. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that every young person has something very special to share with the world. There really is no one else like them on the entire planet.
As parents, educators, and child-care providers, it is our duty to help these young people achieve success in life by achieving their goals and ultimately realizing their dreams. To do this, we must teach them the power of goal setting to accomplish difficult and complex tasks. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Be specific. “Get good at basketball” is a vague goal. Instead, try to be as specific as possible. “Complete 25 free throws in a row, 3 times per day” is a much more specific goal. Specificity helps everyone establish where they stand in relation to the goal. At the end of the day, anyone should be able to see what has been done relative to the goal and determine whether it has been accomplished.
2. Start small and work out a plan to complete. We often teach our children to “reach for the stars.” While this is usually inspiring and encouraging advice, it can be discouraging if there isn’t a step-by-step plan for success. For example, if a young person wants to get better at a particular sport, break that sport down into its individual component parts and practice those parts separately. Set a reasonable goal in one area and do not move on to the next until the goal is achieved.
3. Share rewards along the way. The human brain prefers instant gratification. Use this knowledge to your advantage by rewarding the youth for small steps in the right direction. Psychological studies continue to demonstrate that people are more motivated by rewards than by punishments. Receiving a small reward on the way to a larger goal will give the young person a stronger sense of self-worth and respect.
Finally, make sure the young person is intrinsically motivated to achieve their goals. Intrinsic motivation is the motivation that comes from within a person, while extrinsic motivation is the motivation that comes from somewhere else. For example, the young person may try to please or impress someone else (a parent or counselor) by achieving a specific goal. This is not necessarily a bad thing if the young man is motivated to seek the approval of another person. (Helping Young People Set and Achieve Goals)However, this is something to be careful about, as it can lead the young person down a path they later regret.