As we begin a new year, an opportunity arises to look back and reflect on the past 12 months, and plan for the upcoming year. Let’s be real, 2020 really flipped our world upside down, so setting goals may seem a bit overwhelming in the present moment. Why set goals in a time that is currently so unpredictable? Right now, even more than years past, setting personal goals is crucial. While we are all ready to put 2020 behind us, it is still so important to reflect on the good, bad and ugly that it brought, to help us set goals, stay motivated, and move productively throughout 2021. After all, setting and achieving goals is a skill necessary to attaining future success and overall happiness. Below are 6 tips to help you and your kids start setting and reaching your 2021 goals.
STEPS FOR SETTING REALISTIC GOALS IN 2021
1. Confront Unrealistic Goals
Let’s be honest, we all have one or two goals that are just not feasible to achieve right now. Sure, it would be wonderful for your child to become an Olympic athlete by the end of 2021, but is that possible if he/she just joined his/her first club team this month? If your child is setting goals that are out of reach, help them set more attainable and age-appropriate variations of the goal for this year. With that being said, having a conversation about the difference between long-term goals and short-term goals might help them better understand why. Keep in mind that we want our kids to set their own goals, so make sure whatever goals they set are personalized and have meaning to them, even if we offer a little help adjusting them.
2. Chose Just-Out-of-Reach Goals
We all know that awesome spark of success we feel after meeting a goal we set for ourselves. It is this feeling we feel after meeting a goal or milestone that perpetuates us continue to set additional goals. However, sometimes children will stay within a certain comfort zone when setting goals in order to ensure that they will be successful. The best thing about setting goals is learning to reach outside of our comfort zone, challenge ourselves and strive for success. Encourage your kids to set goals that are attainable, but just out of reach. Teach them to strive for something new, and that feeling of success will mean even more once the goal is achieved, even if it isn’t met in the time allotted.
3. Set Specific Goals/Discuss Their Purpose
A good goal is one that is specific and well thought out. Sometimes kids tend to generalize when it comes to goal setting. Have your child brainstorm specific goals that are measurable. For example, if your child’s goal is to be a good hockey player, brainstorm how they can measure that. Maybe they can set a personal goal to score 2 goals every game. In addition to setting specific goals, ask your child what the purpose of the goal is. If you want your child to be motivated to achieve the goal, they first have to be able understand why. When kids see a purpose for what they learn or do, they tend to perform better. It is even more important to have your child find a self-transcendent purpose for their goals, understanding that their goal can also benefit others. You can help your child do so by asking them “How can that help other people?”. If your child can find a greater purpose behind their goals beyond just what it accomplishes for themselves, they are likely to see greater results. Plus, critical thinking and kindness come into play here, which is a major bonus. Check out this free handout HERE to help get your child started with goal setting.
4. Break Them Down/Set Checkpoints
Often times our goals feel huge and we don’t know where to begin. As mentioned above, an effective goal should be reasonably within reach. One way to keep your child motivated to reach their goals for an extended period of time is to take their big, long-term goal and break it down it to more manageable short-term steps.
Start by setting a string of small, incrementally more challenging goals. You can help your child visualize these smaller goals by creating a “goal pyramid”. At the top of the pyramid, have your child write their big goal, then write the individual steps it would take to achieve it below. Remind your child that they may not reach their long-term goal right away. If they’re making progress and completing short-term goals along the steps of their pyramid, they shouldn’t become discouraged. They’re still climbing the “pyramid” to success, and even the smallest of achievements count. Think of the steps on the pyramid as “checkpoints.” The higher up you get, the closer you are to achieving your big goal. Check out our handout HERE to help you get started.
5. Think About Obstacles
If you don’t plan for obstacles to come your way along your path to achieving your goals, unexpected challenges or difficulties might derail motivation to continue working towards them. The WOOP acronym below is from the research of psychologist Gabriele Oettingen and can be used to successfully plan for, and reach goals:
- Wish- Think about something you want to achieve.
- Outcome- Visualize how it would look and feel to achieve this goal.
- Obstacles- Picture the things that have held, do hold, or could hold you back from reaching this goal.
- Plan- If and when these obstacles occur, how can you respond?
6. Remind and Relate
Big Life Journal shares some important steps for what to do and say if your child wants to give up on their goal:
- Remind them of the purpose behind their goal
- Remind how they decided to deal with this obstacle
- Recognize as they climb the steps on their “goal pyramid”
- Give examples of your own struggles at their age
- Focus on how they can continue improving
- Celebrate their effort, determination and persistence
- Teach them positive self-talk
Remember, setting goals and achieving them is a process that everyone goes through. Remind your kids that achieving goals takes time and commitment. Make goal setting a family effort. This creates an environment based on cooperation and support and teaches our children that even though we all have our own unique interests, we work together and support one another through life’s challenges obstacles to achieve optimal success.
Hi, I am an occupational therapist at South Shore Therapies. I specialize in pediatirc brain injury and stroke, but love working with all families to help kids reach their optimal potential. Our mission with SST’s social media platform is to empower, educate and inspire families to take on life’s challenges while promoting an optimistic outlook and a brighter future.