I hope you girls had a wonderful time celebrating holidays with your family! Hopefully having a few days off school and schedules have given you a chance to slow down and reflect on the past year. I think we were all ready to say goodbye to 2020 and put it behind us! Even if things didn’t go the way you’d hoped or planned, I’m sure you learned and grew last year more than you realize. And now we’re eagerly looking forward to a new year and more good things to come in 2021!
The New Year feels like a new beginning or fresh start that inspires people to make resolutions or goals. But you can make new goals any time of the year! It doesn’t have to be the beginning of the year, month, week, or even day. You can start working on a goal on a Thursday in March or an evening in the middle of August.
Have you ever made a goal and reached it? How about not reached it? That’s ok! I’ve been there, too. It’s okay if you set a goal and don’t quite get there.
Growth isn’t dependent on whether you achieve a goal or not; it comes from working toward new habits, making positive changes, and strengthening a skill over time. The process builds character and resilience!
But what if you could increase the likelihood that you’d succeed at reaching a goal? Would you believe, there is actual science to it?! Dr. Gail Matthews from Dominican University did a study to find out if planned and written-down goals affect people’s success reaching them.
The study’s participants were split into five groups:
- The first group made no goals or plans.
- The second group wrote down goals but didn’t make a plan to reach them.
- The third group wrote down specific goals and made a plan how to reach them.
- The fourth group wrote down specific goals and made a plan how to reach them, then told a supportive friend about their goals and plans.
- The fifth group wrote down specific goals, made a plan how to reach them, told a supportive friend about their goals and plans, and then every week they followed up with their friend on the progress of their goals and plans.
Which group do you think was the most successful at reaching their goals? Yes, it was the fifth group! Because they made specific goals and wrote them down with plans how to reach them, and they had an accountability buddy to report on their progress, the fifth group “accomplished significantly more than all the other groups.”
So what can you take away from this example? Writing down your goals, making a plan how to reach them, and having someone to cheer you on and keep you on track makes you more likely to succeed at reaching a goal.
Okay let’s talk about some tools to help you succeed.
First, set SMART goals:
- Specific – detailed and clear goals, not generic and vague
– not “I’m going to draw something” or “I’m going to run somewhere”
- Measurable – trackable progress on your goal
– not “I will draw a lot” or “I will run more”
- Attainable – realistic, not too easy/hard
– not “I want to draw the Sistine Chapel” or “I want to run 50 marathons,” but also not something that requires zero effort
- Relevant – important to you
– not “I’m going to draw because my mom said I have to” or “I’m going to run because that’s what popular kids do”
- Timely – finish/accomplish date, also be flexible
– not “Sometime I’ll draw” or “I’ll run eventually”
So now that you know what not to do, here are SMART goals for these examples:
– “I’m going to learn to draw my favorite animal before my birthday as a gift to myself.”
– “I will work up to running a mile without stopping by spring break because I can challenge myself to try something new.”
Next tools, like Dr. Gail Matthews’ experiment —
- Write your goal down – make a plan for how to accomplish it, break it down into steps to get there.
- Tell your accountability buddy – someone who will root for your success and help you stay focused: a parent, a relative, a supportive friend
And these last tools —
- Prepare for obstacles – you may need to adjust your goal plan or your timeline. Be kind and flexible with yourself. And if you don’t quite reach your goal, recognize the progress you made and set a new goal.
- Reward yourself – when you reach your goal, celebrate! Pat yourself on the back and share your good news with your accountability buddy. Throw yourself a dance party in your room! You did it!
So I’ve got a personal story about setting goals, setbacks, and rewards. Many years ago, I planned to hike a big mountain with my husband. The week before our hike I prepared by going on long walks and double checking that I had the gear I’d need for the trek. The day arrived and we set out on our hike, but it was much harder than I anticipated and I wasn’t able to reach the top of the mountain. I was disappointed it didn’t work out the way I’d planned.
Years later I made another goal to hike that same mountain. Again, I prepared by making sure I had the right gear — this time I got hiking poles — and I went on on long walks uphill to condition myself for the difficult climb up that mountain. The day arrived and we set out on our hike. It was hard, and when I made it past the point I’d stopped at the last time, there were new obstacles to overcome. But I persevered and made it to the top! The view was spectacular, and I felt very proud of myself for accomplishing my goal. I knew I could do it, and I’m glad I challenged myself to do hard things.
Take some time to make some goals with these tools:
Set SMART Goals
Write your goal down with a plan
Tell your accountability buddy
Prepare for obstacles
To help you set your goals, I created a “SMART Goals” poster for you to print out, personalize, and post on your wall where you’ll see it, remember it, practice it, and believe it — that’s the important part.
A few of my favorite books that illustrate reaching goals are
After the Fall, by Dan Santat
Salt in His Shoes, by Deloris Jordan (aka Michael Jordan’s mom)
Movies that explore this are “Moana,” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
If you have favorite books or movies to add, I’d love to hear from you! Ask your parent’s permission to share your favs by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.