I was at a consultation recently and came across a situation that I often see. The student was a very willing, and a very well-meaning student; keen to do well, and keen to please. But she was struggling with learning and school. Something I kept hearing her say was “I don’t like school.” It felt like she was comparing herself to her friends and, in her mind’s-eye, coming off worse. In one particular case, the student did actually say that she wanted to be more like another student, who had done really well in her mock GCSEs.
In another consultation I came across a student who is clearly bright and able but had his mum exasperated with his lack of drive. His teachers commented, “He has the potential to be a great student but he isn’t willing to focus on his studies.” All parents share this sense of frustration when their child seems unwilling to give something a go that they are perfectly capable of achieving.
Do either of these situations sound familiar?
When I come across students who are feeling like this, lacking in focus, lacking in self-belief, then what I often conclude is that what is really lacking is sense of direction and a sense of purpose. This is where goals, and in particular, goal setting comes in; having something to aim for, something to ‘go for’, is hugely important.
And all research shows that doing just this, is so important and effective. Goal setting can make us up to 10 times more successful.
Goals are hugely motivating provided they are something that we genuinely believe in. What’s more, behaviours that support goal achievement are worth learning and add huge value to all walks of life. For example, the planning and prioritising of time, personal organisation, focus and concentration and persistence are all skills that support goal achievement and support learning. Such skills are often called ‘executive functioning skills’ and it is the development of these skills which underpins goal achievement and achievement in all walks of life. These skills help us all throughout all of our lives. Having a goal helps to bring a purposefulness and is an antidote to a lack of direction.
So, how do we, as adults and parents promote goal setting in our children? Encouraging a goal setting mindset can start with the very young, for example, by noticing, and drawing their attention to, times when they have used goal setting techniques for instance saving pocket money. Goals can be small, for example, finishing a book together. Many children have something they want to achieve, whether its dancing, playing an instrument, playing a sport or anything. It’s good to encourage them to choose their own goals. A final tip would be to listen out for when your child says “I wish” then talk them through how they could achieve this wish. We need a goal and goals are very powerful tools.
And what is a goal other than a dream put into action and put into practice.
“All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” said Walt Disney.
I hope that 2020 is a year in which dreams come true for all.