One of the best things we can do as parents is to role model appropriate goal-setting behavior for our children in our own lives. If we don’t act proactive in our own lives, both personally and professionally, that speaks louder than any lesson we give our children.
Set Specific Goals
Goal setting involves taking a good look at what we value and what we want to pursue, and then creating specific steps to get there. The research is very clear that we build authentic self-esteem when we pursue hard goals that are outside our comfort zone because that is how we discover how strong and resilient we can be, and how we can build positive relationships with other people in the process.
Taking Risks Allows Teens to Flourish
Hard goals usually require taking risks, too, which is also good for us because too little risk causes boredom and apathy, and promotes a condition called “languishing.” Our goal is to “flourish,” and waking up every day to short-term and long-term goals that contribute to meaning and purpose will make us happier. It is also contagious and other people who behave the same way will begin to populate your life.
The biggest problem I see is that people set goals that are too vague, which makes it impossible to know if you are making progress or not. If you fail to build in accountability for progress, that can also be a problem.
Set Goals that Reflect Your Values and Strengths
One question you need to always be able to answer is “So what?” when it comes to your goals. That question teases out whether or not you have set your own goals and they reflect your own values and character strengths, or if you are simply following a script that other people have set out for you.
Willpower and Delayed Gratification Help Teens Reach Goals
I think it’s also valuable for children to be in activities that include goal-setting and reward delayed gratification and effort. Many sports and musical instruments endorse hard work, reward as you advance, and offer valuable lessons in winning and losing, which is essential in life. If you grow up believing that everyone is a “winner” regardless of what you do or don’t do, life will always be disappointing. So become accustomed to learning to exercise willpower, delay gratification until you have accomplished specific milestones, and be resilient through difficult times so that the actual outcome is as positive as possible.