Setting New Year's Resolutions vs. SMART Goals

coffee and cozy blanketPhoto: My quiet moment in the morning enjoying a hot cup of coffee
A personal goal for me is to be intentional about my own self-care. In order to do this, I plan to begin my mornings quietly, alone, 5 days a week. I will wake before the rest of the family, take time to think and reflect. I will keep track of this goal in my daily journal. This will be one important step toward my goal of self-care.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a new year's resolution is: a promise to do something differently in the new year. Recent studies show, on average, people stick to these resolutions for 17.8 days. In fact, January 17th is sometimes referred to as, "ditch the new year's resolution day."

Now, I would like to share two other definitions:

Goal: Something that you are trying to do or achieve.

Intention: The thing that you plan to do or achieve an aim or purpose.

Let's take a closer look at all three of these terms. New year's resolutions are promises, they tend to be strict and have us focusing on negative aspects about ourselves, making a year-long promise to change or do something that we are not already doing. Versus, setting goals with intention, which offers us more flexibility, smaller milestone steps, helps us focus on the positive aspects in our lives, seeing ourselves with greater compassion, and highlights what we already "have", with intentions to feel or do something differently in some way.

So why not ditch the new years resolution and instead, set the tone in your home, classroom, and/or workplace, by focusing some time on setting goals with intention? 

Let's discuss some great ways to engage children in goal setting with intention. Goals can, and should be created at any time of the year, not just at the new year (although it is a perfectly great time to begin). Goal setting provides children an opportunity to understand the importance of setting goals, helps cultivate self-discipline and personal accountability.

It's important that we begin with supporting children in understanding what attainable goals look like. I like to create my goals along with my own children and students, so that they can observe me going through the process. 

When I create goals, I turn to the acronym S.M.A.R.T.  SMART goals were first discussed in a 1981 article by George Doran, “There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives”.  S.M.A.R.T. stands for -

S – Specific: "What exact goal do I want to achieve?" 

M – Measurable: "How will I measure my progress?" "How will I know when I have reached my goal?"

A – Attainable: "What skills will I need to achieve my goal?" "What support will I need to achieve my goal?"

R – Relevant: "Why is this goal important to me?"  "Is it the right time for this goal?"

T – Timely: "When do I want to achieve this goal?" "When will I work on it?"

When setting SMART goals, we can think of them as small steps or milestones, towards a larger goal. For instance, if a child has the larger goal of hitting a home run during this year's baseball season, discuss the smaller steps or milestones in order to attain that goal. For example - the SPECIFIC goal might sound more like: "I want to hit the ball past the grass line in the outfield in the first month of the season." Then move through the next steps on how they will MEASURE progress, how they will ATTAIN the goal, why it is RELEVANT to them, and what TIMEframe they want to achieve this goal. Then once they have this goal completed, maybe the next goal is hitting a triple, which is moving them toward the larger long-term goal of hitting a home run by the end of the baseball season.

It's important to make goal setting intentional and meaningful for our children (and ourselves), as it creates greater awareness and accountability. We specifically think about the what, why and how of achieving our goals. 

Please keep in mind not to overwhelm your child (or yourself) with setting too many goals. You might want to support your child in coming up with one or two personal and/or academic goals. Let's do our best to set our children (and ourselves) up for achievable success.  In order to do so, you can add P.A.C.T. to your goals discussion:

P – Patience: Be patient and enjoy the process to achieving your goals.

A – Action: Taking action will bring you steps closer to achieving your goals.

C – Consistency: Be consistent in taking steps to achieve your goals.

T – Time: Be realistic about the time it will take. Do not be afraid to adjust the timeline you created for achieving your goal.

Be your child's/student's accountability partner. Encourage their motivation and focus as they work toward achieving their goals. Reward them for their efforts, consistency, actions and time put in. Rewards can be words of encouragement, a hug, a dance party celebration - rewards do not need to come in the form of tangible items (although, going out for frozen yogurt is a favorite in our home). 

I have created a SMART goal activity sheet for your child or students (or you) to use as a guide! I hope you enjoy this FEELLINKS FREEBIE!  

Wishing you and yours a magical year of growth and achievements - and permission to feel all the feels as they come and go.   

I will remind you -  any day is a great day to use FeelLinks unique, hands-on feeling journal and plush feeling dolls with a kiddo in your life. Let's work together to build a generation of kiddos where expressing and sharing all of their feelings is accepted and normal!

With Gratitude, 


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