Goal Setting: Start with the End in Mind

Goal setting: Start with the End in Mind
Posted on 02/19/2020
From Chris Gray, MHS Assistant Principal

Missouri’s favorite son, Mark Twain, once remarked, “Without dreams and goals there is no living, only merely existing, and that is not why we are here.”  Wise words spoken by a wise man.  In the education world having the end in mind is important in planning what happens every day in the classroom.  For our students it’s just as important to have goals in mind as they navigate through their teenage years.

We’re all guilty of shifting into auto-pilot mode from time-to-time, losing ourselves in our daily routines.  Smartphones make it easy to get distracted by social media and streaming video when we should be getting busy making our dreams come true.  One of the most powerful exercises for a teen or anyone looking to improve on any part of their life is to set a goal and a plan of action to reach it.  When kids set short- and long-term goals, they start to see a path to success. 

As an Assistant Principal at MHS, I often ask my students about where they see themselves after high school.  I do this for a number of reasons.  First, it’s my responsibility to help guide students as they prepare for adulthood.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I can point students in the right direction to find the information and resources they need.  Second, I want to make sure my students have started thinking about their future.  I’ve found that teenagers without goals oftentimes lack the motivation needed to be successful academically.  If they don’t have a clue what they want to do after high school, the conversation turns to what they enjoy doing and how that might translate into a career.  Lastly, I’m genuinely interested in the hopes and dreams of my students.  There is nothing better for an old educator’s soul than to run into a former student and find out what great things they’ve done since high school.
It’s no coincidence that the beginning of each calendar year is the craziest for businesses like Weight Watchers and Gold’s Gym.  Many of us see a new year as a chance to improve on something in our lives.  Statistics show that very few people pull off their New Year’s resolutions.  I would argue that being more intentional in how we set our resolutions would increase our chances for success.
An effective process used to set and reach a goal is the S.M.A.R.T. method, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.  Being specific involves clearly identifying what you want to do.  Oftentimes, it involves answering, who, what, when, and where?  Measurable not only refers to the finish line but also to checkpoints.  The path to success oftentimes involves a correction along the way.  Being able to track your progress is important.  Identifying a goal that is attainable or realistic is important, as well.  A goal that is near impossible to reach gives you very little chance at success. On the other hand, setting an easy target that doesn’t give you a chance to grow.  A goal should be relevant.  In other words, if you’re going to spend a great deal of time and effort on something, it ought to be important to you. Will success genuinely improve your life in some way? Lastly, a goal should be timely.  Set yourself a deadline and you’ll be more likely to succeed.