Actually Accomplish Your Goals
All of us have goals, but (like that treadmill gathering dust and Goodwill-bound clothes in the garage) many of them never get used. Here's a step-by-step guide to creating goals you will actually accomplish. Not a bad thing to teach the kiddos either.
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You can get by thinking all goals are created equal until you become a parent. Then, when you start having conversations with this weird small human you’ve been tasked with not killing…I mean raising to be a productive member of society… you start to notice things. Let’s take a bad test grade for example.
Approach vs. Avoidance Goals
- Approach-Oriented Goal: “I want to get a good grade on my math test.”
- Avoidance-Oriented Goal: “I don’t want to fail my math test.”
Seems like the same goal, but they actually play out different behaviorally. Kids who are trying to get a good grade (approach orientation) display more situation-appropriate study habits, are more likely to try different study strategies, and are more intrinsically motivated.
Performance vs. Mastery Goals
The “Big” Problem
- Performance-Oriented Goal: “I want to get an A on the test.”
- Mastery-Oriented Goal: “I want to understand how fractions work.”
Now, you probably noticed that the second one was followed by a silent “said no kid ever”.
Our entire educational system is structured around performance-oriented goals. We teach our kids to want to score the goals in the game, get the A on the test, win the spelling bee, and all the other competition-based, performance-oriented, completely counterproductive-for-actual-learning things that “good kids” are supposed to want to do.
- Try to aim your kids toward approach-oriented goals, ones where they aim towards a positive outcome, not just away from a negative one.
- Emphasize that traits like intelligence or ability can be built over time (by practice) and that a negative outcome (like a bad grade) doesn’t make you stupid. It just means you haven’t learned it yet.
- Try to emphasize mastery. Tell your kid you don’t care if they can get an A on the test if they still don’t understand fractions. (Seriously, do this. It really freaks them out.)
This isn’t going to create a revolutionary change overnight, but knowing the forces at work behind goal setting and the different ways to structure goals will have a long-term effect on your kid’s happiness, learning, and success.
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About the Author
Founder | Contributor
Liz (or Dr. Mommy, as her toddler started calling her after learning what a PhD was) is the happily sleep-deprived mom of a baby boy (and professional raccoon noise impersonator), a sparkle-clad toddlernado, a teenage stepdaughter, the canine embodiments of Pinky and The Brain, and a rabbit of unusual size. During nights and naptimes, she uses her PhD in business psychology as an author, speaker, and consultant. She also serves as an executive and principal for three companies, two of which she co-founded with her very patient (and equally exhausted) husband.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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