During my time as a middle school counselor, one of the things I was required to do was work with students who were not quite meeting their fullest academic potential.
I’ve run study skills groups, organized after-school tutoring programs, and even met one on one with students and families to help kids get a little boost toward the right direction. I don’t know if there was any one thing that was more important, or effective, than helping kids set goals. SMART goals.
The concept of SMART goals has been around for decades. Presented as early as the 1980’s, coaches, counselors, financial planners and more have used this method of setting goals to help people achieve more.
At the core, SMART goals are simple. The acronym outlines the five key principles of a goal that is more likely to be achieved. Most people understand that accomplishing a goal is often complicated by things that pop up or interrupt the process of achievement. For example, students say I want to get better grades, but they don’t plan out the exact steps that they need to take or clarify when they will start working toward that goal. When I met with students during the school year, we actually pulled out the gradebook and looked at where they were, checked missing assignments and assigned deadlines for making progress. While it may sound like a great deal of work, in all actuality, most of the time, with a slight bit of prep, the process can be completed with a class of 30 in as little as 30 minutes!
There’s no magic pill, but the idea is that if you consider all five areas associated with success, you will be more able to overcome common obstacles that typically prevent you from being successful.
The five areas addressed by SMART goals are as follows:
Specific-What is the exact thing I want to accomplish?
Measurable-How can I measure where I am and where I will be?
Achievable-Is this something I can control and ultimately attain?
Realistic/Relevant-Is this realistic and relevant to my larger plans?
Time-Related-What amount of time do I need to complete this goal?
We typically met with students around the first round of progress reports to set goals, but you can get ahead of the game by starting the year with a round of SMART goals, using this My SMART Goal sheet. Checking in with your kids weekly or monthly to determine how they are progressing.
Three Tips for parents from John Fleming, Executive Director of the Success Foundation:
- Little things Matter: Whether it’s a major project or a daily assignment. Each day remind your child to be detailed and focused on the ultimate goal with small steps making big impact in the long run. Encourage your child to spend some time, each day, working on the goal that they have set.
- Habits are powerful: Common thought is that it can take as many as three weeks or more for a new behavior to become a habit, and for students trying to set new academic habits, change can be tough. However, the key to reaching goals in the long run is to maintain consistency and routine. Help your child establish a pattern for academics that will help them be successful.
- Dreams can come true: The only difference between a dream and a goal is a plan. While it’s important that students grow into responsible adults, encourage your child to continue to dream as vividly as they can. Then work with them to create a plan that will keep them focused to make it an achievable goal.
Do you use SMART goals? Tell me your best tips in the comments.