Why should everyone, including children, set goals?

It might seem pointless to set goals while we’re all dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. But the fact is, goals are more important now than ever. At a time when so much of what’s happening in our world is beyond our control, it’s good to take stock of just how many things we can do to give our lives direction.

Goal-setting should become a habit early on in life. When elementary students learn how to set goals, they’re taking the first steps in developing a growth mindset. Learning how to set goals is an important life skill that can empower our children to plan for the future, encourage them to problem-solve, and increase their self-awareness, confidence, and perseverance.

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), working toward personal and academic goals aligns with the core SEL competency of self-management relating to:

While goal-setting doesn’t necessarily come naturally, a young person’s intrinsic desire to achieve sets them up for success when they’re given the proper tools and strategies. Hana, a fourth-grade student who uses Kuder Galaxy® to learn about careers and education pathways, says, “A goal is something that you’re gonna achieve. You won’t do it this second; you want to plan it.” Hana attends a Leader In Me® school in Iowa, where the 7 Habits of Healthy Kids curriculum teaches students the importance of planning. “A goal is basically a plan,” she says. “I write goals down in a notebook. My last goal was ‘Read 100 pages of a chapter book by the end of the week.’ Don’t set a goal that’s too easy or too hard.”

Making goal-setting as easy as ABC.

Here’s a simple way to introduce students to goal-setting. Use the free downloadable activity at the bottom of this post. The following script (in italics) can help facilitate a class discussion.

[A] Ask students to consider, and answer, these questions:

When you set a goal, you’re making plans for what you want to achieve or improve on. It can be anything that you want to do better at. Think of all the things you do at home, at school, in your sports or hobbies, and with friends. Chores, reading, good eating habits, writing daily entries in a journal, even things like playing board games or doing puzzles, or getting exercise can be goals. Later on, you will set goals at work. Goals help us be successful.

Imagine a two-story house without a ladder, staircase, or elevator. That is what a life without goals would be like. How do you get to the next level if there is no way to get there? Every time you reach a goal, you are stepping up a ladder to the next level in life!

[B] Back them up by offering encouragement and help along the way.

[C] Celebrate their successes!

Goal-Setting Activity

Print this free goal-setting activity to help students set and achieve their goals. It’s a fillable PDF that can be shared online and completed electronically, or printed off as a handout.

Kuder SEL Goal Setting worksheet