Setting your kids — and yourself — up for success throughout the year.
Published: December 27, 2019
By: Sandi Schwartz
Every parent wishes that their children will have all their dreams come true.
Pursuing meaningful goals that reflect our purpose is important for maintaining a happy life. Achieving our dreams ultimately makes us even happier emotionally and more satisfied with our lives.
Positive-psychology researchers have discovered that people who have a clear purpose in life experience less pain and anxiety. Feeling good about the future is important for our emotional well-being, and having a purpose gives us direction and something to look forward to. Without goals and a purpose, we just go through the motions of life and can start to feel numb and depressed.
Each goal we set and achieve on the path to reaching our purpose takes us one step closer to true happiness and success in our lives, according to Psychology Today. In turn, positive emotions then make us more motivated to keep wanting to achieve even more. Achieving our goals gives us a sense of accomplishment. They are how we turn our dreams into reality.
Our job as parents is to pass along this knowledge to our children so they can discover their own purpose in life and make choices based on what will make them happy and satisfied. A recent study in the journal Psychological Science found that having a strong purpose can be as important to young adults as it is to older people. This means that finding one’s direction in life should be done as early as possible. We can give our children tools so they can start crafting their purpose, even at a young age.
Set SMART Goals
If we are not careful about how we set our goals, we can lose our balance. “Happiness doesn’t just happen — it comes from thinking, planning and pursuing things that are important to us,” according to Action for Happiness (www.actionforhappiness.org). The types of goals we want to guide our children in setting should be interesting and engaging to them, give them a sense of meaning and purpose and bring a sense of accomplishment when they achieve them. This will help build confidence for future endeavors.
SMART goals are used by managers to help their employees set realistic, attainable goals. The home-school blog, Embark on the Journey, translated this business terminology to make it useful to families and offers worksheets that you can easily download and work on with your children.
The acronym SMART represents goals that are:
Specific. The more specific we are, the more focused we can be in reaching a goal. When your children say they want to do better in school, ask questions to guide them in identifying a more detailed goal. For example, which subject would they like to do better in? What grade are they hoping to achieve?
Measurable. It is important that we help our children identify how they will know they reached their goal so it is clear what they are working toward. Is it an award, a grade, a project or a skill they are looking to achieve in the end?
Achievable. Goals should be challenging within reason — not impossible. It is best to encourage our children to take one step at a time and not to make things too difficult for themselves. They will be happier if they reach a few easier goals than struggling to attain a really difficult one.
Relevant. Goals need to mean something to the children. They need to be excited and passionate about what they are working toward. If we set the goals for them, they will not gain anything from the experience, and they may possibly fail and end up stressed about what we expect from them.
Timely. If we don’t identify when we hope to achieve a goal, we are unable to succeed. Ask your children to determine a realistic time frame for meeting the goal. Be sure to consider other obligations and interests when setting the estimated finish line.
Provide New Experiences
As parents, we can guide our children through this discovery process to figure out their purpose in life. We can’t tell them what their purpose should be, but we can give them experiences and resources to help them, such as:
- Taking them on trips, both domestic and abroad.
- Participating in volunteer activities.
- Being part of a sports team.
- Exposing them to different cultures through food, shows, music, etc.
- Exploring art and science through shows, museums and classes.
- Giving them opportunities to explore life on their own through camp, group trips, study abroad programs, and spending time with friends and family in other locations.
It is also important that our children learn how to stay flexible when setting and working towards their dreams. Goals are not meant to be written in stone. We should approach goals as fluid opportunities for personal growth. As they learn new techniques or fail at their first attempt, they can tweak their goals to better fit their needs over time. The key to success is to allow them to take a break, find a new perspective, and then come back and try again with a revised plan. Our children will thank us for teaching them this little trick in life so that they can learn to adapt more easily and persevere even when faced with unexpected surprises and challenges.
The world is their oyster — we can help them find their pearl.