Goal-setting seems like it would be a simple and straightforward practice. But according to researchers, 92% of goals are not achieved. Whether you are a student, teacher, mentor, or parent, we want to make sure you are achieving your goals. In the video and text below, we’ve compiled a list of top tips to help keep you on track and set goals like a pro.


First… What is a goal?


Simply put, a goal is a desired result that can be achieved through effort and ambition. According to Eastern Washington University, there are three types of goals: process, performance, and output. 

A process goal is based upon actions you can take to work toward mastery of a subject or skill. Process goals are 100% controllable by you. An example of a process goal is to study for Math three times per week for the next month.

A performance goal is based upon a metric or standard like a grade on a paper or a test score. Performance goals are mostly in your control.

An output goal, or an objective, is based upon an external decision or a result outside of your control. Output goals include winning a soccer game, getting into the college of your choice, and getting a job.

These three types of goals build upon one another. Process goals lead to better performance goals, which lead to a higher chance of achieving an output goal.

Goal-setting is important because it helps us achieve the things we want out of life. It can also build our social-emotional skills. Social-emotional skills include things like self-awareness, relationship building, and decision-making. In turn, these skills help us set better goals and increase the likelihood of future goal achievement. It’s a virtuous cycle.


How to set better goals


When setting any type of goal, there are a few important tips to keep in mind:

Identify your intention, or your “why.” When you have a good reason for wanting to achieve a goal, it’s easier to stay motivated to work toward it. Knowing your intention can also help you decide what kind of resources or support you need to achieve your goal. Additionally, if you share your goal with a teacher, mentor, or a parent, they can better understand how to help you if they know your intention.

Be SMART, or specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based.  If I want to improve my math grade, I might make a process goal to study for math. If my goal is simply to “study more,” how will I know if I achieved my goal? But if I make a goal to study for 30 minutes 3 times a week for the next month, I will know if I achieved my goal, because it’s SMART and easily trackable. To learn more about SMART goals, click here.

Write your goal down. According to Dr. Gail Matthews and Inc.com, you are 42% more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down! This is because “writing your goals down not only forces you to get clear on what, exactly, it is that you want to accomplish, but doing so plays a part in motivating you to complete the tasks necessary for your success. The process of putting your goals on paper will force you to strategize, to ask questions about your current progress, and to brainstorm your plan of attack.”

Share your goal. If you want to increase your likelihood of goal achievement to 95%, share your goal with a trusted adult or peer, give them your deadline, and set up regular check-ins, according to the American Society of Training and Development. When you think about who to choose to share your goal with, consider how different types of people can help you:

    • Subject matter experts are people in your life who can help you learn a skill or subject, like tutors or teachers. 
    • Accountability partners are people who might not know much about your goal, but they will be the first to check-in with you on your progress and keep you on track. 
    • Cheerleaders are people who are always rooting for you and help you stay motivated.

Treat yourself…sometimes. Author Dan Pink and the Hamilton Project out of Harvard have researched the effectiveness of rewards on achievement in adults and teens respectively. While more research needs to be done on this subject, one thing is clear: rewards do not work when we are trying to boost creativity or ingenuity. Rewards can be effective is for task-based work like finishing a list of chores or completing a weekly homework assignment. So if you choose to incentivize yourself or someone else you are supporting in their goal-setting, use rewards wisely.

Visualize success…and failure. Seeing ourselves as successful in our goal achievement can actually help us succeed in reality, especially if we imagine ourselves moving through all of the steps we will take to achieve our goal. Those steps also include obstacles and failures. If we can imagine all of the hurdles we might face throughout our goal achievement, we can also imagine what actions we’ll take to move through those hurdles and toward our goal. In The Happiness Lab podcast, Dr. Laurie Santos explores how this skill helped Michael Phelps win the Olympics.

Following these tips can increase the likelihood that you will be able to achieve your goals, no matter what kind of goal you have. For more goal-setting tips and tricks, follow @ascendgoals on Instagram and Facebook.