Real Goals

by ChristinaPilkington on April 4, 2011 · 2 comments

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There’s a lot of buzz going around lately about setting goals. If you type “setting goals” into a Google search engine you’ll get 7,770,000 results. If you believe in the importance of setting goals as a tool to help you achieve something, you probably also think this is a pretty great skill for your kids to have, too. In fact, this may be one of the reasons why parents like their children to be on a sports team – to work hard at achieving a specific, measurable goal.

The problem with goal setting occurs when the goals aren’t self-imposed or self-designed.

I want to tell you a story about my own experience with setting goals as a young child. I went to a very small conservative Christian school. It was non-traditionally structured in that we all had our own “offices” and completed workbooks at our own pace. In fact, the workbooks were called PACEs.

We had five of these PACEs: Math, English, Social Studies, Science and Word Building. Each child also had his own goal card. We were to write a “goal” for each PACE subject for the day. This really just translated into writing down what page numbers we wanted to finish that day.

There are so many problematic things about this system, but let me just address a few. First, we had no choice in what subjects we were to complete or even a choice to do the workbooks at all. Then there was the issue of setting the number of pages we wanted to complete. You’d think we’d at least be able to choose that, but no. 5 pages. We needed to do five pages in each workbook every day, and if we didn’t complete the work in school, we did later that night at home.

We never viewed these required pages as “goals.” They were work we were made to complete; no questions asked. Real goals are connected to deep passions and interests. They are tools we use to guide us towards accomplishing something we deeply care about. Otherwise we need to call it as it is: work that’s connected to someone else’s goals or agenda.

But what about the goals I have for my kids, you might ask. Don’t they matter at all?

We all want our kids to be happy, caring, responsible members of society. Many of us might also hope our kids pursue their own dreams and goals, too, but the only way the goals we have for our children will be achieved is if our children take on these goals for themselves, too. If they’re not convinced of the validity or necessity of that goal, it’s just not going to happen.

Oh, they might jump through some hoops for you: go to college if you require it or get decent enough grades if they go to school or if that’s what you do. But their emotions, beliefs and attitudes will be the same. They won’t have that deep inner connection to what they’re really here to do- to do what I believe God called has called them to do.

So you want your kids to find the value in setting goals? What do they want? Do they want to buy something? A great goal is saving or earning to buy something you care about. A goal doesn’t have to be tied with academics for a child to understand the value of choosing something to aim for, making a plan to get there, and working that plan.

An older teen might find value in attending college, planning for a big trip or getting a job. All these goals are very personal and have intrinsic value for the individual. They definitely require hard work, some type of direction, and a plan.

Goal setting can be one of the most important and practical skills children acquire, but they will understand goal setting’s true power unless the goals come from their own interests.

Lead your children by example. Do you actively set goals and work towards achieving them? Do you share your goals and planning processes with your kids? When children see their parents working towards their dreams, they almost always want to do the same for themselves.

Which goals are you most likely to aim for, those given to you by others or those you set for yourselves? What goals and dreams are important to your kids and how can you help them get there?


Photo credit: lululeman athletica

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  • Steve Poynter

    Christina: A great book you should read is, Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts, by Stephen Nachmanovitch. I have been using it for years in my seventh grade science classroom. Keep up the good work. Having spend nearly thirty years in education- at all grade levels- I can say that this is a movement in the right direction.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve read quite a few books on play, but I’ve never read this one. It’s going on my wish list! Thanks for the recommendation.

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