People become effective goal-setters when they understand and develop five action-oriented behaviors and incorporate these actions with each goal set.
- Put goals in writing. Goals that are written are concrete and motivational. Making progress toward written goals increases feelings of success and well-being. Using a goal-setting template can help children track their successes. A goal-setting smartphone app may motivate tech-savvy children even more. Some apps have gaming features that make goal-setting a fun way to achieve results and build new habits.
- Self-commit. For a goal to be motivating, it must give meaning to a mental or physical action to which one feels committed. This self-commitment becomes a key element in self-regulation, the ability to monitor, control, and alter one's own behaviors. This doesn’t mean that others should not be involved in goal-setting. In fact, it's great to have other there as goal facilitators—helping see options, asking questions, and providing supportive feedback.
- Be specific. Goals must be much more specific than just the outcome. Here’s a simple formula. 1) I will [lose 20 pounds]; 2) By doing what? [exercising 3 times a week and cutting out sweets]; 3) When? How? With Whom?; 4) Measured by [pounds].
- Stretch for difficulty. Goals should always be challenging enough to be attainable, but not so challenging that they become sources of major setbacks.
- Seek feedback and support. Part of the fun and motivation of setting goals is working with a supportive environment. Even though goals are often individual in nature, you should be able to recognize how a goal is tied to family values, the aspirations of a sports team, or the aim of a specific program. When you understand this connection, you feel more open to seeking feedback and receiving support. When goals are achieved, it’s time to celebrate with others!