Steps for kids to achieve in school beyond initial goals

As the summer of 2015 draws to a close, the new school year is right on its heels. And of course, like any new year, this one comes with a whole set of new goals for every student.

Whether to make new friends, keep focused, achieve higher grades or branch out into new areas, everyone going through school has things they want to accomplish – and rightly so. But often, the day-to-day demands of life force those aspirations to take a backseat, and the year becomes just another in a long list of ones that didn’t quite get to what we had hoped.

Every goal can conceivably be achieved, and yet the vast majority of long-term goals wane before they can be seen through to completion. It’s not for a lack of heart, but passion at the outset is tough to convert to sustaining energy for the long haul.

And yet, there are techniques that work consistently, for adults and students alike. One in particular, we have found, is especially effective: a six-step plan notable for both its simplicity and completeness, which – when properly implemented – is a valuable tool for achieving far beyond an initial goal.

Step 1
Know what you want

As simple as this sounds, many people breeze right by this first step, getting a vague idea in their mind of something that resembles a goal and then setting out immediately to achieve it. But in reality, this approach sets people up to fail before they even truly begin their task. A lack of clear definition is a sure way to make sure that goals will not be followed through with.

Instead, take time to define a clear framework. If your child says she wants to make friends, get elbow-deep in the logistics right away: How many friends, realistically, does she want to make? Will they be from her class, or her friends-of-friends, or somewhere else? Why does she want to do this, and is there a bigger objective beyond this one goal? Taking a few moments to hash through the details and figure out exactly what she wants to achieve makes all the difference and guarantees a strong start.

Step 2
Have a plan

We all know this one, but although we’re familiar with it, that doesn’t make it any less essential. Keeping with the making-friends example, while the instinctive next step might be to organize playdates and get in contact, it is far more effective and rewarding in the long run to let a child plan and execute a strategy herself. Put together ideas and a solid plan – sit next to this person on this day, get that partner for that project – so that there is something concrete to do, rather than an objective with no way to get to it.

Step 3
Find a success coach

While finding a mentor is difficult for adults, it is not nearly as hard for kids; they are surrounded by coaches in the form of parents, teachers and the other grown-ups in their lives. The Success Coach is a sounding board, an advice-giver, a clear perspective, and any number of other things – there not to lead a child through the process, but to watch out for little slips and help them to get back on track as needed. If a child’s attempt at sitting with someone new at lunch didn’t go as planned, the Success Coach is there to help figure out what happened and lend a hand in putting together a new way forward.

Step 4
Take consistent action

This is both the easiest part and the hardest – taking the steps to achieve the goal. And this, like nothing else, is the singular responsibility of the person trying to accomplish their task. This is the child trying day after day reaching out to different people, and once connections have been made, putting in the work to keep them happy and healthy. While the Success Coach can help her figure out what needs to happen, it’s her job to follow through and get the job done – not just once or twice, but consistently, until what she wants becomes something that she has.

Step 5
Review your progress

This is done many times through the achievement process: an honest look back at what has been accomplished so far, and an honest answer to the question, "Am I still on track to do what I want to do?" If the answer is yes, then continue forward, and if not, then re-assess and come back at the objective from a different angle.

Step 6
Renew your goals

When all is said and done, and the goal has at long last been achieved, take a moment to figure out whether you’re satisfied with what you’ve accomplished. If a student made all ten of the friends she wanted to, then it’s her job to decide whether she wants to focus on keeping those friends, reaching out to more, or doing something in between. At this point, the process is renewed with a new objective, but take a moment and make sure to celebrate; something great has happened, and it was the product of consistent hard work – the best kind of success there is.