Happy New Year! I hope the break was good to you all.
As someone who thrives off of change, the New Year is an exciting time. I craft new goals and I spend time intentionally resetting and reconsidering all kinds of things in my personal and professional life. I keep a dot journal (several, actually), and the New Year always ushers in a new journal and, with it, a blank slate for charting a course ahead.
For kids, setting goals is an incredibly worthwhile endeavor, but sticking with those goals can be challenging. Angela Duckworth famously took on the topic in her book Grit, which posited that success comes through a mix of passion and persistence. If you’re as interested in setting goals as I am and want to get your kids involved too, below is some advice on how to get there.
- Compare yourself against… yourself! (and not anyone else) This is why journaling or charting can be so helpful. If your child sets a goal to be able to run five miles without stopping by the end of the year, seeing their stamina grow from three quarters of a mile in January to a mile and a half in February might be all they need to propel them a little bit further in March. If they stop to compare themselves to your next door neighbor, who’s been running for years, they’re not going to do themselves any favors!
- Praise the moments of resilience. The research tells us that participation trophies and general praise, or praise for trivial tasks, can actually have the opposite intended effect. To get the most out of praising your child, use it liberally but intentionally. Praise specific behaviors, especially those related to effort and tenacity. Instead of saying, “You’re a really great artist!” try “I’m so impressed with how long you’ve been working on that drawing!” or “It’s really amazing how many different versions of leaves you’ve drawn on that tree!”
- Remember the importance of passion. Angela Duckworth’s work emphasizes the importance of passion and purpose for achieving grit. It’s unlikely kids are going to have the fortitude to push through something that is totally undesirable day after day. Instead, try to set goals around preferred activities. Already like basketball? Set a goal to improve your jump shot average. Alternatively, children can try leveraging things they like to achieve goals in areas that are less desirable. They don’t like writing but love anime? Try setting a goal to create their own comic book, complete with captions and dialogue. That avoids the fear of a traditional paragraph while still practicing a number of important encoding skills.
Hopefully, some of these tips are helpful for encouraging your kids to set some goals in the year ahead. If this letter has you cringing from too much productivity, I’ll direct your attention to a Happier alternative! Gretchen Rubin, one of my favorite podcast producers and always a sure bet for a moodlift, creates a “22 for 22” list each year, along with a yearly challenge. This year’s challenge? REST! For 22 minutes every day!
So with that in mind, Happy New Year! May 2022 be exactly what you need!