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Seven Steps to Goal Setting for Students

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 1/17/2012

Most students don't set goals because they don't know how. You can be the hero by teaching them a simple goal-setting system that will provide lifelong returns.

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    Why Set Goals?

    Raise your hand if you have any students who underachieve.

    Why have goal setting activities failed in the past? Perhaps because they didn't include steps in goal setting. Many students underachieve because they don’t know how to set goals. This simple lesson plan and activity can be incorporated into a research paper, a poster project, or any long term assignment.

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    The Seven Steps in Goal Setting

    Breaking the complex into simple steps will help students achieve their dreams.

    Step 1: Most people don’t get what they want because they don’t know what they want. Identify a specific, measurable goal, write it down, and put it some place you see regularly, which for students might be a binder, locker, or any place other than that book their supposed to read for homework.

    Step 2: Establish a time frame: The human mind has a tendency to deceive itself. Establishing a time frame for accomplishing a goal removes one very progress-stopping loophole. It also allows the goal setter to more accurately evaluate progress and make necessary adjustments

    Step 3: Prepare for potential obstacles: Teenagers believe life is like TV. They are shocked when real life obstacles appear as they strive for success. Simply check out the first day of football practice at the local high school and count the number of players. Return the next day and the number of players will have gone down 25%; go back the day after the first full contact practice and you’ll have about half. Assessing the obstacles beforehand allows you to prepare for them.

    Step 4: List your support group. Any goal worth achieving will require help from others. List individuals who inspire and lift. Hang out with these people. Conversely, many will discourage your dreams (you know, the “friend" who brings over a cheesecake the day you begin your diet). Stay away from these dream killers.

    Step 5: Make a Plan and Begin : The initial plan is rarely the one that takes you where you want to go; however, the final plan is usually developed when you’re already engaged in the process. Make a plan and adjust it, if necessary.

    Step 6: Evaluate. Check your progress. It’s OK to move the date of accomplishment, to alter the goal, or to drop it completely. People change and so should their dreams. I’m guessing what’s important to you now is different than what was important 20 years ago.

    Step 7: Reward yourself! Goal setting should be fun. Celebrate your victories. If you lose 30 lbs., go on vacation. If you finish that book, eat some cheesecake. What’s the use of living if you can’t enjoy your accomplishments? Also, don’t wait until the goal is 100% complete. Celebrate your little accomplishments as well.


    1. Go over the seven steps.
    2. Instruct students to set a goal.
    3. Instruct students to research the goal.
    4. Assign a short essay or a paragraph that describes the goal and discusses a plan for accomplishing the goal.

    Be sure to check back throughout the school year to see what goals have been accomplished.

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