Guest Post by Lisa Betts-LaCroix
I’ve had a love affair with goal setting all my life and planning the future has always given me a sense of possibility and hope. Now that I’m a parent and a consultant supporting others to mentor life-long, self-directed learners (with or without school), I’ve come to realize that we just don’t build goal-setting skills early enough in our kids. Perhaps, we think, kids don’t need goal-setting abilities since school will march them through necessary skills and content. But if we want to empower our kids and encouraged them to take control of their learning (and later, their lives) it’s never too early to nurture self-trust and the skills needed to plan and execute on what THEY want. And while you’re at it, maybe you have some of your own goals. So why not work on this together?
Lots of families do sports together, travel together and share family meal times. Here’s a chance to envision the future together. To help each other design and create your lives–because it’s never too late to start. Model the process, support each other and learn together as a family. By doing so, you’ll find that deeper connections are forged and self-directed learners are made.
In our family, we share a daily ritual simply called “Family Meeting”. The focus of the meeting is to identify ONE goal per person for that day and to report back on the previous day’s task. Family goals in our house must meet specific criteria. Our ideal goals:
- Take more than 15 minutes but less than one hour. If it’s a particularly busy day for someone in the family this may be adapted slightly to suit the situation.
- Are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound)
- Qualify as “Relevant” if they contribute to the goal-setter’s development or the well-being of someone else or are accomplishments that would give the achiever a great feeling of pride
- Would not have been done anyway (ie. I’m going to get myself to work today)
We also use Family Meeting time to encourage a growth mindset, modeling learning from our “misses” in a positive and celebratory way. I find this often works best by modeling instead of trying to get kids to explore their own failure modes. It’s effective for me to wonder aloud why I’ve failed three days in a row and then to notice that I have a habit of underestimating how long a task will take. By then resolving to be more self-aware or change my goal-setting approach or implementation, I’ve learned and modeled at the same time.
Finally, we track every family members goal in a simple spreadsheet and mark successes with green and missed accomplishments with red so we have an ongoing record and at-a-glance feedback loop.
The Goal List
Where do the goals come from? An ongoing list is a great treasure and is useful for quickly identifying goals more quickly. If you don’t have a goal list, consider starting one. It can be a complex database or just a list on paper. But have a list!
There may still be times when someone can’t think of a goal. Here are some Goal Setting ideas and strategies for getting over the hump. Help each other:
- Brainstorm –How many possible goals can you list without censorship? Go for quantity not quality.
- Turn complaints into goals – Notice complaints and wonder if the dissatisfaction could be reworked into a goal.
- Turn self-reproach into goals – If you notice pain, guilt or self-reproach see if there’s a goal to be uncovered.
- Mine the past – Recall old stories, wishes, fears and memories as ripe fodder for future goals.
- Maintain what you love about your life – Goals don’t have to come from lack, limitation or need. If you identify and share what you’re grateful for you might find a goal nearby related to celebrating, maintaining or deepening it.
- Piggyback on someone else’s goal – Be inspired by each other and people outside of the family. Doing this as a family allows everyone to be the catalyst and creates an environment for others to express, support and be inspired by each other.
- Invite Guests – We also invite guests and anyone who is at our house during family meeting to join us in the process.
The Mindset and Foundation
- Keep it light: Make time and space for good laughs and jokes
- Be Curious and ask questions
- Listen (don’t interrupt)
- Acknowledge and Thank.
What kind of strategies does your family use to learn practice the Meta-Learning skill of Goal Work? And what ideas have you discovered best support your family’s Goal follow-through?
Lisa Betts-LaCroix is a speaker, writer and outspoken advocate for radical alternatives to learning. She’s been featured in 100+ television, radio and news pieces including CBS News, the Financial Times, MGM, Universal and 20th Century Fox. She’s worked with household names like Norman Jewison, Angela Lansbury, Adam Beach, Kathy Bates and David Carradine, yet Lisa’s deepest passion is in supporting families and self-directed learners reclaim the vision, design and control of their education.