Are You Setting Goals Or Making Wishes?


You’ve collaborated with your students to set goals. Now what?

Just like our students, we also set our own goals.  Whether it’s losing weight, saving money, or taking up a new hobby, we set these goals with good intentions and self-motivation. At that moment.

And then, the moment passes. When we don’t take the time to look for measurable progress toward our goals, and celebrate the small successes, we lose our motivation. “Well, it’s been three days and I haven’t lost a pound. Why bother”. Pretty soon, we start slipping back into old routines. Another pair of shoes.  Another night in front of the TV. Another donut.

Isn’t it the same for our students?

Setting goals with students is the first step toward progress, but it isn’t the only step. It isn’t even the most important one. Because if we fail to help them identify and celebrate progress–if they can’t articulate that progress– we’ve set a goal that won’t be reached. In essence, we’ve done nothing more than make a wish. And wishes, unfortunately, don’t always materialize- even if said with great determination. Even if they are written down on really cool student goal sheets. Even if the student can articulate that goal.

Legally acquired and altered via solarseven/shutterstock.com.

These wishes need to be goals. And if goals are to be reached, they must be monitored, checked, celebrated and adjusted. By doing so, the goals become resolutions. Things we resolve to do. Not just things we wish for.

Scenario One: Let’s say I resolve to lose weight. I start eating salad every day. But if that isn’t getting me the results I want, I need to do some adjusting. Like adding in exercise. Drinking more water. So I do those things, and after a week I notice (by looking for progress) that I’ve lost two pounds. I feel very affirmed and continue on with my goal. Resolved.

Scenario Two: Let’s say I want to lose weight. I start eating salad every day. Except for the day my family drug me to the Mexican food place or the rodeo, where they only serve nachos.  I notice nothing on the scale after a week. I am defeated and decide to not weigh myself for a couple more weeks. Pretty soon, I’m back to doing things I did before, my goal completely forgotten. It wasn’t working anyway. My resolution fails because it wasn’t really a goal or a resolution.  I neither followed up on it, nor adjusted it as needed. It was a wish.

This week I’ve been thinking about the goals my students have set. How often are we coming together to look for those small, but magnificent, steps toward progress? Even a small step forward gives us all a renewed sense of confidence and commitment. Am I adjusting the action plan based on progress (or lack of)? Am I celebrating those little victories and reinforcing commitment? Are you?

When we see the results of our efforts,  we re-commit. We drive forward because we see that small progress as confirmation that what we are doing is working. That the goal is a resolution, one that we can achieve if we keep at it. It isn’t just a wish.

Let’s commit to action. Let’s look back at the goals we have set for ourselves, and our students.  Ask questions, find and celebrate progress, reset goals and actions where needed, and devote the time to regularly measuring the progress we are making.

When our students can articulate their progress, and not just the goal, they are committed.  And that is resolve.

Now, I think I’ll go have a salad.


2 thoughts on “Are You Setting Goals Or Making Wishes?”

  1. Very true that we need to make measurable steps to help our students reach their goals. I know my boyfriend told me about an interesting app called Everest, where you list the steps that will help you reach your end goal. Maybe that is an idea we could use with students…. For example, using a mountain with the goal on top, and places where they can write in the baby steps!


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