In his timeless book Think and Grow Rich (one of the best-selling books of all time), Napoleon Hill revealed that EVERY single successful person had two “common denominators” for success: they set a specific goal and created a plan for achieving it. Goal setting works – it’s a powerful process that has been shown to help us actually achieve what we set out to do. Teaching our kids this powerful process is a gift that will continue to give throughout their lives. Here’s how to do it.

Set Goals as a Family

As with anything else, letting your kids see YOU set goals and work toward them will make them want to do it too. We can’t think of a better way to set the example than setting goals as a family. So gather some paper or poster board, pens and markers, Post-It Notes and maybe some fun stickers and glitter; whatever will help your kids have fun with the process. Then set aside an hour or so to do goal setting with your kids. We recommend keeping all goals SMART:

S – SPECIFIC – write exactly what you want to accomplish

M – MEASURABLE – how you will know you’ve progressed?

A – ACHIEVABLE – is this goal possible with what you have?

R – RELEVANT – is it important to you right now?

T – TIMED – when do you want to reach your goal?

Each Person Sets One Big Goal

Start by going around the table and have each family member come up with one big, long-term goal they’d like to achieve. If they’re not sure what they want to achieve, ask them: “What do you REALLY wish you were able to do?” Or “What would make you feel so proud of yourself if you did it?” Maybe it’s trying out for a team sport, learning a musical instrument, overcoming a fear or maybe beating their best time from the last swim meet. Whatever the big goal is, it should be something they are excited about and is just out of their reach (but not too far!). You can always prompt them with some idea-starters. If they have several ideas, but can’t decide which to go for, have them write all of their big ideas on separate Post-It Notes and put them on the wall. Then, help them assess the ideas in pairs, eliminating the less exciting goal one by one until they are left with the most exciting goal. That’s their big goal! Have them write it at the top of a piece of paper or poster board.

Break the Big Goal Down Into Small Steps

So now your kids have one big goal written down, now it’s time to break it down into very small, manageable steps to reach it. Think of these as “micro-goals” or stepping stones on the way to the big goal. Pull out those Post-Its again and begin writing each step on a separate note and sticking them to the wall. In doing this you may find that a micro-goal can be broken down even further. For example, if your child’s big goal is Get on The School Volleyball Team, Learn Volleyball Basics would be a good micro-goal. But this micro-goal can (and should) be broken down even further into smaller goals such as Watch Basic Volleyball YouTube Videos and Find a Beginner Volleyball Coach/Class. Add the Post-Its to the poster and be sure to add dates to each item so you have a timeline to track against your progress. Here’s an example of what this goal-setting might look like:

Each Person Sets Two Smaller Goals

It’s great for kids to have one big, long-term goal to strive for over the course of many months or a year. But it’s equally important to have them set up to two smaller, shorter-term goals as well. Ask your kids what they would love to accomplish this week or this month. Smaller goals may include things like Be Able to Play One Song on Violin, or Advance to the Next Gymnastics Level or even Get My Own Hamster. Once you have one or two of these smaller, shorter-term goals, have them write each one on a separate piece of paper and then use Post-Its to break it down into smaller steps as you did before and add those to the paper. Post all your goal sheets in a room where you will see them often – the kitchen is always a great spot!

Tracking Your Progress Against Your Goal Sheets

Now that your kids have their goal sheets posted, it’s time to start working toward the goals. Having them posted in a conspicuous place ensures they stay top of mind and reminds them of their goals daily. It’s helpful to incorporate activities that support setting and tracking goals. Apps like Ninja Focus – which features goal-setting meditations for kids – can be a fantastic adjunct to a goal-setting exercise. Your kids will love spending time on Bunny Island; listening to short goal-setting meditations to help them stay the course and realize their dreams. Goal-setting is a priceless lesson for kids to learn at a young age and the more they hear it the more they’ll internalize it.


Happy 2020 and best of luck goal-setting with YOUR kids!