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5 Goal Setting Teaching Strategies

Janelle Cox

Is there a science to goal setting? According to experts there’s not only a science, but a theory. The theory is that goal setting is linked to task performance. The more specific and clear your goals are, the better your performance will be. There’s also a scientific approach to goal setting that can help you increase your chances of reaching your goal. Caroline Adams Miller, a renowned positive psychology coach, discusses how you can do that in her book Creating Your Best Life.” She shares a few tips in her book that can benefit any individual looking to set goals for themselves.  As a teacher, you can utilize her tips to help maximize your students’ success in reaching their goals. I’ve adapted her tips to make teaching strategies that will suit the needs of students in the classroom. Here are a few teaching strategies to pass along to your students.

Teaching Strategies to Learn to Be Mindful, Have Gratitude, and Savor the Moment

One point that really stuck out from Caroline Adams Miller’s tips was, “We don’t get happier because we reach our goals, we reach our goals because we start in an emotionally flourishing place.” If you’re the type of person who always views life’s obstacles as a glass half empty, then you’ll always be in a negative state of mind. However, when you practice gratitude, mindfulness, and learn how to savor the moment that you’re in, you’ll be able to reach your goals must faster. Teach students to have gratitude for what they already have, learn to be mindful and live in the moment, as well as savor it. When students are able to do this, they’ll have a better chance to reach their goals.

Have a Sense of Purpose

Another goal setting teaching strategy to give your students is to find their sense of purpose. When you have purpose, you have desire, and when you have desire, you’ll reach your goals quicker. Miller suggests to define your purpose, because when you have goals that align with your purpose, they’ll be easier to pursue when things get difficult. A great way for students to find their sense of purpose is to simply ask them, “If you didn’t have a worry in the world and money was not an object, what would you be doing and who would you be with?” This is a great starting point for children to just sit and think about themselves and what they truly desire. You can also give them a questionnaire that asks them about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and their desires, etc.

Ask Yourself, “Why am I Setting this Goal?”

Once students have set goals for themselves, it’s time to think about the meaning behind the goal. Miller suggests to ask students, “How would their life be more fulfilling when they reach their goal?” The goals that they’ve just made for themselves are considered “Intrinsic goals”: These are goals that only they have set for themselves. When you create a goal for yourself, you’re trying to reach it because it’s something that you want. So when students ask themselves, “Why am I doing this?”, it will help them understand the meaning behind it, which will lead them to be happier not only when they reach the goal, but also during their pursuit.

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Set Goals that Involve Risk

When it comes to children and setting goals, it’s usually suggested to encourage a student to set an attainable goal first. Then once they’ve reached that goal, they can set a harder goal to achieve, maybe one that even involves taking a risk. Miller suggests that it’s been found that when we pursue goals that are outside of our comfort zone, they give us authentic self-esteem. This means we accept ourselves along with all of our strengths and weaknesses. Essentially, we feel good about ourselves and the more we do things outside of our comfort zone, the more we believe in ourselves.

Behave in Goal-Related Ways

Miller suggests that in order to reinforce the goals that you want to accomplish, you must behave in a manner that will reinforce your goals. For instance, if your goal was to become an honor student, then you should change your passwords to “Honor Student.” By changing something like a password that you use every single day, you’re priming your thoughts into essentially making it happen. This simple technique is a great way for students to subconsciously get their goal into their thoughts and help them reach it.

To help maximize your student’s chances of attaining their goals, you can also have them write in a daily journal. Reading their journal will help them reflect on what is important to them and their life.

What are your teaching strategies for goal setting? Please share with us in the comment section below, we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.