Progress, Not Perfection: SMART Goals

SMARTgoals

This post is part of my Progress, Not Perfection Series.

Have you ever wondered why you have had a difficult time achieving some of the goals you set for yourself? Maybe you have wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, finish that degree, or learn all of the features on your digital camera. But you keep putting it off and telling yourself, “Someday…” Well, there’s a specific process you can follow that can help you set and achieve your goals. It’s called the SMART goal-setting process, and it’s used in schools and businesses because it’s both simple and effective. SMART Goal setting is unique. When we set SMART goals, we don’t just arbitrarily decide we’d like to do something. Here is the formula.

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Let’s delve deeper into what each of these mean, and learn how we can apply them when we set our goals (And teach our kids to set their goals). If your child has taken my Executive Function course, these will be familiar since I cover SMART goal setting in my classes I’ll use two examples, one for kids (doing better on a math test) and one for adults (having more “me” time).

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A specific goal means you really, really consider what you want to happen and form a plan. So, our goals look like this:

KIDS: I want to earn a B or higher on my math test next week. I’ll do this by:

  1. Studying my notes
  2. Doing practice work
  3. Going over old tests and reworking problems I struggled with or answered incorrectly.

ADULTS: I want to have one hour per day dedicated to myself. I’ll do this by:

  1. Waking 30 minutes earlier each day so I have alone time before my kids wake.
  2. Letting my spouse/partner/childcarer know I am taking time in the evenings 30 minutes before my child’s bedtime.
  3. Putting this time on my calendar as “busy” so friends and family are aware I’m unavailable.

Following this formula helps you set your goal AND a plan. As the saying goes, “fail to plan, plan to fail.”

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Now, we need to determine our end goal, and how we will decide if we’re on-track. Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of mini-goals if your SMART goal is a long-term goal.

KIDS: I know I will have reached this goal when I receive the grade for my test and it is a B or higher.

ADULTS: I’ll know I’ve reached this goal when I can track that I have one hour to myself each day for one month. My mini goal is to make sure I get one hour to myself each day.

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An attainable goal is one that challenges you but is not overly aggressive. A goal that provides no challenge isn’t a SMART goal; likewise, one that is very far-fetched is likely to be reached. Develop attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach goals. Look for previously overlooked opportunities to achieve your goal.

For this portion of the SMART goal, we either determine that the goal is attainable or is not attainable. If we decide the former, we continue to the next step. But, if we decide the latter, we go back to Step 1 (Specific) and see if we need to reassess our overall goal or create a more formative plan.

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Simply put: why do you care? If a goal is not relevant to you, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll reach the goal. When it comes to goals, they’re personal. This means the only person for whom you can set a goal is yourself. While other people may be part of your goal (for example, the ADULT goal requires a caregiver besides yourself to care for your children so you can achieve your goal, the goal is not one you set for the caregiver. You will have to find ways to accomplish your goal with or without the help of others.

KIDS: This goal is important to me because I would like to maintain a B average in all of my classes, and each math test affects my final grade. A B average will also help me with college and career options.

ADULTS: This goal matters to me because I need some time to myself. I function better as a person and parent when I give time to myself. My relationship with my own heart and mind is so important to me, and nurturing it is also important. Spending time alone nurtures my relationship with myself so I can be my best self.

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When will this goal start and end? How often will you track the goal? This helps with accountability as well.

KIDS: My goal will start today and end after my test results come back, in two weeks. I’ll measure my goal daily to make sure I follow my 3-step plan.

ADULTS: I’ll start on my goal tonight and will continue for one month. I’ll track my goal daily and make sure I follow my 3-step plan.

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The complete SMART goal should read like this:

KIDS: I want to earn a B or higher on my math test next week. I’ll do this by studying my notes, doing practice work, and going over old tests and reworking problems I struggled with or answered incorrectly. I know I will have reached this goal when I receive the grade for my test and it is a B or higher. This goal is important to me because I would like to maintain a B average in all of my classes, and each math test affects my final grade. A B average will also help me with college and career options. My goal will start today and end after my test results come back, in two weeks. I’ll measure my goal daily to make sure I follow my 3-step plan.

ADULTS: I want to have one hour per day dedicated to myself. I’ll do this by waking 30 minutes earlier each day so I have alone time before my kids wake, letting my spouse/partner/childcarer know I am taking time in the evenings 30 minutes before my child’s bedtime, and putting this time on my calendar as “busy” so friends and family are aware I’m unavailable. I’ll know I’ve reached this goal when I can track that I have one hour to myself each day for one month. My mini goal is to make sure I get one hour to myself each day. This goal matters to me because I need some time to myself. I function better as a person and parent when I give time to myself. My relationship with my own heart and mind is so important to me, and nurturing it is also important. Spending time alone nurtures my relationship with myself so I can be my best self. I’ll start on my goal tonight and will continue for one month. I’ll track my goal daily and make sure I follow my 3-step plan.

In the pdf Ebook I’ve published for you, there is a copy of a SMART goals worksheet for adults. I also have a SMART sheet for kids so they can join the challenge! Your completed SMART goal should be detailed similarly to those above. If you find your goal is still difficult to achieve, look at each step and see if you need to redo a particular step. And, honestly–sometimes, achieving a goal is merely DOING it. Please let me know how this is working for you, and if you feel SMART goal setting is beneficial for those who feel motivated to complete a goal but have fallen short previously. Don’t forget to encourage your children to set their own SMART goals and hold each other accountable. We’re all in this together!

Progress, Not Perfection: Gratitude

gratitude

This post is part of my Progress, Not Perfection challenge. You can find the introductory post here. 

“Gratitude helps the attitude”. This is a phrase I’ve said to my kids, students, parents, friends, family…basically, anyone in my life, and I truly believe it. When we show gratitude, we experience more sensitivity and empathy toward others and a decreased desire to seek revenge. But, what about when we aren’t grateful? Coffee is spilled on our favorite shirt when we’re rear-ended at a stoplight on the way to work, which resulted in our new car that we worked so hard for getting a dent which made us late for work, and now our boss is angry AND we are behind at work. Why on earth would we be grateful for these things?

Gratitude is a funny thing. We all know we should feel and express it on a regular basis, but it often gets brushed aside for more impulsive states of mind like irritation, impatience, and plain old exhaustion. The annoyances of everyday life can easily overshadow the intention to count our blessings. For many of us, the most profound reminder to reflect on life’s positive moments arrives just once a year on Thanksgiving, and even that occasion can be more about ingesting a variety of carbs than actually giving thanks.

But gratitude does much more than provide an annual excuse for a turkey-heavy food coma. Cultivating a regular practice of genuine appreciation for the good things in life can do wonders for your health and even the health of those around you. In this blog post, we are going to talk about how gratitude helps us reach our other goals. Think of gratitude as the fuel our vehicle needs to get from point A to point B: you are the car, gratitude is your fuel. You can get their other ways. You can be towed, you can have a friend push you, or you can rely on another form of transportation which requires someone else doing your work for you. But, what if you chose to do the work yourself…for yourself?

—> DOWNLOAD MY FREE EBOOK HERE TO RECEIVE OUR 10 MINUTE GRATITUDE WORKSHEET<–

Click the link above to get the worksheet we use for this post.

Gratitude can improve relationships–romantic and otherwise.

According to one study, individuals who took the time to express gratitude for their gratitudehelpstheattitutde.pngpartner felt more positive toward them and more comfortable expressing concerns about the relationship. And men and women with grateful partners felt more connected to their mate and more satisfied with the romantic relationship. Plus, gratitude is good whether you’re newly in love or far beyond the honeymoon stage. Gratitude for one’s partner was related to higher marital satisfaction and better adjustment among newlyweds and appreciation was listed as one of the most important factors contributing to a satisfactory long-term marriage (25-40 years). Gratitude can help us feel more invested in friendships as well. This is a great article describing the “welfare tradeoff ratio” and how it affects our friendships, if that interests you.

Showing gratitude in a way that your partner appreciates can depend heavily on their love language. I’m a huge fan of the 5 Love Languages (I ignore the religiously-based parts that don’t apply to me). My husband and I both took the quiz and then discussed results; we learned we are very different. Shocking, right?! My love language turned out to be acts of service, which means I really, really appreciate when people I love alleviate the burden of work and do things for me, like load the dishwasher, take out the trash, return library books, etc. My husband’s love language is physical touch: he really appreciates hugs and cuddling while watching t.v., and he is grateful for these moments. For us, learning one another’s love language was very helpful because we were able to learn to show gratitude to one another.

—> DOWNLOAD MY FREE EBOOK HERE TO RECEIVE OUR 10 MINUTE GRATITUDE WORKSHEET<–

Gratitude helps improve performance in the workplace

Whether you’re a student, striving to climb the corporate ladder, or are heading up a corporation, a little bit of gratitude can go a long way. One study showed employees who hear messages of gratitude from managers may feel motivated to work harder, and another study showed that grateful high schoolers had higher GPAs, better social integration, and overall satisfaction with life than their non-grateful counterparts. From my point of view, I think this is very accurate. I’m more motivated to work hard when my employers show they are proud of the results I’m currently bringing to them. We have an exchange student from Germany who is very, very grateful to be here, and I’ve seen a very different demeanor in her than I have most American teens. She shows and feels gratitude daily and is an equal member of our family.

Gratitude helps you sleep better. 

If you’re having trouble getting sufficient shut-eye, try giving thanks. Writing in a gratitude journal for 15 minutes before bed was shown to help students worry less and sleep longer and better. Another study found that gratitude predicted better sleep quality and duration and less sleepiness during the day. Researchers explained that when falling asleep, grateful people are less likely to think negative and worrying thoughts that impair sleep and more likely to think about positive things, enhancing sleep quality.

—> DOWNLOAD MY FREE EBOOK HERE TO RECEIVE OUR 10 MINUTE GRATITUDE WORKSHEET<–

It can help you cope with stress and boost your mental strength.

If the physical benefits of gratitude aren’t enough to convince you to give thanks, then maybe the mental payoff will. One study involving Vietnam War veterans found that those with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. And although it may sound counterintuitive, feeling thankful in trying times can help you bounce back. Gratitude was found to be a major contributor to resilience after the September 11 tragedies.

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How do we show gratitude?

Based on the scientific literature and our conversations with parents, we’ve come to think about gratitude as an experience that has four parts:

  • What we NOTICE in our lives for which we can be grateful
  • How we THINK about why we have been given those things
  • How we FEEL about the things we have been given
  • What we DO to express appreciation in turn

Here are some specific questions designed to help you recognize the good in your life and reflect on it.

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think

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do

—> DOWNLOAD MY FREE EBOOK HERE TO RECEIVE OUR 10 MINUTE GRATITUDE WORKSHEET<–

Now that you know what gratitude is and how to recognize it, it’s time to pull out your 10 Minutes to Highlight Your Day worksheet from my ebook. This post is designed to prompt ACTION as well as words when expressing gratitude. Being thankful is a great 10minutes.pngstart, but the big-hearted act of gratitude ensures we can be empathetic, mindful beings who are in touch with others. When you look over your 10 Minutes to Highlight Your Day worksheet, really reflect on what you’ve read. Ignore the bad right now: we will work on that, but right now, think of all the good. In my earlier example about the car accident, coffee spilling, and being late for work which resulted in an angry boss and increased workload, there is good to pull from that. We could afford a new car. Spilled coffee means we had coffee. Being late for work means we have a job. Having a boss who is upset means you likely have a boss who pushes you and expects you to be the best you can. And, the extra work? It means job security. There is always good we can pull from our bad. Pull the good and write it on your sheet. If you can’t print the sheet, write your answers on a piece of paper, in a journal or notebook, on a receipt, napkin–whatever you have available. We don’t judge 🙂 We are just grateful you’re with us.

BONUS POST: Unfortunately, Fortunately game. Click through to read how you can play this with your family to help you and your kids see the silver lining! 

 

Progress, Not Perfection: BONUS POST: Unfortunately, Fortunately Game

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In my gratitude post, I talked about learning to show gratitude even when things aren’t going your way. This game is designed to do just that.

When we talk about showing gratitude, part of this means looking for the good even when you recognize the not-so-good. I like to tell my students this is called looking for the silver lining. I play this game in my Growth Mindset classes and my Hogwarts for Muggles: Defense Against the Dark Arts class, and the game is also required homework for my students to play with their families.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Print the cards that are part of my ebook.
  2. Cut out the cards so they’re individual.
  3. This is a family or group game. So, make sure you have at least 2 players. The more, the merrier!
  4. Each person should receive 1-2 cards, so you may need to print multiple copies.
  5. On the card, write an unfortunate situation. These can be imagined or actual situations you’ve encountered recently. “I left my favorite shirt at my friend’s house.” “I lost my book.” “I wasn’t nice to my sister.” “I didn’t do my best, and I’m upset.”
  6. Fold each card into quarters. Place cards in a bowl, bucket, hat, or something else that will hold them.
  7. Take turns drawing cards. If you draw your own, fold it up and put it back. When you draw someone else’s card, read the Unfortunate situation. Carefully consider what positive things you can say before speaking. Always begin speaking with Fortunately: “I have other shirts I can wear OR I can get my shirt tonight after practice.” “I have been saving my allowance, so I’ll buy another copy.” “I can write my sister a letter to tell her all the things I love and appreciate about her, and do better tomorrow.” “I can do better tomorrow, and being upset shows I really care about my performance or results.”
  8. Repeat as needed: I have students who, a year after finishing my classes, still play this game every night at dinner. This has become a tradition!

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This game helps you to:

  • Shift Perspectives: Oftentimes, we sink down into the negative feelings we have about things that happen to us. This game requires you to shift your perspective and see the good in the world around you. Your situation is part of that world, so you’ll learn to see the good in it, too.
  • Rephrase to Reframe: You have to literally look at the card you have which represent the metaphorical cards you’re dealt in life, and learn how to handle them. This game allows you to do that in a safe environment with your family so you have practice for when things actually arise (and believe me, they will!)
  • Be Happy: So much of what happens to us is good. But, the negative often takes hold. As a society, it seems we sometimes make a game out of dwelling on what bad has happened to us. Why not change that? We can make a game out of the good. When we learn to appreciate our lives for what they are instead of what we wish they were, we are happier people. This does not mean we cannot want something else and work to change our lives: when we’re happy with what we have, and grateful for the life we currently lead, we are more likely to work to see positive change than if we dwell on the negative and surround ourselves with it.

Research has shown that even a small amount of negative brain activity can lead to a weakened immune system, making you more prone to illness, and even lead to a heart attack or a stroke. Negative attitudes can also affect your intelligence and ability to think — according to Dr. Travis Bradberry, negativity compromises the effectiveness of the neurons in the hippocampus — an important area of the brain responsible for reasoning and memory. We can’t control others (that’s a blog post for a different time), but we can learn to control ourselves. Think about how this game can serve you and your family. I’d love to hear how you put this game to use in your home!

14 Days of Progress, Not Perfection

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This month, I’m working on a series of blog posts that help all of us understand what this phrase really means and teach us how to apply it to our daily lives. I’m sure we’ve all heard it before (and if your child has taken my classes or you’ve read my class rules, you know this phrase!), but when it comes time to track progress and worry less about being perfect, do we really follow through? Is this something we practice or just “preach”? Too often, it’s easy to get caught up in competition with/comparison to others. Being able to see our own progress and set goals are both part of a Growth Mindset and are so necessary for success in life.

This series of posts will work on gratitude, attitude, growth, goals, and so much more. Each post will have FREE printables and if you feel so inclined, you can join our Challenge, with a twist: this is not a competition against other people. The only person you are competing against is yourself! We are all so different with unique challenges, goals, and abilities, so it makes sense we would only challenge ourselves to be better than earlier versions of ourselves, right?

Stay tuned to my blog if you’re interested in joining our challenge or just reading about what we’re doing. You can join this at any time, because each post will stay up indefinitely. Whenever you’re ready, you can join in! I hope to see you there!

Introducing BookTalks!

BOOKTALKS!

BOOKTALKS

As a child (and even now), reading was so therapeutic and necessary for me. When I read, I was able to fall into this new world. I absolutely immersed myself in it, and I would even make up my own extension activities without really knowing that’s what I was doing. I remember building dioramas and cities from blocks just because I could.
However, as I grew older, I realized reading in an education setting became very routine. Honestly, I felt my love of reading being slowly stifled. I knew there had to be a different way to go about this. Over the last few years, I had so many parents and students request a book club class, and this is my idea: BookTalks!
Our virtual book club is not like most. While this is a drop-in club that meets once per month, there is a spin: we don’t designate what book students will read! Each student chooses their own book to read, and then join their peers in sharing what each participant has read over the last month. The outline includes basic comprehension questions applicable to any novel and an opportunity for students to create hand-drawn art, online comic strip, and other methods to include images from the book.  I am really excited because students can read books they truly enjoy and share these books with the group, which means we will have a number of unique novels to discuss. Students can read the book reviews written by their classmates, too, and choose to read one of these books and present their own opinions the following month if they’d like.
Overall, I believe in my book-loving heart that Booktalks help kids love to read when they are challenged to explore something they’re passionate about and then given the opportunity to share with peers. I will be doing a FREE BookTalk 101 Intro before our first actual BookTalk. Tell me: do your kids enjoy reading? Do you think a modern take on the book club, like this, is beneficial?