By Tracey Matthews Wynter, Supervisor of the Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement Department
This year, I presented each of the students in Ms. Collins’ fourth grade class at West Hills Elementary School with a set of sticker charts and stickers. With the gift, came a challenge: to set a goal in the upcoming year to do something new, do something differently, or do something better than they had before. They were told to reward themselves with a sticker each day they accomplished their goal. I promised to do the same.
To make sure we were all accountable to one another, we decided to review the sticker charts during my monthly visits. We could evaluate progress, celebrate successes, and discuss challenges while brainstorming solutions to them.
Below are a few tips and ideas I shared with my students to help them start the process.
The Playbook: Make sure you set SMART goals—that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. If your goal is missing one or more of these elements, it can be harder to achieve.
For example, one of my never-ending goals is to lose weight. The SMARTer way to state this goal is to “I will lose 2-3 pounds per week by eating right and exercising.”
Offensive Strategy: Evaluate why you are setting your specific goals—what is your motivation? I quit smoking more than 20 years ago for the children I may have one day. I figured that if my children or grandchildren were going to have to take care of me because I fell ill, I didn’t want it to be because of something I did to myself. My attempts to quit smoking just because it was an unhealthy habit consistently failed, but I was able to quit after I realized I was motivated most by how my habits might negatively impact others in the future.
Nickel Defense: If your goal is to regain momentum and achieve new success at something in which you’ve been successful before, it is essential to examine what made you successful in the past. When you figure that out, put those same or similar practices in place now. I’ve been successful at losing weight in the past because I only ate when I was physically, and not emotionally, hungry, I stopped when I was satisfied rather than full, and I did these things consistently. These are a few of the strategies I need to put in place again to regain momentum in this goal.
Interceptions and Blocking: If you are struggling with motivation or achievement, ask yourself what obstacles are getting in your way. What’ is different this time from the last time you were able to reach your goal? Do you have new obstacles? Really evaluate what the root causes may be of your repeated failure to reach some goals. In my weight loss struggle, the lack of motivation to do what I need to do is an obstacle, and, as I’ve gotten older, I realize that I must add exercise to my weight loss plan. My metabolism has slowed down, so my legs must speed up! My hatred for exercise, the difficult of exercising, the lack of a partner to keep me on track when I don’t want to be, and not putting to use equipment I already have are all root causes of my repeated failure to exercise. As for the root causes of my repeated failure to exercise for more than a few days at a time
Defensive Team: It is important to be held accountable to your goals. Don’t secretly set a SMART goal and quietly work to achieve it. You should tell family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances—every one you see and know—what your goals are and ask them to support you in achieving them with regular contact and inquiry on your progress.
Just Do It: Achieving goals is basically about making choices and deciding whether or not to stick to them—though that doesn’t typical make achievement any easier. Success is almost always a case of mind over matter. Whenever you get discouraged, remember that you, alone, control the power to set a goal and stick to it!
Please share your success stories in and related tips for setting and achieving goals, and/or topic suggestions for future articles by contacting Mrs. Tracey Matthews Wynter, Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement Department Supervisor, 865-594-9525, firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and resources available to Knox County Schools’ students and families, please visit us online at knoxschools.org/fce and knoxschools.org/frc.
Tracey Matthews currently serves as Knox County Schools’ District-wide Family and Community Engagement Supervisor. In this position, Tracey has been entrusted with the responsibility to facilitate the district’s course toward building stronger and lasting partnerships between families, schools, and the community. For more information, please visit the Family and Community Engagement at knoxschools.org.