Setting goals to make your best better

Learn why setting goals is important and five key aspects of good goals.

The 4-H motto, “to make the best better,” is all about knowing yourself, identifying your strengths and weaknesses and making efforts to be the best version of yourself. These characteristics of the 4-H motto are also the foundations of setting goals. Many people this time of year make resolutions. Resolutions are most often considered decisions we mean to keep. At New Years, these decisions are usually rooted in a desire to alter one’s health and life for the better. Goals, on the other hand, are desired end results an individual is aiming to reach. While both terms seem very similar, exercising intentional goal setting is like setting the vision statement for your life.

Goal setting is one of the life skills youth can cultivate by participating in 4-H. The benefits of setting goals is that you are specifically acknowledging where you want to be and what you want to accomplish. Goals compliment your work toward a long-term vision for yourself while providing short-term motivation. Framing your goals in a way that have measurable outcomes to determine success is best. An example of a goal would be, “I would like to complete my doctoral program in four years’ time.”

When you set a measurable goal, it is helpful to determine whether it is a short-term or long-term goal. If you’ve set a long-term goal, often taking six months or longer to achieve, you can set mini-goals based on some of the phases or things you need to accomplish on the path to your long-term goal. Breaking up goals with smaller goals that are easier to attain provides a sense of success and encouragement, which helps you stay committed to the long-term goal. You can see the forward progress of your achievements and raise your self-confidence.

Setting goals also allows you to identify needs, resources and skills you would need to be successful in reaching your goal. The resources might even be people. You don’t have to work alone to achieve your goals. Often when you ask others for help, you build relationships, learn new things and sometimes finish the process even quicker!

You can make goals in a variety of facets of your life. Think about school, college, careers, family, attitude, hobbies, health, activities you enjoy and public service. Would you like to achieve anything in these areas? We all have dreams and places we hope to be someday. Goals help us create a plan for actually getting there. One tool to help you set goals is the SMART method:

  1. Specific: Set detailed goals.
  2. Measurable: Set goals with objectives you can quantify to monitor your success.
  3. Agreed to: Important if your goals impact or involve other people.
  4. Realistic and Relevant: Think about your strengths and skills, and set mini-goals to help you get to bigger ones.
  5. Timely: Put a timeline on achieving your goals so you know when to measure your success.

These tips and tools are as relevant to youth as they are to adults. If you have young people in your life, use these tips to help them make SMART goals. Guiding youth through the goal setting process while their young gives them good practice and skills to continue making long-term goals in the future. For more examples of 4-H goal setting, read “5 Tips for building youth’s leadership skills – Part 4: Setting Goals” by Michigan State University Extension.

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