This article was written by Megan Nielson, former 4-H Youth Livestock Field Specialist.
Setting goals can be one of the most challenging and frustrating things for adults to do and it can be even harder for youth to accomplish. However, it has been shown people who write out their goals and share them with others are more likely to reach their goals than people who have unwritten or unspecific goals. As a project leader, advisor, or parent; sitting down with youth and helping them write down goals will provide a more positive learning experience within a project and hold the youth accountable for accomplishing their set goals.
At the start of a new project year, encourage youth involved in specific projects to write out a few key goals they wish to achieve. Keep in mind goal writing for youth should be age and ability appropriate. Youth at a young age have a harder time envisioning the future in a project and therefore shorter term goals such as completing simple projects or tasks are more attainable. As youth age, they develop more abstract and critical thinking skills to help them make decisions along with being able to implement plans toward achieving specific goals.
When writing simple goals, a goal should have three main components: an action, a result, and a timetable. For example: “I want to give a demonstration at my 4-H club meeting.” In this example, “to give” is the action, “a demonstration” is the result, and “at the 4-H club meeting” is the deadline to accomplish the goal. Other successful methods of goal writing include SMART goal components; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. This more advanced goal setting method includes the HOW for which a goal is to be accomplished. One example would be “I want to give a demonstration on baking chocolate chip cookies to the 4-H members present at the April club meeting.”
Finally, once goals have been set by the youth, it is important to revisit the goals throughout the project and record steps taken towards achieving the set goals. Recognizing progress can instill confidence and pride in youth to help finish their goals and be more successful within their project.