Frameworks for Goal Setting

It’s summer break for many students, which means it’s time for summer goals! As camps are cancelled and pools stay closed, many teenagers are facing the challenge of wide-open summers. This is especially difficult for students with ADHD who may do poorly with unstructured time.

Time for Exploration

Students may tell you that their favorite part of summer is “no homework” or “no tests,” but the truth is that summer is an important time in their development. Summer is when students explore who they want to be beyond school. This could take the form of building leadership skills in a summer job or developing social identity at sleepaway camp.

When students feel they have nothing to do, cut off from the chance to explore, they are prone to feeling depressed and isolated. The “fresh start” of summer is an ideal time to set some goals and salvage their summer.

Use Goal-Setting Frameworks

This goal-setting framework, from Maurice Elias, director of Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab, is a great place to start.

Dr. Elias proposes pushing students to think about the many dimensions of their lives and to set goals in eight areas.

  1. Academics
  2. Social life
  3. Sports and exercise
  4. Healthy eating
  5. Family and community
  6. Hobbies and interests
  7. Screen time
  8. Long-term plans

Each of these areas represents an important part of a student’s identity. Too often, students may only focus on a few of these priorities, perhaps only thinking about areas of strength or weakness. With the slower tempo of summer, students can pay attention to often neglected areas like healthy eating and long-term plans.

Set Realistic Goals

Watch out for vague or idealized goals; instead, encourage students to use CANDO goals (Unit 2 in SMARTS) to set a realistic goal in each area. By using the CANDO goal-setting acronym, students’ goals will be more realistic and have a built-in plan for reaching success.

In the words of Dr. Elias, “goals provide anchors, especially valuable in high winds and rough seas.” Take the time to help students create meaningful goals, and they will find the motivation and direction they need during these turbulent times.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director