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Goal Setting: the Key to Success

With the 2020 Summer Olympics drawing to a close, I have watched the events and celebrated along with the athletes as they strive to achieve their lifelong goal. I watched with anticipation as B.C.’s own Julia Grosso scored on the penalty shootout to help Team Canada earn the Olympic gold in women’s soccer. I was filled with jubilation and pride, and although I embarrassingly admit that I don’t know very much about soccer, I was emotionally touched by knowing how much hard work, perseverance, commitment, and focus every one of those players had to reach their goal (pun intended).

Every single member of that team, and every athlete competing in Tokyo no matter what country they represent, possess one trait that is key to their success: they have a growth mindset and they all set goals.

Every Olympian has a goal - to strive for their personal best to win a gold. They want to wear a gold medal around their neck and look up as their national flag is hoisted into the air. They want to stand on the top of the podium waving their arms in the air and saluting to all the people who have supported and cheered them on. That is an Olympian’s dream. To start that dream, they needed to have a goal.

Olympic rings

These Olympians hone the skills of what we want in our kids. We want our children to also adopt a growth mindset to set goals and to achieve in what they want, whether it be in sports, in school, in a hobby, or in their future career.

Goal setting is the start to any attempt or endeavour that we make no matter how big or small. The importance of goal setting can not be ignored, and for students to succeed, they must learn to effectively set goals and foster a mindset to plan, achieve, and commit to it.

When students learn to effectively set goals, they learn skills along the way that help build their confidence and love for learning.

So how does goal setting help our children to succeed, and particularly to succeed in school?

Here are the top 5 skill sets that are learned through goal setting.

1. Goal setting is continuous improvement.

Every Olympian knows that they can’t just set one goal.

The end goal is the gold, but to get there, they need to break down their goals.

Once they are in the Olympic contention, the goal setting doesn’t stop there.

They strive to succeed in the preliminaries.

Then they set a goal to make it to the semi-finals.

Then the finals.

Then to be on the podium

Then to win a gold.

And those goals are just when they make it to the Olympics; there are years and years of goal setting beforehand.

Every student wants to do well in a subject. But they can’t just set that as their goal. They need to be specific and to set multiple sub-goals to continuously improve on each one. They need to make their goals realistic so that they reach it.

When students set goals, they know their destination, so they focus their minds and their energy to reach it. Knowing how to set goals in a continuous manner helps students improve and keep learning.

Student raising their hand in class

2. Goal setting is having a clear plan.

Let’s look back at these Olympians. Yup, it is obvious that all the athletes have a plan.

Having a clear direction leads to learning success. When students know they have to have a project completed and can set a schedule to plan out a timeline, the work gets done without burning the midnight oil. When students set goals to plan a study schedule for an upcoming test, they don’t rely on last minute “review” which gets them nowhere as memory recall is not effective this way.

Goal setting consists of learning to plan and planning is key to organization and learning.

agenda and pen

3. Goal setting is staying focused.

Olympians follow a regimented diet and exercise plan. They may still enjoy a late night or a feast, but learn that when it comes to training time, they are mentally in the zone.

When students establish the proper mindset to effectively set goals, they also learn to encourage themselves to stay focused. When students have a goal set, they focus on getting there. They find out what their distractions are and work to minimize them. They learn to balance and plan their day to make sure their tasks get done.

a focused child doing their homework

4. Goal setting is being self-motivated.

Olympians need to stay motivated and have lots of patience. The Olympic games take place every 4 years, and these athletes need to stay motivated and train and have the mindset to persevere. They set their own goals and work towards them to strive for their personal best. No Olympian has ever said that they are competing because their parents want them to. They do it for themselves or honour someone close to their heart.

Having the motivation is the key to following a plan and with an attainable goal in place, it is possible to reach it. When students set a habit to plan and set goals for themselves, they give themselves the confidence to take action and succeed. They learn intrinsic motivation rather than focus solely on external rewards.

students together smiling and high fives

5. Goal setting is about commitment despite failure.

We are never guaranteed that we can reach our goals. Some Olympians never get to step on a podium nor even reach the top ten, yet they stay committed to improve and accept failure as a lesson.

When students set goals effectively and build a growth mindset as they learn, they learn to assess themselves to see where their strengths and stretches are and they aim to keep working hard. They see failure as an opportunity to learn and gain rather than as a rejection.

To sum up, goal setting teaches students to:

  • Continuously make progress and improve

  • Have a clear plan

  • Be motivated

  • Stay focused

  • Keep committed despite failure

These skill sets make up the mindset of an Olympian. These same skill sets make up the mindset of a successful and happy student. Knowing how to effectively set goals and having a support system is key to your child’s success.
students discussing a school project together

Watching in awe at the athletes performing at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, I am impressed not only by their true athleticism, but also by their mental strength and with their level of commitment and perseverance. Though our children may not be striving for an Olympian’s athleticism, we can encourage them to possess the same mindset that these athletes have to reach their own interest and potential and build confidence to achieve what they want to accomplish, whether it is in school or in their extra-curricular activities.

To learn more about how your child can learn to establish a growth mindset and set goals, visit


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