Happy New Year, YWLC! At this point in the month, you may be off to a killer start on your New Year’s resolutions. Or (no shame) maybe you’ve forgotten all about them. Maybe the thought of a year-long commitment stressed you out so much you didn’t bother. That’s okay! Your YWLC family is right there with you.

The reality is that resolutions are not just for the new year. Goal-setting is a skill we develop over time, just like anything else. We will all have goals we want to work towards throughout our entire lives. No matter if they’re big or small, personal or school-related, practical or far-fetched, we deserve to set ourselves up for success.

How do we do that? Keep reading!

What makes an effective goal?

Remember that saying, that life is about the journey and not the destination? According to NYT best selling author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, a goal is something you wish to achieve, while a system is the process that leads to those results.

In other words, the system is the journey and the goal is the destination. The goal provides direction, but the system is what pushes you from where you are now to where you want to be.

Let’s think about a common goal for high school students: “I want to get into my dream school.”

How can build a system to reach that goal? Let’s break down this example, and along the way tackle some common goal-setting pitfalls to help make your resolutions a reality!

Performance vs. Outcome based

Our systems should focus on what it is in our power to achieve! Though getting accepted into your dream school may seem like a straightforward goal, that’s ultimately a decision made by somebody else and largely out of your control.

If it just so happens to be a super competitive year and the school is unable to accept you, that will end up feeling like a personal failure – when it totally isn’t! By focusing on your own personal performance, you are better able to roll with the punches. You’re also more willing to give YOURSELF the validation you deserve for all the progress you’ve made, regardless of the outcome.

So what can you control in this situation, you may ask? Your actions, of course! You can break up your big goal of getting into university into a lot of smaller actions that are within your control:

  • I will study more to improve my grades
  • I will commit to extracurriculars
  • I will make my college application as good as it can be

See how these goals already feel more manageable? They’re not perfect yet, though. Let’s keep working!

Specific vs. Vague
Most goals start out pretty vague. We often don’t really know what we’re getting into until we hunker down and research how to get from point A to point B. This isn’t a bad thing at the beginning; sometimes being vague allows us to be even more creative and ambitious when we think about our desired end results.

That being said, getting specific is necessary if you want to follow through on those desired results. This can be the least fun part of goal-setting, but also really liberating. Figuring out our systems ahead of time narrows your goal down into what you actually need to be doing, meaning you’re less likely to sweat the small stuff.

Time to get specific!

  • I will dedicate two hours to studying at my desk after school every day
  • I will apply for leadership positions in the Spanish club, Speech & Debate team, and YWLC club at school
  • I will work on my college essay for one hour at my desk on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends

We’re getting closer!

Long-term vs. Short-term
Any (realistic!) timeline for a goal or system is a good timeline. Short-term goals are great for building confidence and staying on track, while long-term goals provide guidance and inspiration. It’s important to have a healthy mix of both.

Let’s add some timelines to the systems we’ve set up to make them even more effective:

  • I will study for three hours at my desk after school until my Spanish exam on Wednesday
  • I will apply for leadership positions in the Spanish club, Speech & Debate team, and YWLC club at school by this Friday
  • I will work on my college essay for one hour at my desk on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends until November 1st

With long-term goals, it’s also good to check in with yourself every once in a while to evaluate progress. Your goals, values, or life in general also may have changed since you set your original intention – that’s totally normal! If your goal no longer feels relevant, necessary, or motivating, it may be time to adjust.

How did that feel? Did it help you? Did you learn anything? If you’re still having trouble setting goals and systems, or even just having trouble figuring out what you want, check out this classic TedTalk:

Defining your Fears Instead of Goals with Tim Ferriss

February Monthly Meeting
Hear from a Multicultural Education Innovator!
Monday, February 2
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Feri Ukani

My name is Feri Ukani owner of LIPP Schools, with three locations here in Houston. We enroll students starting at 3 months of age until 5 years old. All the academic instruction is taught in either French, Spanish or Mandarin Chinese.

I was born in Nairobi, Kenya which puts me at being 4th generation Kenyan. We left Kenya, and settled in London, England where I started my early education. We then moved to Houston where I have been for the majority of my life. I graduated with a degree in Political Science, minor in Psychology and went to pursue Law School in Michigan. Although I did not pursue a career in the legal profession, it guided me to further obtain my Masters degree in Education.

I got married and had three beautiful children. Coming from a diverse background, having been immersed in different languages, being in multicultural environments, and having a passion for early education and development, I was driven to open my first immersion school in 2015. I now have 3 campuses in Houston, and two other business partners. We hope to continue expanding the business in the future.