Eight-year-old Max wanted to go in a 5 kilometre fun run but he thought the distance was beyond him.

His parents did an incredible thing.

Rather than console him and tell him he can do it when he’s older, they got to work, making sure he was ready for the event.

They broke the 5 kilometres into smaller, attainable steps.

First, Max ran a kilometre stopping a couple of times. When he could run one k without stopping, they stretched the distance to two, then three and so on until he was able to complete 5 kilometres.

Yep, he completed the fun run a very happy, proud boy.

He’d learned the value of determination and sticking to a task.

But more significantly, he learned a system he can use to achieve anything that he put his mind to. That system is goal setting.


It’s about the system.


James Clear, author of the amazing book Atomic Habits says that the strength of goal setting is in the system it teaches, rather than the results it achieves.

He’s right.

When we teach kids a system to help them reach a goal, it’s the process rather than the result that will transform their life.


Teach kids systems for success.


As a parent I taught my kids the systems they needed to become independent. They learned to make lists to aid their memories. They made charts to help them sequence their morning routine. They learned the importance of anchoring – linking a new activity to an old one to make new habits stick.

I taught them the goal setting system to help them achieve success in any area of their lives. It’s a process has obviously stuck as Max’s mum is my daughter. Goal setting is second nature to her. She applies it to every area of her life.

Now she’s passing the system on to her sons.


Elements of successful goal setting.


There’s no magic recipe for goal setting, despite the many formulas you’ll find on the Internet. However from my experience working with students over four decades I’ve learned that successful goal setting (for kids) includes the following 5 elements:

  1. Start with small goals so kids experience immediate success.
  2. Use measurable steps so they know they’re making ground.
  3. Establish a realistic time frame so they don’t lose interest.
  4. Build in small rewards along the way to maintain motivation.
  5. Make it enjoyable so kids have some fun along the way.



Goal setting is a leadership (and success) system.


If you’re not teach goal setting to school leaders, they’re leaving school without learning a vital system for success.

Knowing how to set and work towards goals is invaluable for any student, whether they aspire to leadership or just want to achieve success in any aspect of their lives.

And it’s systems rather than skills that separate the good from the great whether it’s schools, teachers or students (and student leaders.)


The Young Leaders Goal setting Guide is now available. It’s fun and engaging with learning activities that can be integrated into other areas of the curriculum. It includes worksheets, teacher notes and everything you need to start teaching goal setting immediately. It’s ideal for upper primary school students. Our Goal-setting Guide is available as a stand-alone resource, and it’s included in each of our money-saving packages. Find out more.