Category Archives: goal setting

four steps to change failure into success

I’ve written a lot of posts on how to handle failure.  There are several of reasons for this.   As a kid, I don’t know that anyone ever helped me understand the role that failure plays in growing, improving and becoming your best self. I just figured out on my own that failure was something to be avoided at all costs and that misguided perception would rule my life until well into recent years.

As a school counselor for 20 years, I also spent a lot of time consoling kids who felt devastated when life didn’t go as they planned.  They failed a test. Their work didn’t win the prize.  They weren’t chosen for the team or club.  I want to help kids learn to handle failure because it so often involves learning to handle losing, making mistakes and criticism. Each one of these experiences can either provide needed helpful information for our future or it can crush our spirit.  It is all in how we perceive the information as well as how it is delivered.

Most of the time when someone feels crushed by failure, the problem is the message or the story that the individual is telling themselves about the situation.  This is obviously true for adults as well as kids so the steps that I’m going to suggest below might be something that you will find helpful in your own life as well as kids that you teach, parent or counsel.   Here’s the secret sauce for turning failure into research and development.

  • Become aware of the message or story that you are telling yourself or repeating in your brain.  Here are some examples that I’ve heard:
    • How could I be so stupid?
    • I’m a loser and now everyone will know
    • What’s the point of trying?  I can’t do anything right.
  • Change the message to change the feeling:
    • It’s okay to make mistakes.  That’s how I learn.
    • I’m not a loser, I’m a learner.  Everyone makes mistakes and those who don’t understand don’t need to be in my circle of friends.
    • I haven’t learned the best way to succeed yet.  There are lessons to be learned from this experience.
  • Ask the question:
    • What have I learned from this experience?
    • How can I apply what I have learned?
    • Where is the opportunity in this experience?
  • Set a new goal to apply what you have learned
    • Create a new goal with a timeline- I will study differently for the next test by reviewing the material nightly.
    • Create an opportunity for constructive feedback:  I will ask my teacher for suggestions for the best way to learn the material.
    • Evaluate how the action steps are working:  I will take a practice test before the final exam.

Related posts:

What if failure is really a gift?

The growth mindset and success

Teach girls bravery not perfection

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

Lesson Plan on Winning/Failure on Teachers Pay Teachers





Kids and vision boards

If there is one activity that is always a hit with kids, it’s creating a vision board.  I’ve used vision boards as a way to create focus for kids around different topics such as goal setting or determining an intention for the next season.

In a previous post, I talked about the importance of reviewing an intention that was set at the beginning of the year.  A great way to set an intention for the weeks or months ahead is to create a vision board around that intention.  Here’s how:

Use a vision board as a focus for goal setting

  • Have students write down their goal:
    • It could be a goal for the summer: Relax and enjoy my family and friends.
    • It could be a goal for a sport:  Place first or second in breaststroke for my swim team.
    • It could be an academic goal:  Read 5 books this summer.
  • Have students create a vision: Students can close their eyes and imagine accomplishing their goal.  What would it look like?  How would they feel? What would they be doing? How would their senses come into play (what would they touch, see, taste, smell?).
  • Have students  find a way to represent the vision: Students can cut out images and words or phrases from magazines that represent them accomplishing their goal.
  • Have students make their vision concrete:  Once they have accumulated enough images, they can glue the images on a piece of poster board.  Using markers or other creative tools, they can decorate their board so it is eye catching and memorable.
  • Have students share their boards with the class:  Research shows that goals that are shared are more likely to be accomplished. Have students identify how they will use the boards as inspiration and motivation for accomplishing their goal.

Related Posts:

Learning from Goal Setting

5 Effective Ways to Teach Kids in the Digital Age

The power of ‘not yet’ in changing behavior

End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 


Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)


Learning from goal setting

In an earlier post this year, I suggested that students set an intention for the year and review that intention midway through the school year and again at the end of the school year.  As the school year comes to a close, it is a good time to determine the success of that intention and use it as a way to measure progress while planning for the  year ahead.  Here’s how…

Three Questions for Reflection

  • Were you successful in reaching your goal or your intention?  Why or why not?
  • What did you learn from setting this goal?  What would you do again?  What would you change?  How much more successful could you be if you put forth your best effort for the next few months?
  • What is your goal or intention going forward?  Imagine yourself in 3 months, 6 months or a year if you are successful.  What would that look like?  What would be different?

Reflection on goals has been shown to be a powerful learning tool.  In fact, individuals who don’t take the time to reflect on their history, often fail to learn valuable lessons and repeat the same mistakes. Setting aside a specific time for regular reflection is a good habit to establish and what better time to do it than as the school year comes to a close?

Related Posts:

Begin School with Intention, Plan for Reflection 

The secret sauce to setting and achieving goals

How to create an intentional year


End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 


Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)


The secret sauce to setting and achieving goals


What does the child in your life wish for in the new year?

  1. score a winning run for their baseball team?
  2. make an A in algebra?
  3. make a new friend?
  4. a pony?

As we look toward the new year, it is always a good time to teach children about goal setting and goal achievement.  This is moving beyond merely writing a resolution, although that can be a useful first step.  A goal is a resolution or a dream attached to an action plan and time table.  It is dreaming on steroids and a useful tool in every child’s motivational toolkit.

Step 1: Write the goal

The first step is to teach children to have a goal and to write it down.  Research has shown that just having a goal is useful, but writing it down increases the chance of success by a huge margin.  Teach children to write goals that are SMART:

Specific:  Instead of “make good grades” write “make an A in algebra”

Measurable: Instead of “run faster in track club” write “run a mile in X minutes”

Attainable:  Consider the starting point.  It will be hard to make an A in algebra if you are currently failing.  “Raise grade to a C or passing” might be more attainable

Realistic:  Goals should be meaningful as well as possible.  Setting a goal of running a race in a certain amount of time is useful if the student can stretch to meet the goal and has a desire to do so.  Setting a goal of getting a pony in one year might be unrealistic but saving money to take riding lessons may be reasonable and doable.

Timely:  An often neglected and important aspect of a goal is a deadline or point in time at which it can be expected that the goal will be accomplished.  Some examples of a time frame might be: Run a race in X minutes by the end of track season.  Save enough money to take riding lessons in 6 months.

Step 2:  Create an action plan

Too often we teach goal setting without teaching what to do after the goal is set.  We expect that it should be obvious.  It’s not… as evidenced by the number of students who not only fail to reach their goals but don’t get out of the starting gate.  Here are some steps to make goals achievable.

Once you’ve created a SMART goal, create an action plan that is SMART.

Specific:  What will you do to reach the goal?  For example:  Study algebra by reviewing the day’s lesson and completing homework.

Measurable:  When and how often? For example:  Study algebra daily for at least 30 minutes.

Attainable:  Make sure the action plan is consistent with other obligations and lifestyle. Study Monday-Friday for 30 minutes daily may be much easier than Study 4 hours on Saturday.  Make sure the goal is a stretch but not so much of a stretch as to be a recipe for failure.

Review:  Build in a review process periodically to make sure the action plan is working. Create a method of tracking test scores or running times and determine progress.

Tweak:  Based on the review process make changes to the plan as necessary. For example, maybe you need to study 1 hour on the night before a test.  Maybe the day before a race is a rest day not a practice day. Maybe you need to do some extra chores to earn more money to save.

Children who learn to set goals and follow up with an action plan, develop into hopeful forward-looking children.  Despite personal doubts or fears, they are willing to tackle situations that may be hard and difficult. They are children who recognize their own ability to be successful and create change in the world.

Related posts:

Four Leadership Lessons

Personality Style and Motivation

How to Create an Intentional Year


Start the new year off right with:

Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Just for you!  Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the six Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books.  Over 75 pages of ideas so that you can create lessons on cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.





One Word Can Focus the Family in 2015


Kids grow up so fast.

The world changes even faster.

What will your family be like in five years?  Ten years?

Do you have a vision for your family’s future?  Do you have an idea of the values and the principles that are your family’s foundation?

Stephen Covey  wrote extensively about the importance of having a vision for the future and the necessity of a family being proactive and beginning with the end in mind.  Although well known for his Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, he also wrote about and created a program for families to encourage them to design a family mission statement.

Why One Word?

Currently there is a movement to focus on one word for the year instead of creating resolutions or goals.  While I believe both to be important, I do think that focusing first on one word as a cornerstone for the year is a vital and worthwhile approach.  Most goals or resolutions fail because individuals focus on doing rather than first being.  While actions are important and necessary, they must first come from a mindset of who we want to be or our vision of our best self.

Even small children can be encouraged to select a word as their focus for the year.  I often did this exercise in classroom guidance lessons and students always enjoyed it.  Not only does it immediately engage their creative side but also gives great insight as to their interests and goals.

Selecting a Family Word

Once each member of the family has selected a word for the year, it is then time for everyone to share their words and then select a family word to focus on.  Some questions to think about might be:

What  words  would describe what you think the family should be?

What do you really want the family to accomplish together?

How should we treat each other?

How is our family different and unique?

How can our family be the best we can be?

What are your dreams for our family?

Write down the ideas and then select one or more words for the family to focus on for the year.

Making a Family Vision Board

One way to creatively extend the selection of one word is by creating a family vision board.  Families can create a vision board by illustrating their family word (or words) with pictures, photographs, and words or phrases cut from magazines or even drawn on poster board. It can be a fun and eye-opening experience that becomes a visual reminder each day of what the  family values .  Even young children can help with this project and interact with the family over shared goals.

Just as determining your own one word can empower you personally and help you determine your priorities, it can transform the family as well.  Whether you are planning a vacation or chastising a child for a behavior problem, you can ask both the child and yourself:  Am I following our family’s one word with my words and actions?  If not, how can I change my words and actions so that I am true to the mission of our family?   I can’t think of anything more powerful that you can do as a parent to develop a focus in 2015 than to select one word to guide you.

Two New eBooks on Personality Style! Check out:


Parenting with Style: Understanding Your Child’s Personality Style


Teaching with Style:  Understanding Your Student’s Personality Style