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Dynamic Lynks Blog

Setting SMART Goals

This January we have been talking all about setting SMART goals on our social media pages. I'm sure many of our readers have set New Year's Resolutions and goals for 2020. I hope you are part of the minority who is sticking to the positive changes you set for yourself this year. If you're part of the majority who have lost momentum on their goals, don't fear - SMART goals are here!

Why SMART goals?

People fail to reach their goals for a variety of reasons, but 2 of the most common are 1) lack of consistency or 2) lack of clarity. SMART goals give us a clear plan to reach our goal and help us to track consistency. SMART goals are also a great way to help children practice executive function skills to organize, plan, and monitor their progress towards a goal!

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and in a given Time frame. We use a SMART visual to help our children and teens see how to layout their SMART goals. As Music Therapists, we also teach SMART goals through song!

This catchy cover helps you remember the elements of SMART goals and how to create a plan for goal setting.

S is for Specific

When setting a goal, it is important to be clear about the exact behavior you want to change or achieve. For example, one of my client's goals was to be "more neat and organized in 2020." What does it look like to be neat and organized? Adults and children both need to know the exact visual of that end goal to successfully achieve it.

As you can see on our worksheet below, we laid out what a clean space looks like for her:

M is for Measurable

How do we know when we've accomplished our goal? For the client above, the goal was to clean and tidy once a week. Giving a clear measurement for the goal allows yourself, your children, and your clients to know when they are done. Giving them a concrete way to measure the skill can eliminate uncertainty and prevent negative behaviors from distress or confusion. We often use star charts or timers in our sessions so children have a concrete visual representation of their progress towards a goal.

A is for Achievable

The important question to ask yourself when setting a goal "is this something I can really do?" We all have big dreams and big goals, and we don't want to limit anyone, but it is important to set a goal that is within your range of ability. Keep in mind what is mentally, physically, and emotionally possible for you, and then set you goal.

R is for Realistic

Make sure your goal is something achievable by another human. Something that is in the realm of reality. This is an important area to point out for children as they often have fantastical dreams that might lie on the fringe of what is realistic, though flying like a unicorn would be great!

T is for Time

When will this goal be complete? This is a huge part of goal setting for us as clinicians because we have to set a realistic time frame to achieve this goal. I often set goals in 3 month intervals, that way we can track short-term progress (3 months) or long-term progress (12 months), depending on each individual's needs.

Executive Function Skills and setting SMART goals

SMART goals give a clear layout for children to accomplish a task. Children with executive dysfunction often struggle with non-verbal working memory, and they are unable to create a visual of an outcome or end goal. SMART goals allow them to see the end goal with detail so they can problem-solve and reverse problem-solve across a variety of situations to reach their goal.

For my client who is working on having a clean room, a picture of her room at it's cleanest state would be ideal to hang up with her SMART goal so she has that visual representation of the expectation. This allows her to begin with the end in mind so there is no frustration or confusion about what a clean room looks like.

We hope SMART goals help you, your children, and your clients reach their biggest dreams in 2020! Let us know your SMART goals for 2020 in the comments.


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