Setting SMART Goals

As youth development professionals, there is a LOT we want our young people to learn. We want them to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrate good character and citizenship, and live a healthy lifestyle. We want them to be kind and empathetic and explore their passions. We want them to be curious and keep growing and learning. THOSE ARE A LOT OF THINGS!

Most of the things I mentioned in that last paragraph are what we call social-emotional “soft skills.” Soft skills are personality traits or habits that aren’t about specific knowledge you may have, but are behaviors. They help us connect to and work with other people and because of that, studies have shown that employers value soft skills more than technical ability. These skills are infused into every Boys & Girls Club program resource, alongside the content-specific skill-building we also facilitate. Club staff can find out what skills are addressed by each resource in the new Youth Development Resource Catalog.

Today, let’s focus in on one of these skills that is included in our brand new Power Hour Program Guide for Middle School: Goal Setting.

Learning how to set goals is a vital skill for young people. After all, its hard to get somewhere without knowing where the somewhere is! Goals help youth focus on the journey to whatever they want to achieve, helping them to make plans, use their time and resources wisely, and identify the places where they may need some help.

But just setting a goal sometimes isn’t enough. I can have a goal of learning to speak French (one of my actual goals), but if I don’t give myself some action steps around it, it’s easy to keep putting it off (one of my actual downfalls.)

That’s where SMART Goals come into play! SMART Goals are a way to write goal statements that include the actual steps that you need to take to achieve the goal. SMART is an acronym to help us remember what SMART Goals are:

  • Specific: The goal does not need to be broad – it needs to be specific enough so that youth can focus their efforts and clearly define what they are going to do.
  • Measurable: The goal should be measurable. When they can measure a goal, they see changes occur. Youth will also be able to stay on track and have better success.
  • Attainable: The goal should be attainable. If they set a goal that is too far out of their reach, then they will not commit to it for long. Attainable goals help develop attitudes, abilities and skills if they are important.
  • Realistic: The goal should be realistic. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement. It must require some effort.
  • Time-bound: The goal should be achievable in a reasonable amount of time. Most middle school youth will have more success with short-term goals.

SMART Goals acronym.png

To SMART-ify my goal of learning French, I might say “For the next 30 days, I will complete two French lessons on Duolingo each day.” At the end of those 30 days, I will know more French than I did before, and I’ll be ready to set my next goal, which may be a little more challenging.

Setting SMART Goals is a super practical way to teach youth how to accomplish what they want to do, and will also set them up for some fantastic wins. They can be applied to just about any area of life, from academics to health to just day-to-day life. And they aren’t just for kids- I’m currently in a SMART Goal sprint to get my sleep schedule adjusted to reasonable human hours!

So how do we teach this to youth? We’ve got you! In the new Power Hour Program Guide for Middle School, there’s an entire activity session where youth brainstorm personal goals and learn how to reach them by writing SMART Goals. And because we are all about high-quality youth development practice here at BGCA, the session includes a community builder, reflection, and opportunities for recognition! Download this sample activity by clicking the image below.

PH MS Screen

SMART Goals is just one of 13 sessions in the Power Hour Program Guide for Middle School designed specifically to help young people ages 13-15 achieve academic success. Boys & Girls Club staff can download the entire resource on For more ClubX Blog resources on goal setting, including a BUNCH of ideas for bulletin boards that can help youth visualize tracking their goals, check out the “goal setting” tag. Now, go crush some goals!

How do you help young people set and accomplish their goals? What are your favorite ways to teach soft skills to middle schoolers? Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email to tell us!


SMART pin.png

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: