It’s well into February so chances are that your 2016 New Year’s resolutions are a thing of the past. 52% of respondents in a study by Richard Wiseman were confident in their ability to succeed when setting their resolutions, but 88% failed. That’s not a great statistic!
As an evaluator, I work with teams to set goals for their youth programs at the beginning of each program year.
Our initial conversations can feel a lot like resolution setting -- team members come in with grand ideas about how they are going to make the world a better place. I love how youth workers maintain an unrelenting optimism. Part of my job, however, is channeling their high ideals into measurable goals.
Goals, just like resolutions, have a greater chance of being successful if they contain some important pieces. SMART goals are a popular framework for making your goals measurable. Making all of your goals SMART can be a daunting task, so here are some practices to focus on to be successful in staying true to your goals.
- Ground your ideas. For me, setting goals is about looking at the difference between what currently is and what could be. You want to be aggressive in your goal setting so you can push your program to do better, but you also have to keep your feet on the ground. For example, expecting to improve academic test scores after a one day program makes no sense. Make your goals grounded in the reality of your program. They should stretch your program but not break it.
- Set benchmarks. People who stick to their resolutions usually create small benchmarks along the way. Rather than vowing to lose 50 pounds, first focus on eating a healthy breakfast every day and build from that success. The same is true for program goal setting. Encourage your team to set some short term goals that are attainable on the way to your loftier ideas. The added benefit is that crossing off a short term goal is a great morale booster!
- Check back. Just because you create your goals at the beginning of the project doesn’t mean that you are forced to stick with them. Unless you’re under strict funding requirements, goals can change as the program changes. Revisiting and updating goals periodically will help increase adherence to the goals, boost staff involvement, and ensure goals that really speak to your program.
How do you keep yourself accountable to your goals? Do you have any lessons learned in goal setting? What are your program resolutions?
-- Samantha Grant, interim evaluation director
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