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Why goal setting is important for students

Why Goal Setting Is Important for Students

Jack Cao
Jack Cao
Goal setting is an invaluable skill for students as they serve as the tools to not only solve immediate problems, but also foster a student’s confidence to go after his lifetime ambition.
Table of Contents

Remembering the exciting and young days of being a student,goal setting was THE practice that helped me get both short-term results and long-term benefits.

Every student should set goals for themselves because:

·         Goal Setting connects students’ personal ambition with school work

·         Goal Setting improves students’ self-management abilities

·         Goal Setting boosts students’ self-confidence

Empowering students to set their own goals can lead to a life of actualized potential and fulfillment. And the sooner they start this journey, the more advantages they will have.

SEE ALSO: Why Goal Setting is Important for Personal Development

1. Goal setting connects students’ personal ambition with school work

There is an interesting phenomenon happening now in the education system. Students hate schools but they love education.

Contrary to the popular myth, millennials spend more time reading compared to other generations, averaging about 2 books per year. That means that students, the younger generation, do value the importance of knowledge.

Unfortunately, the education system fails to enable students to be more proactive in learning with the old model of the carrot and stick: high reward, high punishment.

As students are getting more and more stressed out, they need more entertainment to balance out their anxiety: video games, television, Netflix… instead of pursuing their personal projects or building the study habits like we expect them to be doing.

What students need is a personal vision and a sense of active involvement in their education.

Personal Vision

As students set their own goals, they launch themselves into the future with an optimistic mindset. They define for themselves a reason why they should be studying, instead of being told a million times by their parents and teachers.

That personal, long-term goals can serve as the motivation anchor to help them grind through the tough subjects, tests, and essays, giving them a larger perspective focus on building themselves, making use of their time instead of wasting all of it on fleeting entertainment.

For teachers, understanding your student’s personal goals leads to a more reasonable expectation for each individual, hence removes the unnecessary stress exerted on them.

It makes sense for Josh to try and excel at chemistry because he wants to become a doctor, but Jonah’s average score doesn’t mean he should be doubling down on chemistry as he’s passionate about art and wants to become a movie director one day.

Active Involvement

Students’ sense of accountability can be trained early in life as they are empowered to take matters into their own hands.

If they have long-term, ambitious goals for themselves, they understand that teachers, parents, and friends aren’t responsible for getting them closer to those goals. Only through taking action and overcoming obstacles, instead of complaining about their circumstances, can they reach their desired destination.

In 1979, Harvard MBA conducted a fascinating study on the effects of goal setting, in which they surveyed the habits of goal setting in the about-to-graduate students. Through which:

goal setting study

-          84% of the entire class had set no goals at all

-          13% of the class had set written goals but had no concrete plans

-          3% of the class had set written goals and concrete plans

10 years later, the result was astonishing: the 13% were making twice as much money than the 84% on average. While the 3% were bringing in 10 times the income compared to the rest of the 97% of the class, on average.

goal setting study

Once a student connects their own personal ambition with an action plan, they are more likely to be successful, at least in terms of earning a decent income.

Through goal-setting, teachers encourage students to set goals and commit to taking action. We can serve as a guiding figure for their personal journeys, instead of implementing a cookie-cutter path to everyone.

Tools and Resources

- Teaching the SMARTER goal-setting model: helping the students set goals that are clear, specific and can turn into an action plan.

- Teaching the students journaling for self-reflection: helping students to refine their set of values, dig deeper to understand themselves and improve their self-awareness on their strengths and weaknesses.

READ MORE: Why Goal Setting Is So Hard

2. Goal Setting improves students’ self-management abilities

As students are still young, naïve and inexperienced, they don’t know how to manage themselves: what to focus on, how to manage their time, how to build good habits.

Goal setting is a meta-skill that contains three sub-skills for self-management: prioritization, time management, and progress tracking. 

These fundamental skills will not only serve to improve academic performance but also help students excel outside of schools.

As students strive to reach a big goal, the upcoming challenges will purify and cultivate their abilities to execute a plan. As the goals become more complex and difficult, students become more capable and efficient.

why is goal setting good
Illustration credit goes to LucidChart Blog

Prioritization, as we practice when evaluating which goals to aim for, will enable them to focus better and realize what is important and avoid wasting time on what is not.

Time management, as we practice when devising strategies and planning for milestones, will keep students more productive and less stressed. They will find out for themselves what working styles best suit them and start getting better at doing the actual work.

Progress tracking, as we do along the way towards our goal, will ensure students that they are building the right habits, taking the correct actions. These are the breeding grounds for good study habits that will transform into good work ethics later in their life.

Tools and Resources

For prioritization the 80/20 Rule (or the Pareto Principle), showing that 20% of the work that we do brings in 80% of the result. Teaching students to identify the 20% of work that will bring the most benefit and set goals based on that.

For time-management – the Pomodoro Technique (working in 25 minutes with 5 minutes breaks) this has been endorsed by many productivity enthusiasts and high performers as the technique keeps them highly engaged with their work and beat procrastination.

For progress tracking – there are so many useful tools that can help with progress tracking at our disposal. To-doist or Things are great apps for storing and tracking progress in the form of to-do lists, and Habitify is a great app to build and track habits, which happens to have a special discount for student.

SEE ALSO: 10 Deadly Goal Setting Mistakes in Personal Development

3.    Goal Setting boosts students’ self-confidence

As educators, one of our greatest challenges is to instill confidence in the hearts of our students.

There are students that waste so much of their talents, because they didn't confidently believe that they are capable of making an impact and living a good life.

I believe that empowering students to set their own goals is a fundamental solution to let them see the depth of their potential.

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Looking back to my years in school, honestly, I forgot most of what the teachers had taught me during the lectures. But, I would never forget how they made me feel when they encouraged me to strive and develop my interest in writing, or when they encouraged me to aim for a better university after high school.

The teachers I admire and grateful for the most are the ones that had put effort in guiding me to see myself for my potential, instead of my shortcomings.

Goal-setting, from my experience, has helped tremendously in raising a student’s confidence in his ability to do better in life. Through the small, little tasks, students gain more trust in his ability to do better, and he sets a bigger goal, and a bigger goal, on and on and on.

Singaporean entrepreneur, Adam Khoo’s half biographic I Am Gifted, So Are You demonstrated the power of goal-setting in improving a student life.


goal setting
Image Source: Power of Goal Setting

After attending an NLP course named Superteen when he was 13, he remarkably changed from an unmotivated, “under-achiever” student to attending the best university in Singapore, running a business and publishing a best-selling book while still in university.

He credited that 5-day course was the pivotal moment of his life. No one has ever taught Adam how to set big goals. No one has even considered Adam to be capable of achieving that much.

Adam’s story and exceptional transformation may be the exception to the rules. But it showed how much of a positive change goal setting is capable of.

The seed for self-mastery comes from the belief that we can change for the better, and that seed can be planted by a teacher who believes in a student more than the student believes in himself.

SEE ALSO: 5 Goals that Set Students for Success


Goal setting is an invaluable skill for students as they serve as not only the tools to solve immediate, short-term problems, but also a seed to foster a student’s confidence to go after his lifetime ambition.

As a student or a teacher, do you find goal-setting to have a positive impact on your life? Comment below and share it with the Habitify community.