The Danger of "Goal Setting"

The Danger of “Goal Setting”

“Goals” are often the most important thing that parents want their children to focus on. Competition and Comparison has become a way of life. I am posing a very different question here, especially for the benefit of our children. It would benefit us to understand what happens in the mind of the child when a “Goal” is set during a discussion with the mentor or parents? While “Goal Setting” is important from the perspective of alignment or taking the “Correct Direction” in life, the “Aspirational Goal” should not become a “Gun on the Head” for the child. Many a times, it so happens that the child starts losing interest in their loved activity just because now there is a “Large Formidable Goal” to achieve. They just stop enjoying their daily moments, because they see themselves as either “winning” or “losing” and not necessarily enjoying the activity. Competition is not always good, as when it is always lurking in the mind, it can actually kill the “passion” or “interest” in the activity itself.

Why do children start hating a subject like “mathematics” as they reach the 8th and 9th grades? There is a direct correlation to the “marks” that they are not able to achieve, that makes them detest those very subjects. The more you pressurize them to get more marks, the more they hate that subject. Actually, mathematics is a beautiful subject and can be enjoyed by every child. We have amazing instructors like Eddie Woo( who demonstrate this beautifully. I strongly recommend all students to subscribe to this channel to start enjoying Mathematics. Incidentally, Eddie Woo was not a good student of Mathematics in school, but is one of the World’s best Mathematics teachers today.

Similarly, when we talk about an aspirational goal, and the child is unable to visualise or achieve any “quick win” in that Goal , and the Goal looks too far away, there is a high probability that the child may start losing interest and start hating the activity that once he or she used to love doing. Have you seen children squirm the moment you talk about exams or competitions, especially when they know that their probability of winning in it is slim? This is a simple psychological issue, and as parents and mentors, we need to be very careful as to how we communicate the “Goal” to them.

Also, the feeling of winning a competition or examination or any achievement or accomplishment is just momentary, and never lasts long enough. “Even being the greatest in the world doesn’t guarantee lasting contentment. Because of what researchers call “hedonic adaptation,” your happiness eventually tends to revert to a baseline level after a good (or bad) thing happens to you. As per Cassie Mogilner Holmes, a professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management ( Taken from “The Atlantic” publications) : “Even something as amazing as getting a huge raise at work; as meeting the love of your life; as, potentially, winning a gold medal—we get used to it, because we’re not focused on it day in and day out.”

It was found that “extrinsic motivators” such as chasing a goal for “glory” or “money” can undermine the “intrinsic motivators” such as passion for an activity. A simple example in terms of subjects especially in the Indian CBSE context is how most students find “History” so boring, because it is only about memorizing dates and events to pass the examination. Once we finish our education, most people suddenly take a liking for history when we start actually reading stories of the past to know and appreciate the life of our predecessors. Same is the case for languages such as “Sanskrit” or even any “foreign language” taught as part of the course to clear the examinations. There is actually no “intrinsic motivation” to learn, it is just the “extrinsic motivation” to pass the exam.

The simple method therefore that we may like to follow with children is that:-

(a) Understand their areas of “intrinsic motivation” : What they actually love doing on their own. Also create more “intrinsic motivators” as they are growing up by building interest in various things and activities.

(b) Set a large Goal along with a mentor for building focus in a direction aligned to their strengths, but not so large that the child loses hope in the first go itself. Allow them to enjoy their daily activities akin to playing evening games with no pressure on them for achieving any outcome.

(c) Build a process of appreciating and celebrating “Personal Bests” and also appreciate their efforts and spirit of playing or participation even when they give their best and fail. The best of Winners have failed many times before they got their best Win. ( Hope of Winning to be kept intact)

(d) Enable the child to enjoy the learning process or the activity, and not just the “accomplishments”. Let them be their true selves and enjoy their growing up, they need not be a part of a race everyday.

“Jeevan Pravaas” Life mentoring services provides parent counselling along with mentoring for children to lead happy lives and enabling correct decision making through “intrinsic motivation” and building higher confidence levels in all youth. Connect with me to build happier lives for your children and youth.

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