Ready… Get set… Goal! – How setting GOALS can motivate us

“People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.”
– Earl Nightingale

Written by Lian Peiqi, DAS Educational Therapist, RETA Associate Member Plus

In my experience of teaching children with dyslexia, many have asked me the significance of coming to class, and whether or not, coming to class helps at all. Well, my first response is always, “What do you think? What do you want to ACHIEVE?” Some are able to describe their answers briefly, while others look away and say nothing.

According to McNulty (2003), dyslexia impacts the way an individual feels about himself. A person with a learning disorder is more prone to have social-emotional problems such as the lack of social skills and low self-esteem. Children with dyslexia often experience failure in school, therefore harbouring negative emotions about the things they see and experience in their daily lives. Without continuous encouragement and support, some of these children form the tendency to give up easily which can persist to adulthood.

The ability to set goals is vital for developing grit and getting what you desire in life. It is a skill that needs to be acquired, and children who have mastered this skill will not only become responsible for their behaviours and learning but also manifest a “can-do” attitude. By setting goals and achieving them, children with dyslexia will not only gain more confidence in their learning but also more control over their lives.

So, how do parents and teachers teach children to set their own goals? According to Big Life Journal, there are four research-based steps to help any children set effective goals, and remain motivated in the process.

1. Let them choose their goals
To start the ball rolling, we can ask questions to help them be more specific about their goals. What’s something that you wish you could achieve? What could you do to achieve them?

2. Let them share about the purpose of their goals.
This will ensure that they are driven, and have what it takes to achieve their goals. What do you think is the biggest advantage to you doing well in this class? How can that help others, too?

3. Let them break down the goals into smaller steps.
We can use “goal ladder” to help them visualise ways that they can achieve, first, by writing down the goal at the top of the ladder and then working down through the steps it would take to it.

4. Let them brainstorm possible obstacles.
What will you do if things do not go as planned? If you feel like giving up, what will you do to overcome that? By asking these questions, we can encourage children to plan for potential difficulties that they might face as they move along the “goal ladder”.

What can we do if children want to give up? Here are some ideas to keep them going:
1. Remind them of the purpose of their goals and plans to overcome obstacles.

2. Help them review their “goal ladder”, and recognise the achievements (no matter how little) they have made so far. Acknowledge their effort and recognise every step no matter how small it may be.

3. Focus on how they can continue improving, rather than the perceived failure. Why do you think you didn’t do as well as you thought for the test? What could you do to keep getting better?

With the proper skills to set goals, children with dyslexia can believe in themselves again, understand that persistence is key and achieve beyond the classroom. Diligent practice of goal-setting skills can also help inspire and encourage them to better manage common social-emotional problems such as lack of social skills and low esteem.

1. McNulty, M. A. (2003) ‘Dyslexia and the Life Course’, Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36(4), pp.363–381.
2. Big Life Journal (2019), 4 Steps for Helping Your Child Set Effective Goals (Plus a Bonus Tip). Available at,how%20you%20will%20address%20them (Accessed on 04 Feb 2021)