Goal Setting Is the Most Powerful Lesson She’ll Learn - Girl Scouts

Goal Setting Is the Most Powerful Lesson She’ll Learn: Here’s How to Guide Her

Guiding girls as they set goals.

Your troop knows how to dream big, which is wonderful! But when your girls decide to go on safari to see lions up close—with this year’s cookie program earnings—it might be time to have a conversation about setting realistic goals.

Goal setting is one of the most powerful lessons your girls will learn through Girl Scouts, and it all starts with you! With your guidance, they’ll understand what it means to push their limits, cope with setbacks, and unleash their inner go-getter.

And although they practice goal setting firsthand by earning badges and selling cookies, you'll need to draw their attention, especially younger girls, to how they set goals. By approaching goals with intention, they’ll recognize they have the tools they need to turn their dreams into reality.

So where do you start? Our Volunteer Expert shared her tips for leading these important conversations.

Discover your girls’ goals.

Most girls will happily share what they want to experience and accomplish during their troop year; just ask! If you have a few shy girls in your troop, consider using a prompt to start the conversation.

“Prior to the start of each Girl Scout year, I send out a troop survey,” explains Lisa Lamb, a Junior and Senior troop leader from Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. “We use their answers to start a discussion about how we are going to accomplish all that the girls have said they wish to learn and experience that year. We then set some goals on the finances we need to earn to do so. The surveys are a way to get diverse, individualized answers from the girls that you may not get in an open group discussion.”

Encourage girls to talk about why their goal is important—how does it benefit them or others? When a goal has meaning, they’re more likely to follow through on it.

Explain the difference between long-term goals and short-term goals.

Have your girls excitedly proclaimed that they want to be veterinarians, fashion designers, or astronauts when they grow up? Then they already have an idea of what a long-term goal is!

If you want them to think more deeply about achieving their dreams, break down the difference between short-term and long-term goals. For the budding astronaut, a short-term goal could be earning her Brownie Space Science Adventurer badge, a medium-term goal could be attending space camp, and a long-term goal could be getting a job with NASA.

It sounds straightforward, but defining short- and long-term goals can help girls put their ambitions into perspective.

“As [a troop with older] Girl Scouts, we like to travel,” says Lisa. “I think it’s important to make sure the girls have realistic ideas about the funds they can raise, the time commitment of raising those funds, and the commitment of the date of travel. We often need to ask them if they are willing to do less throughout the year with troop funds in order to save for bigger trips or badge workshops.”

Break down the goal.

Unleash a can-do attitude in your girls by helping them break down their goal into achievable benchmarks, or mini goals. Any goal might feel intimidating without a plan, but creating a roadmap will inspire confidence as they hit the targets they’ve created.

To keep this activity girl-led, ask your girls what steps need to happen before they reach their goal and how long each might take. Depending on their ages, ask them guiding questions to connect those steps to what they want to achieve. Have girls create a “goal ladder” or map to visualize a path to success; bring the goal ladder to your troop meetings to celebrate achieved milestones and remind girls how far they’ve come.

Writing down goals has another benefit: studies show that people are 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals when they’re written down.

Be specific.

Are your girls aiming to be the top cookie sellers in your service unit? As they think about the milestones on their goal ladder, ask how they might be more specific; they’re more likely to hold themselves accountable to a well-defined step, like “make a list of potential customers,” than a vague one, like “sell a lot of cookies.”

If they've learned the five Ws (and one H) in school, try framing your questions accordingly:

  • Who are their potential customers?
  • What is the troop’s goal for cookie sales this year?
  • Where should they set up the troop’s cookie booth?
  • When will they make time to sell cookies or schedule the cookie booth?
  • Why are they selling cookies?
  • How will they get the word out about cookie season?

Talk about tackling obstacles head-on.

Remember how it feels to develop a perfect plan that makes every step along the way run smoothly? Neither do we. Your girls will inevitably face challenges in the pursuit of their goal, so ask them what they might do when they fall short of their target. How could they confront negative feelings?

Goal setting is a primer in resilience that teaches your girls that failure isn’t the end. Remind them of an activity that didn’t go according to plan and how it didn't stop them from pursuing similar goals or activities. With dedication, practice, and creativity—skills they hone through Girl Scouts—they can recover from setbacks and go on to achieve their goals.

The most empowering part of your troop’s goal setting? Girls have a built-in support group in their Girl Scout sisters and troop leader. Whatever their individual ambitions, they'll be ready to take on the world knowing that everyone is behind them!