Every parent wishes their children’s dreams will all come true. Pursuing meaningful goals that reflect our purpose plays an important role in developing and maintaining a happy life. Ultimately, achieving our dreams makes us happier emotionally and more satisfied with our lives. Positive psychology researchers have discovered that people who have a clear purpose in life experience less pain and anxiety. Feeling good about the future is important for our emotional well-being, and having a purpose gives us direction and something to look forward to. Without goals and a purpose, we just go through the motions of life and can start to feel numb and depressed.

Each goal we set and achieve on the path to reaching our purpose takes us one step closer to true happiness and success in our lives. According to Psychology Today, progress on our goals makes us feel happier and more satisfied with life. In turn, positive emotions then make us more motivated to keep wanting to achieve even more. Goals give us a sense of accomplishment and are how we turn our dreams into reality.

Our job as parents is to pass along this knowledge to our children so they can discover their own purpose in life and make choices based on what will make them happy and satisfied. A recent study published in the journal Psychological Science looked at whether the positive health effects of having a purpose in life also applied to young adults. The researchers found that having a strong purpose can be as important to young adults as it is to older people. This means that finding one’s direction in life should be done as early as possible. We cangive our children tools so they can start crafting their purpose, even at a young age.

Set SMART Goals

If we are not careful about how we set our goals, we can lose our balance. According to Action for Happiness,

“Happiness doesn’t just happen–it comes from thinking, planning, and pursuing things that are important to us.”  The types of goals we want to guide our children in setting should be interesting and engaging to them, give them a sense of meaning and purpose, and bring a sense of accomplishment when they achieve them. This will help build confidence for future endeavors.

SMART goals are used by managers to help their employees set realistic, attainable goals. The author of the blog, Embark on the Journey, translated this business language to make it useful to families. She also created worksheets that you can easily download and work on with your children.

The acronym SMART represents goals that are:

• Specific: The more specific we are, the more focused we can be in reaching a goal. When your children say they want to do better in school, ask questions to guide them in identifying a more detailed goal. For example, which subject would they like to do better in? What grade are they hoping to achieve?

• Measurable: It is important that we help our children identify how they will know they reached their goal so it is clear what they are working towards. Is it an award, a grade, a project, or a skill they are looking to end up with in the end?

• Achievable: Goals should be reasonably

challenging–not impossible. It is best to encourage our children to take one step at a time and not to make things too difficult for themselves. They will be happier if they reach a few easier goals than if they struggle to attain a really difficult one.

• Relevant: Goals need to mean something to the children. They need to be excited and passionate about what they are working towards. If we set the goals for them, they will not gain anything from the experience and may possibly fail and be stressed over what we expect from them.

• Timely: If we don’t identify when we hope to achieve a goal, we are unable to succeed. Ask your children to determine a realistic time frame for meeting the goal. Be sure to consider other obligations and interests when choosing the estimated finish line.

Provide New Experiences

As parents, we can guide our children through this discovery process to figure out their purpose in life. We can’t tell them what their purpose should be, but we can give them experiences and resources to help them discover their own sense of purpose and ultimately their true happiness. Some ways we can enhance their view of the world around them include:

• Taking them on trips–both domestic and abroad.

• Participating in volunteer activities.

• Being part of a sports team.

• Exposing them to different cultures through food, shows, music, etc.

• Exploring art and science through shows, museums, and classes.

• Giving them opportunities to explore life on their own through camp, group trips, study abroad programs, and spending time with friends and family in other locations.

Stay Flexible

It is also important that our children learn how to stay flexible when setting and working towards their dreams. Goals are not meant to be written in stone. We should approach goals as fluid opportunities for personal growth. As they learn new techniques or fail at their first attempt, they can tweak their goals to better fit their needs over time. The key to success is to allow them to take a break, find a new perspective, and then come back and try again with a revised plan. Our children will thank us for teaching them this little trick in life so that they can learn to adapt more easily and persevere even when faced with unexpected surprises and challenges.

Parent Magazine