SMART Strengths: Building Character, Resilience, and Relationships in Youth

Goal Setting, Engagement, and Meaning

  • Goal setting is essential but goals do not set themselves. It is likely to be most successful when adult mentors help. There are research-based goal setting strategies. Goals ought to be: 1) Specific and challenging 2) Measurable with incremental feedback 3) Value-driven 4) Able to create feelings of independence, connectedness, and competence 5) Intrinsic motivation 6) Written 7) Consistent with capabilities and strengths.
  • Mastery Goals that build intrinsic motivation, creativity, positive feelings about learning, perseverance, self-advocacy, and curiosity are more desirable than Performance Goals, which focus on avoiding mistakes, outperforming other students, and meeting extrinsic objectives like higher grades and awards. The authors use digital portfolios to help students foster self-awareness and reflection; gain greater awareness of goals achieved and goals for the future, and making their school experience more meaningful and purposeful. They also cite Ruby Payne’s work that shows how poor students with visions, goals, key relationships and special skills are likely to get out of poverty.

High Quality Connections & Appreciative Questions

  • High-Quality Connections between all members of the community will make people feel more engaged, open, and competent. Teachers can model respectful engagement by paying attention, showing consideration, and treating students with high positive regard. Building trust is essential. Acting with trust conveys belief in students’ integrity, dependability, and shows a desire and willingness to care. Students can build relationships and trust as they learn about the strengths of other students and their teachers. Using people’s names helps show that you care.
  • The authors present the term Green Light Responding. This is where you respond with appreciation and ask questions that make the person relive the experiences out loud. Sharing personal positive events builds social resources. You want your responses to be active, not passive, and constructive, not destructive.
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