Manage Goals is a young person’s experience with an adult who assists them to set and manage goals that are important to them and that build upon their passions and interests.

Managing goals involves identifying personal and group goals, breaking these goals down into manageable bit-sized steps, reflecting on challenges and successes, and adjusting as necessary.


Manage Goals has been shown to increase motivation, impacts our perceived control over our future and promotes overall positive youth development (Lerner, R.M., et al., 2011; Houston, H. 2020). Some studies find that when goals match the challenges and demands of a young person’s life situation, they contribute to their overall well-being (Nurmi & Salmela-Aro, 2002; Salmela-Aro, Nurmi, Saisto, & Halmesmäki, 2001). Goals are dynamic and young people reconstruct them over time to meet contextual realities (Brandtstädter & Rothermund, 2002). However, the more that goals are elaborated, the more likely they are to support a young person’s success (Aarts, 2007).

Research also demonstrates that managing goals is partly logical but mostly emotional. In a book entitled The Happiness Hypothesis, Dr. Haidt, describes our emotions as “a 5-ton elephant and our logic as a small rider on its back trying to direct it to take action” (Haidt. J. 2006). To manage emotions, we need to set goals that we are passionate about or that we are emotionally invested in.


Young people are dynamic and full of promise, with many different pathways to success. Every year Hello Insight mines our growing dataset of more than 125,000 young people, participating in more than 1,500 programs nation-wide, so that we can continue to learn what works for each and every young person.

Supporting young people to manage goals is highly predictive of significant growth in social emotional learning for young people ages 16 to 24. And, it works well when combined with efforts to engage authentically and promote peer bonds. These variables work together to promote even greater SEL growth.

Download the Reflection Guide


Hello Insight, in collaboration with Youth Inc., created the series Positive Youth Development in Practice, where we share different practical ways to promote Positive Youth Development experiences in young people through examples from other organizations. In this case, watch how our members practice Managing Goals with young people.


Switch by Chip and Dan Heath: Animated Core Message

Productivity Game
This 8-minute video describes how a person’s motivation to change is driven by two selves: a rational self and an emotional self. In order for someone to achieve their goals, there needs to be more than just a logical reason to achieve them, they must tap into their emotions. When guiding young people to accomplish their goals, it’s important to make sure the goals are meaningful to them. Use this video to ignite conversations with young people or staff to discuss tips and strategies for achieving goals.

Guiding Questions:

  • Why is it so hard to set a goal and accomplish it?
  • What are some of the strategies that Chip and Dan Heath suggest to help us accomplish our goals?
  • What strategies do we want to try out and where can we try them out in our programs?

Don’t Eat the Marshmallow

In this short, 6-minute humorous, TED Talk, Joachim de Posada shares a landmark experiment on how delaying gratification can predict future success. Delaying gratification is a key aspect of goal management. Often our goals take time to accomplish; therefore, we need to create strategies to resist temptation to veer from our path.

Guiding Questions:

  • Why is delaying gratification so hard?
  • What strategies did we see the children in the video use to delay gratification?
  • What types of strategies have we used to delay gratification?
  • Why is delaying gratification so important? And what does it have to do with goal management?
  • How can we support young people to delay gratification while working toward their goals?

Goal Management

This website provides a range of useful training materials that support goal setting with young people, especially the “Youth Readings” which can be downloaded and shared.

Guiding Questions:

  • How do these stories help you think about your own goals?
  • Do you have more than one goal for your future career or in life?
  • How will you prioritize your goals, if you have more than one?

Aiming High

Skills Builder
Skills Builder, a British company, has developed a very useful rubric for developing lots of different skills. This worksheet on Setting Goals is part of the "Aiming High" skill set; it contains Reflection Questions, definitions of short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals as well as a description of SMART Goals.

Guiding Questions:

  • How do you know when a goal is too high? and what do you do about it?
  • What is a SMART goal, and why is it important to make your goals "SMART"?