Inspirational Starters for a Lesson on Goal Setting

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(Image from Connor and Cayden Long (Image from

It’s the New Year, and for over half of us adults, that means we’ll be setting resolutions. Unfortunately, only 8% of us will actually stick to them, so that’s not a whole lot of positive modeling for the kids.

That’s why it’s a great time to kick off a unit on goal setting, and fill it with positive examples of real people who not only stuck with and reached their goals, but did so while demonstrating character, resilience, and grit.

Throughout our goal setting unit, I’ll show a few short video clips of inspirational “goal setters” to get class started. Then I’ll have the kids tell me how the people we’ve seen have set SMART goals and gone through the steps of the process. Then I’ll have them journal about what they can learn as they’re working on goals of their own.

Here are 3 starter videos that have worked for me in the past. All of these videos feature kids who have overcome huge challenges and can teach our students about goal setting while giving them some perspective and gratitude.

Dartanyon Crockett and Leroy Sutton

From ESPN's Outside the Lines comes this inspiring story of two friends and wrestlers from Cleveland who faced tough odds and accomplished some amazing things, by working together.

This video would be a great addition to any class, grades 7-12, whether you’re learning about goal setting, advocacy, friendship, or character.

My kids absolutely love this video and learn so much from it. Just be forewarned… you’re going to need your tissue handy.

There’s also a follow up video that ‘s a little bit longer to show if you have time.

I like to show this to the kids when they’ve finished with their own goal setting projects. It’s great for them to see that when you accomplish your goals, you just need to just keep on setting more.

Bethany Hamilton

Many of the kids have heard about Bethany, who at age of 13 lost her arm in a shark attack, and then managed to get back into competitive surfing. There was a film made about her a few years ago called Soul Surfer, and somehow, they’ve managed to pack enough into the short trailer to spark a great discussion with the students on goals.

The movie is rated PG and would be appropriate for any of the kids to watch on their own if the trailer sparks their interest. Also, she’s a great role model, and if you check out her website, you can see that she’s all about goals, and even has a current Kickstarter campaign going on.

Connor and Cayden Long

These two amazing brothers were named the 2012 Sports Illustrated Sports Kids of the Year, and if you watch this video, you can see why. Connor’s goal was to do something active with his brother, Cayden, who has cerebral palsy, so he figured out a way for them to compete in triathlons together.

This video really resonates with the younger students, as they’re able to connect Connor’s journey to the goal setting process while learning something about disabilities, the bond of siblings, and the importance of perseverance.

These are just a few of the examples popping up all of the time, and I encourage students to share any that they find on their own. This gets them into the habit of looking out for positive things in the news… which would be a good resolution for us all.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 9.51.34 AMAbout the author: Amy teaches Middle School Health at the Shanghai American School and has a passion for curriculum that is current, relevant, adaptable, and shared. She has presented at conferences in Asia as well as the AAHPERD and SHAPE America National Conventions. You can access her blog and resources at and find her on twitter at @teaching_health.