By Wendy Horbinski – Coordinator, Laws of Life
One of the best opportunities that a school environment provides is multiple “fresh starts” throughout the academic year. Whether your calendar is divided into quarters, trimesters, or semesters, each of these “mini new years” allows students and educators to assess progress, reflect on challenges, identify what is important to them, and set new goals for the upcoming term.
Although academic and career goals are important, oftentimes, the difference between reaching a goal or not is the personal practices or daily habits one does or doesn’t put in place. These practices and habits are our character in action, and just like academics, music, or athletics, we can strengthen our character muscles, too.
Character.org separates character development into four domains:
- Moral Character: the character strengths of honesty and integrity, caring and compassion, gratitude, and the courage to take initiative.
- Performance Character: the character strengths of self-discipline, responsibility, goal setting, and grit.
- Intellectual Character: the character strengths of curiosity, carefulness, intellectual autonomy, humility, open-mindedness, and critical thinking.
- Civic Character: the character strengths of fairness, respect, volunteering and contributing to the common good.
As students set goals for the next term, challenge them to include a character goal. Here’s a reflection question to consider asking your students: “If I could develop one character muscle in the next four months, which one would help me reach a personal goal I have set for myself?”
Pushing oneself to start a new habit or change a current habit can be hard. A key to success in achieving any goal is monitoring progress. A few ways to support your students in this journey include:
- Have students visualize themselves achieving their goal
- Show your students how they can develop record-keeping tools to monitor their progress
- Provide students with time to reflect on their progress
- Pair students and teach them how to give effective feedback as an accountability partner
- Focus on the process over the outcome
- Celebrate and reward growth along the way
- Model these practices with the class by sharing your own goal
Strengthening our character muscles builds a solid foundation for reaching other goals. Taking advantage of the “mini new-years” provided by your school calendar allows multiple repetitions to practice reviewing, reflecting, and refining goals, allowing students to reach even greater heights. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Sow a Thought and you Reap an Action; Sow an Act, and you Reap a Habit; Sow a Habit, and you Reap a Character; Sow a Character, and you Reap a Destiny.”