As an ex-teacher and parent, I have been saddened to hear that a large number of young people today have no ambition or lack self-confidence, as reported by their own parents and school teachers. As an Olympic gold medalist, I know that a way to gain ambition and confidence is to set yourself challenging goals, and working hard to achieve them with the support of those around you and with tough resilience to get through the tough times as well as the good.
I found that the best way to achieve your goals is to follow the GROW system:
G stands for Goal - What do you want to achieve?
R stands for Reality - What do you know and what is happening at the moment?
O stands for Options - What could they do to move the topic/issue forward?
W stands for Will - What will you do next?
Business Executives have used this model for 25 years to help them to break problems down and find possible steps forward, but it really works wonders when young people apply the system to everyday challenges.
Inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, I established the Charity 21st Century Legacy and created a programme Be The Best You Can Be! Using experience from my previous doctoral research in achievement as well as advice from senior managers in the business world, I have developed a way for young people to challenge and support each other in the right way, to become effective peer coaches.
In the last two years over 125,000 primary and secondary school children and young people have engaged in the programme. Some of the stories coming back to me have been truly magical, with children as young as nine using the GROW model to solve math problems, decide what food and drink would be best for them to focus at school, and even who they chose to hang out with outside of school. Sarah Mills, a Year five teacher at Willows Primary School in Staffordshire noted that their school's Ofsted rating which moved from good to outstanding was due to the ambitious goals being set as part of our programme.
This year, we have become strategic partners to Britain's Personal Best, a Big Lottery funded project to keep the spirit of 2012 alive. The partnership allows us to reach even more children and young people to help inspire them to achieve their own personal best. Setting goals is the first step in generating motivation into action. The idea is simple and also profound. A young person's goal can be in any area of school or personal life and it can be as small or as big as the young person's dreams, anything from committing to practice maths five days a week to setting up a local charity.
If you want to inspire a young person to achieve their personal best, ask them to identify their dream and follow it. Ask them to have a plan a) and plan b), and to speak to or follow a role model's story for inspiration and to kick start their own challenge. Then ask them to register their challenge on www.whatsyours.org and set a goal for the big participation weekend 4 - 6 October. The Be The Best You Can Be themes are Physical (Sport, Health and Wellbeing), Mental (Academic / intellectual), Social (Relationships), Spiritual (finding Meaning and Purpose - choosing to make a positive difference), Resilience, Teamwork, Values and Coaching. Any of these areas could be a young person's focus for their PB - a personal best challenge.
I started on a low note, to refer to young people's lack of ambition and low self-confidence, but I want to end on a high note to say that inspiration is all. Coaching and encouraging young people to set their own PB challenge can act as a catalyst to redress both low confidence and lack of ambition - these are two of the statistically significant factors that have been identified as being positively affected by engaging young people in following their own goals. The focus needs to be the choice of the young person. Pushing ideas gets a push back. Asking what they want to do and achieve and challenging through open questions, can provide the personal motivation for them to choose to get involved. Their choice to be engaged is the first step to self-empowerment. Taking the first step in establishing a goal is vital - no matter how small that step might be, it'll make a big difference. Good luck to all those engaging in this personal as well as national challenge.