Happy 2016. Consider kicking off the new semester with New Year’s resolutions. Work with your students on setting a behavioral and/or an academic goal. I tell younger students, “One goal is to make our heart happier and the other is to make our brain smarter.” You can frame the discussion in terms of strengths and opportunities. “We are all good at some things, and we all have areas needing improvement.” Model this concept with specific examples.

With younger students, write a note home letting parents know the goal on which their child is focusing. Older students can write the letter themselves and follow up with weekly journal entries about their progress over the course of the semester. I recommend keeping the focus of this activity on the process of continuous improvement rather than the finite end result of making or breaking the goal.

Interestingly enough, I informally went through this process with my second born child who just returned to college for a “redo” of his first semester. He wrote a very nice letter to his professors about what he plans to do differently to make this semester more successful. The good news is that with Micah having described his first semester as an “epic failure”, for the most part, we have nowhere to go but up.

Everyone can benefit from goal setting, so good luck with your New Year’s resolutions. I, for one, think the world would be a much better place if all adults and kids targeted specific ways to have happier hearts and smarter brains.