Episode 214: Why New Year’s Resolutions Usually Fail and How You Can Succeed Instead

Jan 2, 2023 | Podcast | 0 comments



This episode is our first episode of the year 2023. What better topic to dig into than goal setting now that you may have set your New Year’s Resolution for this new calendar year – be it personal or professional.

We’ll dig into some of the reasons why your resolutions of years past may have failed and what you can do to increase the probability that the goal you set for yourself this year will not only be worthwhile, but one that you can position yourself to actually achieve!

You’ll Learn

  • Why most people fail at achieving their resolutions; 
  • How to avoid the common mistakes around creating a resolution or goal; 
  • How to use OKRs to achieve the goals you set for yourself personally or professionally; and,
  • How to craft goals for your classroom and/or school improvement programs.


16 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail – Life Hack.org

Top 3 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail – Forbes

How To Start The School Year Off Right

Measure What Matters [Book] – John Doerr

District Leader Resources:

The Make Math Moments District Planning Workbook [First 3 pages] 

Learn About Our District Improvement Program

Are you a district mathematics leader interested in crafting a mathematics professional learning plan that will transform your district mathematics program forever? Book a time to chat with us!

Other Useful Resources and Supports: 

Make Math Moments Framework [Blog Article]

Make Math Moments Problem-Based Lessons & Units

Start your school year off right by downloading the guide that you can save and print to share with colleagues during your next staff meeting, professional learning community meeting or just for your own reference!


Kyle Pearce: Hey, math moment makers. In this episode, our first of the year 2023, what better topic to dig into than goal setting now that you may have set your New Year's resolution for this new calendar year, be it personal or professional?

Jon Orr: We'll dig into some of the reasons why resolutions of past years may have failed, and what you can do to increase the probability that the goal you set for yourself this year will not only be worthwhile, but one that you can position yourself to actually achieve.

Kyle Pearce: All right. Let's do this. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: I'm John Orr. We are two math moment makers from makemathmoment.com, and together with you-

Kyle Pearce: ... the community of math moment makers worldwide who want to build and deliver problem-based math lessons that spark curiosity-

Jon Orr: ... fuel sense making-

Kyle Pearce: ... and ignite your teacher moves. Welcome my friends to the year 2023.

Jon Orr: The future.

Kyle Pearce: I'm going to say welcome back just in case maybe a year or two from now you're listening to this episode.

Jon Orr: Wow. That's weird.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. We are recording this as we enter a brand new year. Jon, I don't know about you, but over the holidays, the winter break really gives us this opportunity to not only sit and reflect on our own personal lives about some of the goals that we're hoping to achieve, maybe some of the goals that we wanted to achieve in the past year and maybe never managed to get around to as well as maybe some of those things on our wishlist, but also some of those professional goals too. So at the end of the day, this is a time for reflection and really starting to look ahead and think about what can we do to help ourselves reach those objectives that we have for ourselves and for the students that sit in front of us.

Jon Orr: Yeah, and I don't know about you, Kyle, but I've all but given up on this personal-

Kyle Pearce: Don't give up, Jon.

Jon Orr: ... the personal side of the resolution. I should clarify that, Kyle.

Kyle Pearce: John has no goals anymore.

Jon Orr: Yeah, no, that's not it. I am a big believer in goal setting, but I think I just don't call them resolutions anymore. So you're at a party, you're at the New Year's party and someone's like, "Well, what's your resolution?" I often just say, "I don't make them." In actuality, I do make resolutions, I just don't call them that. I have goals that I set for the year on certain things, but that's relatively new in the last couple years for me, and I know that for you, we've done a lot of work in reading on building those steps to help achieve those goals, which we're going to talk about here in this episode, but before that, before all this learning that we've done over the last few years to achieve goals, I was terrible at those resolutions.
That's why I think I continually say to this day that I don't make resolutions because I remember being younger and saying, "I'm going to do this," and then boom, nothing happens out of it, right? So in this episode, we want to help you understand what we've learned over the last few years to achieve the goals you're setting and like what Kyle said, that could be a personal goal, but it also could be with a focus on your educational goals, your professional development goals for yourself in your classroom.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it, Jon. To be honest, going back to what you said about resolutions, it's almost as if it's this thing that everyone is ... It's an expectation that we have on ourselves, at least here in our culture here in North America. It seems to be this thing that you do. I think that right there, just that idea that it's a thing you do really is one of these parts that make it hard to be successful because it's almost like, have you really thought about the goal that you're setting for yourself or have you just thought about it first thing that popped to mind at that party you were talking about? You're at that Christmas party or whatever holiday party that you're at, depending on what you celebrate this time of year and you're having a conversation and you just make something up on the spot.
Right there, when you think about that, those were the types of resolutions I used to make and I gave up on them very quickly because again, it was like if you're only going to give a couple seconds to think about it or even a couple minutes, committing a couple minutes to a resolution makes it not really a resolution. It just makes it a passing idea, right? It's a passing comment. I could say, "I wish I could lift more weights," or, "I wish I lost a little weight," or, "I wish I could run further." I know these are all very physical exercise oriented goals, but that tends to come up around the holidays. People eat, they drink maybe more than they usually do, maybe gain a few pounds. So a lot of those resolutions are tied to that, but at the end of the day, is that something that you truly want? When we say want, there is work that goes along with it.
So we've pulled up here today some of the common reasons why resolutions fail, and really, we're hoping that we can dig into some of the other goals that we set in our day-to-day, be it personal or professional. We are going to bring in some of those goals that we tend to set as educators for our own classrooms and our school improvement plans and our district improvement plans. I'm wondering here through this conversation, Jon, if we can land on some of these elements that might help us avoid some of these common traps that, really, this idea of a resolution might set us up for and how we can actually plan some purposeful goals that are actually attainable and achievable for ourselves.

Jon Orr: Yeah. We're definitely going to do that. Kyle, I think we got some stats here. I think you've pulled up from lifehack.org 16 reasons why New Year's resolutions fails. We're going to take some of those reasons why they fail and then learn from them, but also to apply them so that we can move forward and set goals for ourselves personally and also professionally because I think one of the stats they quote in that article that we're referencing, and we'll put the link in the show notes for sure, but basically, only 12%, only 12% of people and maybe up to 20% of people in an article from Forbes. We'll also put that link in the show notes below here. So basically, we got this range of 12 to 20 percent of people are actually-

Kyle Pearce: I saw another article, Jon, that was even lower than 12. So the range is less than 20 and just above 5%, I think it was. It's not very hopeful.

Jon Orr: Right. People are not completing these resolutions. I think we all know someone probably, like I said, I made them myself and then never completed them. So it's not something that we know, but, Kyle, sometimes it's helpful to look at the other side, right? That means that 20% of people, we've got 12 and only 20% of people are completing them, but this begs the question. Most people are not completing them. That's clear. That's clear, but what are the 20% doing? What are the 20% who are achieving them doing? That's what we want to talk about here. That's what we want to pull out for us, for you so that you can be one of those 20% people who are achieving the goals that they set to themselves.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. That's exactly it. It's like what are they doing or another way to state it is maybe, what are they not doing when they're setting the goal?

Jon Orr: True, true, true.

Kyle Pearce: So are these people who maybe just know something that we don't? I'm going to argue that they probably do, whether they realize it or not. Sometimes people might just get lucky and the conditions have been set in a way that make them meaningful. So let's talk a little bit about some of the things, first of all, that people tend to do that aren't helpful for their resolution. So they have 16. We're not going to go through all 16 because I think some of them are very related, but Jon, when you look at that list, what's one that pops out at you as something that maybe you can resonate with based on your own experience? Because I know I look at a lot of these in this list and I'm going, "Oh, yeah, I've done that before. I've done that before." What's one that pops out at you as one that you felt like was definitely something that hurt your chances of meeting your goal?

Jon Orr: I think this is the eighth one they have on their list. I think why I've picked this one out is because I've seen both sides. I've seen why I've failed at not doing this, but then also why I've had success at doing this, which is you don't track your progress, right? So for example, if you're setting your goal like, Kyle, you use some weight loss goals, just to fill everybody in here as well. This wasn't a goal I had last year. It was just something that I started to track, which was how much I was consuming. It was like what you said, Kyle. It's like over the holidays you eat a little more, you drink a little more. Then I've always wondered ... You always see how many calories you're supposed to eat, but especially in restaurants these days, you'll see the calories listed underneath the item.
I always wondered, "How can I exercise every day but maintain the same weight that I've had for the last 20 years? Exercise regularly." I just thought, "Oh, I'm just older," but then I thought, "You know what? Maybe I should track. Maybe I should measure how many calories I'm putting in." It was just more from my understanding of what I was doing with my body, and I started to measure, not actually measure in weight, Kyle, but I mean track how many calories I was eating. So I used an app to help do that, and that just me logging my food every day. It does sound tedious, but it became a game for me is to log the food that I was consuming during the day and just tracking how many calories I was eating. I would be like, "Oh, yeah, I did. I would've eaten this when I got home from school." I used to have a snack, get ready for dinner, make dinner, have some of the dinner while I was making dinner because I got to taste it, right? So doing that and realizing, "Hey, I was probably overeating," and then just knowing about that and tracking that basically over the course of say seven months lost 25 pounds.

Kyle Pearce: Wow.

Jon Orr: It was just because I was tracking how much food I was eating, and I still track to this day. So I started that back in February of last year. By the summer, lost 25 pounds, but then I kept tracking. Why not keep going? Why not track a little bit more? Because the power and the tracking is, I think, you're doing the measuring and if you aren't measuring what you want to achieve, you won't get there, right? You have to be able to measure it well, and I think that's why I picked the eighth one there, which is you don't track your progress.
For example, if I wanted to set a resolution to look at my phone less this year, and I want to spend more time with my kids, I want to give more attention to my family, and I don't want to scroll, even though it's addictive to scroll on these devices, I could say that I want to be on my phone less, but how am I going to measure that? I got to be able to measure that piece so that I can say every day, "What did I do?" I should probably set a limit. I should set a limit. In our phones today, you can set limits for yourself. You could hand your phone over to your partner and say, "Hey, create a password for me on my screen time limits so that I don't know it and then pass it back to me," and then I will have all of a sudden this time limit on my Facebook app or my Instagram app so that when I'm scrolling, when it's locked out, I'm locked out. So I'm measuring how much time I'm spending on these things. By measuring them, you can start hitting your goals quicker.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. That measuring is so key because if you don't know day to day whether you are a little closer, a little further or maybe right where you want to be to that goal, then you really aren't working towards that goal, right? I think also, the idea of measuring while it makes it very quantitative, I can look at it and I can see very quickly whether it's working or not. I know that, "Hey, if I adjust this over here, then it affects that over there."
For me, my health journey that I've been on for a number of years, I've always tried to stay active, not necessarily as trying to necessarily cut weight, but I started to monitor what I was eating during the day. I would just weigh myself. So I didn't actually monitor my food as closely as you have been, but I would notice and I'd take note, which is another way of measuring, I would take note of what would happen on the scale from day-to-day, week to week when I did different things.
So for example, if we went out more than usual, I'm like, "I know I ate more calories than I normally would or ate more poorly than I would," and I would see what that impact would be like on the scale over that next week, and oftentimes it would go up. Then I didn't do those things, if we didn't go out to eat, I would notice some of the scale tipping down, and that led to a little bit of weight loss for myself as well.
Jon, you mentioned something though because something that comes up from this list that really pops into my mind when you talk about measuring and just what you're doing, you're putting in, there's an effort that's being made there and there's something in the list that I think it's connected to this, but I want to push back on the item and the list a little bit.

Jon Orr: All right. What do you got?

Kyle Pearce: So they talk number six on their list. They say you don't enjoy the process. When I look at that on the list, I get a little worried because I personally don't think you enjoy the process of monitoring or calculating all your calories and all your food. It might now be a habit, but I don't think it's something that you necessarily, "All my life, I've been wanting to be a calorie counter. That's what I've been trying to do." I just worry about how it's labeled there. I almost want to relabel it and say, "You are not willing to do the process," right? Now, it doesn't have to be something you get enjoyment from in my opinion, but I put in brackets for myself to remind me. It's almost like if I'm not willing to do it, do I really want the goal to get it to be achieved, right? Do I care enough?
It's almost like a balancing act, where I'm picturing you have your goal in mind and you're going, "Do I want that goal enough to do this other thing, which I may not love, but to me it's worth it enough to do?" So it's like this balancing act. If it's something that's so difficult or that's so inconvenient where you hate it, then that might mean that doing that thing might actually not lead to you reaching that goal because, obviously, your want for the goal is less than your willingness to do something related to achieving that goal.
I think for me, this is a big piece when I think about any of the goals that I'm setting for myself now as I'm trying to get a better understanding for myself, instead of aimlessly during that cocktail party saying, "My resolution is blank," I want to truly say whether it's something that I think I'm willing to do. I've said it on this podcast before, Jon. You might even be able to predict what I'm going to say when it comes to running.

Jon Orr: Oh, yes.

Kyle Pearce: For me, the marathon, right? It's like I am not willing to put in the effort to run a marathon. I'm not saying it wouldn't be cool to do it. I'm not saying that maybe one day my thoughts are going to change, but I don't want that goal enough to put in the effort to get there. Even though I run five days a week, I just run a lot shorter distance than a marathon. I'm willing to do that for the result, which is just daily exercise. I personally don't see that as worth it to me for that goal, but then there's other people listening who do it all the time and they're like, "I love doing that." It's like they might not necessarily love running 20, 30 miles, but they do it because they want the goal enough. It's not necessarily something that they're loving every single time they get up to run.

Jon Orr: Yeah, and that's interesting too. I think it's related to the other one that I've picked out here too because what you can boil yours down into as well, you don't value that but you value this, but the other thing is you could. I think you could if you continue going down that line. This is like my goal, what about tracking my progress, is that I didn't think that I wasn't going to lose 25 pounds. That wasn't my goal and I wasn't even trying to set that goal, but it was these little increments that build up over time.
Your running has built up over time because you are picking that smaller goal, "I'm going to run for this particular reason," and then I bet you you could run a lot farther than you think you could run because you have built up all of these smaller goals that built up to bigger things.
So that brings me to one of the other things that we've learned along the way to help us achieve our goals, which in this list is saying, "Here's a reason why you're not achieving your goals is that you're trying too hard." I think what they mean by you're trying too hard is you're thinking about the marathon, right? You're thinking about losing 30 pounds and it's just so far away that you're like, "I got to do that, I got to do that, and I'm going hard all at the beginning and I'm going hard," and then all of a sudden you burn out and then you haven't really made these smaller chunks to achieve that goal.
So you're trying to think big, but you're not thinking specific enough about what you need to achieve to get there. I think we've learned that the most from that book, Atomic Habits, which is you've often referenced your running habit, right? What do you do, Kyle, when you're going to run your five days a week? What do you do to ensure the smaller sub goal of making sure that you run? You always say this. What do you do with your shoes?

Kyle Pearce: You put your shoes on or you leave them near your bed or you make it as easy as possible just to get them on. I still employ that tactic. So even on a day where I'm like, "Ugh, I am not going to go for a run today," I'm like, "You know what? I'm going to go for a walk." Then you know what? I tend to do some running. It might not be as far, but it's like I did something, and then you get back and you go, "That's pretty cool that I was able to do that when in 20, 30 minutes ago I was so against it." So I love that you're referencing that. It's almost like you have to be specific enough as to what your goal is, but then it's almost like you have to be realistic enough in terms of how close you can get.
There was another one in the list there, Jon, and I don't know if this one popped in your mind as well, but number 10 said, "Figures are not in your favor." I was thinking something similar to what you just said. It's like the figures are not in my favor if I want to do a marathon if I'm starting from nothing and if that's the only thinking I'm willing to do, but if I'm willing to take that big goal and if I'm willing to break it down like Atomic Habits, break it down into smaller pieces, make yourself smaller goals and go, "Well, listen, figures are not in my favor for me to run a marathon tomorrow, but figure is in my favor if I want to start getting consistent at running one kilometer to start, and then maybe after a month it's two kilometers and I work my way towards it."
The figures will not be in your favor if that goal is way too giant and you're not willing to sit and actually craft like, "How can I make realistic small check-in goals?" and as you mentioned, "What am I going to be using to actually measure the results there? Am I achieving those goals as I'm working towards this much larger goal in order to feel like come June that I'm still on track to make this goal?" if it's one that you plan on making right now at the beginning of the year/

Jon Orr: Yeah, and if you think back to when we started our journey in changing our classrooms and thinking about what we were doing in our classrooms, I don't think we were thinking about it then, but this is what we were doing, right? We were thinking, "I want a more engaged group of students. I want my students to like math class. I want them to enjoy it, but also learn something deeper." What do we do? We didn't go, "That's what we're going to get." We decided, "How do we break that down? What can we do each day to work towards having a class at the end that says, 'You know what? This was the best math class I've ever been in, and I wish you are going to be the teacher again next year.'"
It was us going, "You know what? We're going to do this little math talk every single day and we're going to do one every other day." It was very broken down in very specific so that it was attainable, and we can measure those outcomes, "How did we do on the math talk? Can I check off that we did a math talk today? How many math talks did we do this week? Did we do three or maybe we used this other technique twice?" We've got to be that specific, Kyle, when we set these educational goals for us. If I want to become that math moment maker and I want to be able to do these activities in my class and have these outcomes, what are the little things I can set for myself so that every day I can check off the list so that I don't break that habit and don't break the chain of making sure that I have done these three things because I set that small goal, those little tiny measurable goals for ourselves so that eventually, it will pay off with the bigger goal.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. So you referenced, and actually, we'll put it in the show notes, we've got a don't break the chain handout. That can be very helpful for people who are trying to set a goal and they're trying to stick to it, and that was one of the pieces in their list saying about breaking and forming habits. It's not a one day errand, and that is so true. So again, go back to the cocktail party, "I'm going to stop smoking maybe," or, "I'm going to start running," or, "I'm going to do, whatever that goal is, I have to have that plan and I have to have some accountability there."
This is why I think coaching in the, I call it the real world as if education's not the real world, but there's so many people who actually go and hire coaches. There's people that are business coaches and realtors have coaches, and there's all kinds of people out there that really what they're doing is they're trying to bring in some form of accountability so that you're not left to your own devices because the sad reality is that, hey, when I get tired, I tend to make poor decisions, right? I have big plans for what I'm going to do this evening after the kids go to bed and I want to get this done and that done, and then all of a sudden they go to bed and then I start to get tired, and then I don't follow through on the thing I said I was going to do, but when you have an accountability partner of some type or maybe just you're keeping yourself accountable, that can be massively helpful. So definitely check out the link for that.
I'm telling you, those 16 that are there, some I would argue are similar to others. You'll notice that, but I think you should check out that list if this is intriguing you. The list is very worthwhile. Try to target which ones in the list are you most resonating with, right? So if you're that person that tends to fall into that category or these three are yours, it's like what can you do to try to avoid those challenges happening again? I think everyone's going to have different ones that resonate with them, but ultimately, at the end of the day, Jon, I think what it comes down to, we talked a lot in this list about this idea about making our goals specific, making them measurable, having that accountability there, and then also how invested are you in achieving that goal.
Is it actually a goal or is it just a fun thought? Is it just like, "I would love to go to Bali," someone says? Do you want to do that? Are you going to work towards that? Are you going to save to do that or are you just saying that's just a fun passing thought? You and I have actually started in all that we do through Math Moments and things in our personal lives, and when we're actually working with our district partners that make Math Moments work with, we start with this idea of objectives and key results.
Tell me more about this, Jon, and let the math moment makers in. Why is it so important for us to start this conversation when we're working with districts, but also, of course, when you're working with yourself individually to try to set and follow through on succeeding with certain goals.

Jon Orr: Yeah. We first learned about objective and key results. That sounds so obvious now, but it's got a bit of a framework to it. Objectives and key results, OKRs, is first, from us, learned in the book called Measure What Matters, which is by John Doerr. John Doerr worked with companies like Google, the Gates Foundation, worked with Bono on his foundations to basically help them set goals for themselves and they call them objectives. So objectives are basically your goals. These are the overarching things that you want to achieve, but then the key results are the action items that you're going to take to get there.
So you could have a few different objectives for the year or for the quarter or for your semester or when we're working with a district, it could be for over a course of a few years. Then we can list specifically these measurable key results. So we list down what is going to help me obtain that objective. We're going to write this and this and this, and that is actually something that's measurable. We can measure things in different ways, but it's something that's usually numeric. We're going to put some number on this.
So when we were talking about I wanted to limit phone use, then we are going to put a limit, a time limit every day on using that phone or if we are going to use math talks in our lessons, we might say, "You know what? My overarching goal is to have a more engaged, and my math culture is going to be a little bit more open so that students are discussing more, arguing more, defending, making reasonings out in the open with each other than maybe us setting down and going, 'Hey, I'm going to do a math talk on these topics so that at least two to three times a week I have achieved this math talk,'" which is going to help me obtain my objective, but that might not be the only key result. We also might have another thing in that list to measure so that we are obtaining that objective.
So objectives and key results is something that we're using here at Make Math Moments. For example, we're running this podcast. We have an objective to hit this many listens by the end of this year, and we've got steps in place to help spread the podcast more to more listeners so that we can help more educators. These are some of our big objectives, but we've got key results in place to do that. So OKRs are a big overarching way of talking about something that you already might know because this is probably more commonly referred to as smart goals, right, Kyle?

Kyle Pearce: Absolutely, yeah. So I love this idea because when you think about the objectives and key results, to me, it's like the bookends. It really helps you be specific. When you go back to that list that we just went through from Life Hacks and we were talking about a lot of them, we were saying we either aren't being specific enough, we maybe don't care enough about that goal, we're not willing to work towards it, but when you actually set yourself, the clear objective, it might be a really big one, it might be like a moonshot objective. Then when you outline those key results, that's almost like, what will happen when you've achieved them? Then it's the in between is all of the details, which is the smaller goals, those smaller pieces. Maybe even smaller key results that are going to come out.
With smart goals, for those who are unfamiliar, it's an acronym. It stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. If we're doing those things within and it all serves this larger objective up top, we are going to have a much better chance of attaining those key results. Then also in our minds when we're actually referencing them, making sure that everything we do when we're working towards those objectives, that everyone is on the same page is really important.
So if you think about that from a math classroom perspective, this is why there's such a demand for having learning goals and success criteria up for students, right? We need them to know what the goal is and how we're going to get there. Now, on the other hand, we've also mentioned sometimes it can be beneficial to hold off on being very specific at the beginning if you're going to help them bump into that learning, but that's through trust. You have to have that trust that there's going to be meaning there.
So for example, let's teleport ourselves into the last staff meeting you had, right? So you're in a staff meeting and you get there and there's going to be some learning. A lot of staff meetings will have this, where they've built in some professional learning there, and you're in this staff meeting and they're like, "Okay. We're going to learn about X." So they tell you what the learning goal is, but there's no connection to why or how it connects to the greater goal for your school or your district or the work that you're trying to achieve.

Jon Orr: Objective.

Kyle Pearce: Right, and maybe, I'll argue that there are some scenarios where maybe you don't need to know that upfront if the educator or if the administrator or the presenter has developed a trust that they always bring it back. They always connect the dots. They always tie that bow at the end, but usually what happens, nothing gets tied at the end and it just becomes what they call in one of these articles that we had pulled up, they called it Why Employee Development Programs Fail by Go Verb. There's a quote in there that I love. They said, "You might be confusing employee training for employee development."
What they're saying is if you're just doing a one hour lunch and learn or a one hour staff meeting where you're going to learn about this one thing and there's no connection to the bigger, larger objective, if there's no connection there and it's not explicit to everyone in the room, then it is a training, it is not development. So you've done a one hour training. You and I like to call that a one-off, right? It's almost like Jon and I will sometimes be asked by a district to come in, do this one day session, we fly in, we go, "Boom, we do this thing. We have a great time. Educators do all kinds of learning," but if educators don't see that what we did that day is connected to the greater objective of what the school or the district is trying to achieve, they just got a one day training. They did not experience professional development.
This is why it's so important for us as school leaders, even a department chair or a department head or even a district leader, someone in a much larger setting to really make sure that they're clear on what the objectives are and those key metrics that come out the end, the key results. We need to make sure that we know them, but then we need to make sure that everybody else knows them too, and that everything we're going to be doing is connected to this thing, so that when we come back to it we go, "Oh, maybe I didn't understand why this training. I don't see the training as that helpful for me, but I can see why it's helpful to helping the district reach this objective up here because it's going to help us get that key result." That is the work that you and I, Jon, have been spending so much time around, not only ourselves in doing the work we do in Math Moments, but with all of those districts that we've been working with through our district improvement program.

Jon Orr: Yeah, and that's a big part of the district improvement program that we do right away. We immediately identify with districts that we have this leadership flag that we have to help them move through this issue because a lot of times it's, "I've got all these big overarching objectives for my math program, but I have not yet communicated them to all the teachers or help their mindsets think this is important for our students." Same can be for our classroom teachers, Kyle, is that we know oftentimes we've talked here on the podcast about how to set the school year right, and one of those ways that we set the school year is actually communicating our classroom objectives with our students.
We've talked about the four pillars of math class a number of times on different episodes, especially back in those September episodes where we have the How to Start the School Year Off Right, but we communicate that working with each other. Collaboration is so important. Problem solving and productive struggle is so important. Assessments and thinking about growth is so important, and then also persevering through problems. These big four areas that we talk about with our students, everything we're going to do is going to be tied to strengthening those four things.
The math talks we do, the problem-based units that we do, while we're working at the boards before I've shown you how to connect the dots at the end of the lesson, everything is tied to those four big objectives, and we have to communicate that to our students. Do we do it right upfront? Maybe not, but like you said, that good professional development coordinator is tying those loose ends after back to the objectives to go, "This is where we are in our learning journey. This is the reason we did an activity like this today." As long as students can tie that back to the big overarching objectives, we don't have too many students who are all of a sudden going, "Why did we do it this way? Why are you teaching this way, Mr. Orr?" We don't get that anymore because we are communicating our objectives to our students and we're telling them how that particular lesson is achieving our objectives.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. So that clarity is so important. Another piece too, and this is just referencing an article that we came across, was from another Forbes article where it said the number one reason why most personal development plans fail, and they're talking about personal development plans within an organization, within a company where each employee is asked to create an annual plan. For us, Jon, here in Ontario, we do what we call an annual learning plan. What they find is that the plans typically fail because a lot of the people actually look at it as just a paper passing experiment, right? It's like bureaucratic. You have to just do it because it's part of the job. It's like something that you signed up for when you got into the job.
When in reality, you think about how important that could be if I knew ahead of time of what is the actual objective in my building or in my district. Again, this comes down to us setting the tone as the leader, whether that's your facilitator in a building, whether that's the administrator or whether that is someone at the district office who's trying to set direction. It's great to give autonomy, but ultimately, that autonomy needs to still be pointing in the direction of the actual objectives and those key results that we're looking for, right?
So that part I thought was really interesting. They found that the reason why those plans tend to fail is because they're actually not truly driven by the individual, right? So if you think back to your own personal development goals when we talk about resolutions, if you didn't set the goal and you're actually not driven to reach the goal, so if I'm setting my own personal goal and only about 20% or less of people are achieving them, then I'm obviously not that invested in reaching that goal. So think of how that number would go down if you're trying to reach a goal for somebody else's objective that you're not sure of what it is, right? If the district objective is not clear to me, then I don't really know where to go with one of those personal learning plans.

Jon Orr: Yeah, and I think that's an important point that when we work with districts on developing those objectives for the year, you have to include your educators in creating those objectives. So when we have our district leaders with the district improvement program create their magic wishlist, which is their list of items that they want to see in their classrooms over the next few years or in the next year, what does that look like, what are the things that I want to see, what do I want my classrooms to look like, we also have those same district leaders go through that activity with the teachers they're working with that year.
So if they've got a small PLC group or they're going to work all with Algebra I teachers or they're going to be working with grades four to six classroom teachers, then they're also giving that same exercise to their teachers, "What do you want your classroom to look like in the next year or two? What are the goals that you want to set for yourself? What do you want to see as good mathematical education coming out of your room?" Oftentimes, we have them phrase it as you're walking down the street, you meet a student who's come back from many years in the future, you ask them what they remember from math class, and you want them to say this, right? So then you get really from that question what teachers are looking for in their math class.
District leaders, we help the district leaders realize that the teachers are saying there is what they want to see in their classrooms, and then you get to say, "Look, this is what I want for my classrooms. Let's co-create this together, and that is going to be our objectives for the year, and now let's figure out how to get those key results," because that can set everybody on the same pathway, which is so important for districts because tons of times, we're working with districts and they say like, "I got to help my teachers with mindset. They're just not into this thing that we're trying to do here." I'm like, "Well, let's go back to the beginning and let's think about what are those objectives? Where did they come from? Did they have input on those?" If not-

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, "Did they understand what those objectives are?" Right?

Jon Orr: Right, right, and maybe it's just the language isn't right because if they did have input and they can see the value there, then you can say, "Look, this professional development session that we're running here on this day, this helps us with this objective that you helped co-create back at the beginning of the process."

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. So as we think here and reflect and we start to wrap up this episode, I want all of us to be thinking about, first of all, I hope that there's a little more clarity as to why sometimes setting those goals, call it a resolution, it might be something a goal that you try to set throughout the year, there's factors involved. So we've got some links in the show notes for you to check out for that. We're not suggesting that just by listening to this episode that the next goal's just going to be easy, but if you understand the elements and the things that you need to have intact and the things that you need to pay attention to, it's going to make it easier for you to plan and execute that personal goal.
Now, for those of you who are thinking ahead and going, "Okay. Well, I mean, I've got my own personal goals, and okay, that might be helpful what we've discussed," some of you are thinking, "What about setting collaborative goals?" This is, in education, a really, really hard thing. I feel like every district we chat with, the ones that end up coming on and becoming part of our district improvement program and those who are just want to stay in touch and continue to learn from the Math Moments community, the biggest challenge is that they find that they have a hard time getting momentum with their goals.
So when you think about collaborative goals, think about, "If it's that hard for me to set my own goal, make sure it's realistic, it's measurable, it's something that I'm willing to put in the effort to attain, all of those things." Make it a marathon and not a sprint. All of these things apply to collaborative goals, except it's exponential, right? Because as I move from me to maybe my department or my grade level team, now there's more people there. That means what I'm thinking may not be exactly in line with what the next person is thinking, right? I'm going to have to make sure that we all get to some common objective and it might be a really big one, and then if we can all come to some common key outcomes that we're looking for, these key results that we want, if we can get there, then the in between might be different from team to team.
Now, of course, as you move up from a team level or a grade level team to a school level team, the complexity increases. From schools to districts. Some districts are very big, the complexity skyrockets. So you can't underestimate how important it is for doing that planning ahead and ensuring what's it going to look like to actually execute this plan seamlessly.
So what we're going to be doing is in this episode, we have unpacked the challenge of setting goals for ourselves. In the next episode, we actually want to go deeper and we want to share how we can take what might be on our own personal wishlist and then bring others to the table. So if you're a grade level leader, maybe you're an administrator, maybe you're a coordinator or the district lead for professional learning, this is going to be a must listen to episode. It's going to be episode 216, and we're going to be diving into essentially how we structure a great plan.
We're going to unpack and use a bit of an analogy as we go to make it a little easier for you to remember on how you can actually ensure that your Math PD plan won't fail like a New Year's resolution. So that's what we're going to be digging into next time, and we're super, super excited that we get to dig into it a little further with all of you, leader, mentor, math moment makers that are out there.

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. So yeah, we're looking forward to that episode and we hope you enjoyed this episode and got some value out of it in thinking about your own personal goals, your professional goals, what you might think about when you're creating those, setting those smart goals, those OKRs, and also avoiding some of those common ways that we fail at making resolutions and goals. So hopefully, you've got some value out of there. As always, what we want to do is to think about what is your big takeaway. Which one of those ideas about goal setting and avoiding those ways that we have failed at our resolutions are hitting home for you? What are you going to do after this episode? Are you going to go set some goals?
A great way that I set my goals is I write them down. Kyle knows I'll carry around one of these books everywhere I go, which is really just a, I call it really just a goal setting book, which it allows me every day to write down three goals that I'm going to achieve, and those goals are like my mini goals, those little key results that help me achieve the bigger goals, and at the very beginning of my book has all of the bigger goals that I want to achieve over, say, the next year. Writing down your goals is so important. So maybe you're going to want to write your goals down or maybe you want to share your goals. You want to find an accountability partner who you can share them with, and then they can turn around and go, "Did you achieve those?" By sharing them with someone else, it makes them more real and attainable as well.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. Friends, for our district friends here at Make Math Moments, we believe that an effective math program must be cultivated and fostered like a strong, healthy, and balanced tree. We help to support, shape, and grow the structure of your district math program so it reaches far and wide, and we are looking for just a couple districts to work with over this next little while. So there's only a couple spots left currently. If you're interested in digging in more and you want to get on that goal setting, planning stage and get in there so you can get those key objectives ready to go and look for those key results, head on over to makemathmoments.com/district and you can book a call with our district improvement team. Again, that's make mathmoments.com/district, and we look forward to helping you strengthen into a strong, healthy, and balanced tree for your math program really soon.

Jon Orr: To ensure you don't miss out on new episodes as we publish them on Monday mornings, be sure to subscribe. Hit that subscribe button on your podcast platform. If you've already subscribed, welcome back. We continually put out episodes every single week. So if you have not yet subscribed, hit that button so you can get notified of when our next episode goes out.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. Well, friends, until next time, I'm Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: I'm John Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.

Jon Orr: High five for you.

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