How Student Leaders Can Bounce Back After a Setback (a better approach to SMART Goals)

Posted on November 7, 2018

Many student leadership organizations use the SMART goals acronym to help their student leaders set goals. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

This acronym is simple and straightforward, and that’s what makes it so helpful. If student leaders write goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, they should end up with a solid list of goals.

But setting goals does not guarantee their accomplishment. Additionally, since most student leaders are new to the goal-setting process, they are likely to fall short in achieving some of their goals. This is why it’s important to also equip student leaders with the mindset of how to bounce back after a setback with their goals.

High-Intention Low-Attachment Mindset

Consider equipping your student leaders with a High-Intention Low-Attachment mindset. It’s a simple concept to understand, and it’s very helpful when experiencing a setback.

Here’s the basic idea…

High Intention. This is the mindset to use when setting SMART goals. You set goals with the highest intention of achieving them. You also have high intentions of accomplishing all the steps needed to attain your goals.

Low Attachment. This is the mindset to embrace while pursuing goals. Low attachment does not mean you are uninterested in achieving a goal. It simply means that if the goal is not accomplished, it won’t devastate or ruin you. Will you be disappointed? Of course. But it won’t rock your world. You will continue to have high attachment to the things you can control (i.e. your efforts) while maintaining low attachment to what you cannot control (i.e. the results). You acknowledge your disappointment in not accomplishing the goal, but you quickly learn what you can from the situation and prepare for the next opportunity to achieve your goal.

How a High-Intention Low-Attachment Mindset Works in Real Life

Here’s an example of what this mindset looks like with student leaders…

Your student leadership team set a SMART goal back in June to grow the membership of your organization 20 percent by November 1. Your team created an excellent plan that included a marketing campaign, informational meetings, and a highly-visible service project (i.e. high intention). Yet November 1 rolled around and, while your membership has grown, the growth rate was 9.5 percent instead of 20 percent.

Is your team disappointed? Yes.

Does it rock their world? No.

Why? Because your student leaders are equipped with a High-Intention Low-Attachment mindset. They acknowledge the shortfall of not achieving the goal (i.e. low attachment), yet they celebrate the fact that they accomplished the three major tasks in their plan (i.e. high-intention). Additionally, they recognize they are closer to achieving this goal, so they regroup and develop new strategies for accomplishing the goal (i.e. high intention again).


High-Intention Low-Attachment Mindset. Training your student leaders in how to set SMART goals is vital. Yet equipping them with a High-Intention Low-Attachment Mindset is just as important. It will prepare them with the attitude and aptitude to bounce back after a setback.


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