The Evidence Portal


Flexible activity

In this activity, young people are encouraged to set goals and develop an action plan that will motivate and guide them towards attainment of their goal. The young person is first tasked with considering goals that will promote their socioemotional wellbeing. Then, the young person is guided through the process of developing an action plan that make attainment of the goal realistic and achievable. Education and information on socioemotional wellbeing markers may also be provided.

This supports young people to prioritise and plan for their socioemotional wellbeing in the long-term, and be motivated in the short-term towards progressing these goals. It focuses young people’s acquisition of knowledge around socioemotional wellbeing markers and helps to organise their time and resources towards attainment of their goal. Ultimately, goal-setting can assist in confidence-raising as young people make progress towards achieving their goals and recognise their ability and competence in the process.

How can it be implemented?

Goal selection and progress should be tailored to the individual needs and circumstances of the young person. Where possible, triggers and situations likely to impede goal attainment should be identified and adaptive strategies to deal with these situations should be developed. Consideration should be given to ways in which larger goals can be broken down into smaller, more immediately attainable goals. Prosocial supports and family networks should also be considered during goal-setting activities. Where appropriate, engagement of support networks should be considered in aid of goal attainment.

Goal-setting can be delivered in a number of different ways:

Brief interventions and motivational interviewing:

  • Goal-setting can be incorporated in a brief intervention or motivational interviewing session whereby the facilitator guides the young person through goal selection either during a one-on-one session or remotely, online or via phone or text message.
  • Adding a goal-setting exercise to these behavioural intervention components can provide the young person with tangible steps to advance them towards a positive behavioural change.


  • The process of goal selection and setting can be demonstrated via modelling.
  • Modelling can be facilitated by prosocial peers, program facilitators, mentors or coaches, or local professionals.
  • This would involve the ‘model’ actively demonstrating the process of selecting a goal, developing an action plan, and working towards attainment of the goal.


  • Goal-setting can be achieved during coaching sessions.
  • During a session, a coach guides the young person through selection of a goal that is responsive to their needs and circumstances. The coach then facilitates planning around attainment of the goal.
  • Consideration can be given to circumstances that might impede attainment of the goal, and strategies to manage these circumstances.

Text interventions:

  • Goal-setting can be administered remotely, via text message.
  • Goals can be selected on the basis of personalised screening or assessments, and booster text messages can be delivered to remind the young person to continue to focus on attainment of their goal(s).

Who is the target group?

This flexible activity has been implemented with a number of different target groups. Key characteristics include:

  • 18-19 year old college students
  • High school students
  • Smokers aged 19-29
  • Students enrolled in continuation high schools
  • Girls aged 12-24 with high rates of problem behaviours at school, poor academic performance and truancy
  • Girls aged 13-14
  • School students attending schools in neighbourhoods with higher teenage pregnancy rates
  • 14-18 year old young people with a score of above diagnostic cut-point on the Modified Version of the Fagerstrom Tolerance Questionnaire (Prokhorov, Pallonen, Fava, Ding & Niaura 1996), a nicotine dependence screening measure.

What programs conduct this activity?

  • The Just Breathe program is a mindfulness training program in which young people are instructed to practice mindfulness in their day-to-day lives. Goal-setting in this program is used to reinforce the strategies and lessons learned through the program and to continue their implementation on a daily basis outside of the program.
  • In the Media Aware – High School program, students set personal goals related to school success and health at the beginning of the program, and then reflect on their personal goals and create a plan for the future at the end of the program.
  • In Media Aware (Sexual Health Program for Young Adults), students create a personalised profile which includes setting personal, educational and health-related goals. These goals are revisited at the end of each lesson and students are encouraged to continue to consider how these goals will be accomplished.
  • The Motivational Interviewing via Co-Active Life Coaching (MI-via-CALC) program is a coaching program consisting of brief phone or Skype sessions with a certified coach. During coaching sessions, participants are supported to make decisions or take actions in service of their goals. 
  • In Project Towards No Drug Abuse (TND), students are encouraged to prioritise their health as a life value in accomplishing life’s goals. To facilitate attainment of their goals, students are taught various ways to cope with stress and prioritise their socioemotional wellbeing.
  • In the REAL Girls program, participants set goals related to school and life success in collaboration with their Big Sisters (adult female role models). At least one of these goals are presented to the entire intervention group.
  • In RealTeen, the young female participants complete theory-based sessions. One of these theory-based sessions focuses on goal-setting. These sessions underpin skills-based learning around social skills including self-efficacy, communication and assertiveness, and risk-avoidance.
  • In STAR LO, professional actor-educator adults deliver short theatre pieces or vignettes that focus on setting goals specifically around delaying sexual activity.
  • In No program name: text intervention, young people are encouraged to consider, and respond to discrepancies between their current tobacco use and peer network, and their future goals and values. They then reflect on adjustments they can make in their peer network and tobacco use to assist with progressing towards their goals.

What else should I consider?

If online or video interventions are going to be implemented, service providers and participants will require access to devices and/or software to view and engage with the content.

Further resources

Last updated:

24 Nov 2022

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