Setting Target Goals

Tips for Getting Started With Goal Setting

Share, Send, or Save

Identify motivations:

What does the patient really want to work on? It is difficult to strive for goals unless the motivation is present, so the patient, parent, or caregiver should choose something that he or she truly wants to achieve.1-2

Prioritize goals:

The patient, parent, or caregiver should set their goals, choosing what is most important or what makes sense chronologically, keeping motivation in mind.1-2


Try not to set expectations too high. If the patient, parent, or caregiver reaches too high and comes up short, there may be disappointment. However, if expectations are lowered and the goal is reached, the patient and/or parent or caregiver may be happier. Perspective is important.1,3

Take small steps:

Break down goals into smaller, more manageable steps. Even the largest, most overwhelming changes are made only 1 step at a time.1,3

Begin with a quick success:

Choose a goal that can be accomplished quickly. This quick success can help feed the cycle of success. Try not to tackle the toughest goal first. Instead, "practice" first on some of the easier goals to help build self-confidence.1-2

Establishing at least 3 to 6 target goals serves as an excellent guide for the health care professional designing the comprehensive management plan, as the plan can be individualized in accordance with the goals. As the patient's goals change over time, adjustments can be made to the management plan.1


  1. Subcommittee on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Steering Committee on Quality Improvement and Management. ADHD: clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011:128(5):1007-1022, SI1-SI21.
  2. Tresco KE, Lefler EK, Power TJ. Psychosocial interventions to improve the school performance of students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Mind Brain. 2010;1(2):69-74.
  3. Murphy K. Psychosocial treatments for ADHD in teens and adults: a practice-friendly review. J Clin Psychol. 2005;61(5):607-619.