Behrman House Blog

Dreams, Goals, and Teeny Tiny Steps: Building a Road to Success in Hebrew

Hebrew literacy is not a goal. It is a dream.

That’s not a bad thing—it’s simply a way to distinguish it from a goal. Goals, according to Sean Young, Director of the UCLA Center for Digital Behavior and the UC Institute for Prediction Technology, “are the intermediate plans people make.” They are quantifiable (we’ve all heard of SMART goals, right?) They can be short term (a week or so) or long term (one to three months). Anything that will take longer than three months? That’s a dream.

The basics of a new language might be done within three months, if you put enough time on task. But in the world of religious school, especially with once-a-week learning opportunities, even the basics themselves are a dream.

How not to despair? Break it down. A lot.

Realizing a dream takes a series of goals. And accomplishing goals requires a series of steps—teeny, tiny little steps—designed to keep us on a path to a goal, on the way to realizing a dream. Young calls them stepladders, and in his book “Stick with It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life—for Good” he uses his behavioral science research to show how a well thought-out set of stepladders to a series of quantifiable short and long-term goals can help any of us realize a dream that is important to us.

Young’s research into how people do and do not realize their dreams shows that people who focus on their short-term goals get farther faster than people who simply visualize their dream outcomes.

More surprisingly, people tend to stay on the path to their dream when they consistently accomplish MORE than they expect to at each step along the way—i.e. beat their short-term goals. And the best, most motivating goals turn out to be very small ones—those we can accomplish and feel good about, and then ratchet up a bit for the next go-round.

But before we set that next goal, it is equally important, says Young, to reflect upon that (even super small) success and celebrate it--even for  just  a moment or two. we need the chance to realize we accomplished something.

At the beginning of the school year, what kinds of tiny stepladders can we create for our students so they can feel real accomplishment quickly? How will we encourage reflective moments in celebration of those small accomplishments?  Young's research tells us that these are vital elements in helping our learners develop and maintain the motivation to stay on the path to the dream of recognizing, of reading, of knowing Hebrew.