Helping Children Plan for Success

A successful life isn’t one that just happens. It must be planned for. Your children are more likely to be successful if they begin when they are young to live a purposeful life. This family night lesson helps them choose ambitions, both secular and spiritual, and to make a plan to carry them out.

Learn how to plan a family night.

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Reinforce what your children are learning at church.

Prior to this family night, give each person a notebook. Put subject dividers into it, with sections for various aspects of life—school, career, religion, relationships, etc. You may want to leave the labels blank for older children, teens, and adults, so they can choose their own categories. If possible, choose a notebook that allows you to insert a paper into the cover, so each person can decorate his or her cover. Provide art materials to use for this purpose. If the notebook doesn’t have a clear cover, choose materials that can be glued to the notebook.

When you are ready to begin the lesson, give your family members paper and ask them to make a list of areas of their life in which they’d like to be successful. Offer suggestions to help them make their lists. If their lists are too long, have them narrow them to a number you consider reasonable for their ages. Include spirituality or religion as one choice.

Ask them to tell you how they would feel if they were successful in each of these areas and why. They may have different reasons for different items. Tell them that today you will help them achieve those goals.

Plan an outing to help your children understand the importance of planning. Tell your family you’d like to do something fun as a family this coming Saturday. Ask if they think it would work out to get into the car and drive aimlessly around, hoping to run into something fun. Why not? (You might never find something, and if you do, you may not have everything with you that you need.)

Together, plan a location. Make a list of what you should take with you to have an enjoyable day, and what would be appropriate to wear. Then bring out a map and plan the route you’ll take. Discuss how this planning will make the trip more successful.

Tell your family their notebooks are like roadmaps and trip plans. They are planning their lives, the route they want to take, and the steps they need to take to prepare. Where do they want to end up at the end of their lives?

Read several obituaries to your family. Ask them to write their own, as if they died at age 90. Decide what they’d like it to say about what they did and who they are. Have them place these at the beginning of their notebooks, telling them that to be successful, we must see the end from the beginning.

Have them label the tabs on their dividers and then choose one section to work on that evening. They should begin by writing a brief summary of where they want to end up for that particular category. Next, they need to write out the steps for getting there. This can be complicated, so it is wise to walk them through it by working on one as a group. Choose a category that you want your entire family to work on, and then make a family plan to achieve it. Write out each of the large steps, and then outline smaller steps to help you achieve each larger one.


Final Goal: Be a person who gives regular Christ-like service to others.

Large step 1: Choose a regular service project.

Baby step a: research organizations in my town that use volunteers.

Baby step b: Choose one I’m passionate about.

Baby step c: Clear space in my calendar and decide how much time I can give the organization.

Baby step d: Contact the organization and offer my services.

You would continue by choosing perhaps two or three more large steps that would lead to you living a Christ-like life of service.

Your family may want to illustrate the pages on which they write their goals by drawing or by gluing pictures that will serve as motivation. You may also want to provide a variety of quotes to glue onto pages as inspiration.

After your family has completed one goal section, stop and discuss the ideas they need to understand in order to succeed at their goals. The following are taken from Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do.

1. From the beginning, seek the ultimate confirmation of success.

  • The key indicator—How do you know you are successful? Because you have in your heart a lasting sense of peace, harmony, contentment, unity with loved ones, and a love of life. If you have that, you are successful.
  • The deceptive indicator—Bank accounts can evaporate. Worldly fame can fade. Laurels can crumble with time. Inner peace comes from other sources.


2. Go after the kind of success that is permanent.

  • Lasting success—Align your success with gospel principles and ideals—family relationships, a legacy of honesty and integrity, the positive outcomes of service, contributing to lasting achievements: peace, harmony, balance, and well-being in the world.
  • Fleeting success—Avoid aligning your success with things that are temporary, things of momentary pleasure, things that fade.
  • Balance—Keep balance in your life. Success in business and in professional pursuits is desirable as long as priorities are aligned with the well-being and success of the family, and as long as enduring principles are followed. “It is all right to own things, as long as you don’t let them own you,” observed John Kim.
  • Spiritual wealth—There is such a thing as spiritual wealth, which consists of the blessings that come from following principles of enduring worth: faith, love, charity, and obedience to higher commandments. Make that kind of wealth a central part of your life plan.


3. Make and follow a plan—Even with correct priorities in place and solid alignment with lasting principles established, you still need a plan in order to succeed. Therefore, remember these essentials:

  • Have a vision of success—Identify your objective, your vision. Be sure your objective is for the good of all.
  • List your goals—Make sure they are realistic.
  • Make an action plan of things to do each day—Focus on the key actions that will leverage your progress.
  • Gather the essential resources—Don’t forget to devote sufficient time to your cause. Prepare well.
  • Build a team of co-workers, mentors, and guides—There is great advantage in doing it together.
  • Establish the milestones along the way—Build success one milestone at a time.
  • Measure your success as you go—Keep score. Know where you are at every moment.
  • Make necessary midcourse corrections—Go around obstacles, over road bumps, through adversity. No one said it would be easy—only worth it!


4. Stick with it—Be sure that your desire, dedication, perseverance, discipline, enthusiasm, and patience are adequate to see you through. Each of these is a subject in itself to help you succeed.

  • Desire—This is the motivation that will keep you going.
  • Enthusiasm—This will be contagious to all those with whom you work.
  • Dedication and perseverance—This will help you never give up. Benjamin Disraeli said, “The secret of success is constancy of purpose.” Anubhav Luhadia counseled, “Success never comes before work except in the dictionary.”
  • Discipline—This will create an exact course for success. Cullen Hightower observed, “Failure can be bought on easy terms; success must be paid for in advance.”
  • Patience—This will keep hope alive, for time is your ally and it takes time to succeed. Edward Eggleston declared, “Persistent people begin their success where others end in failure.”

You may want to print this for your family to put in their notebooks. The notebooks can have a section for articles on goal setting the family finds and wants to turn to regularly.

Have them note that in section three of this quote, they are told they need an action plan for each day. Ask them to add to the plan they made a few minutes ago a daily plan for the next two weeks. Explain they may find they have to periodically start over or change direction as they learn what is needed or recover from mistakes, but that this is fine. If they keep working at it, they will eventually succeed, even if the progress is slow. The more time they spend working toward success, the better they will become at it. It’s often said success can be become a habit. Each time they succeed, they will be more likely to see themselves as successful.

Allow the family to decorate the covers of their notebooks before stopping the lesson. They can finish adding goals and plans on their own in the coming months.

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