Goal Setting for Teenagers

The process of setting goals is not too different for most of us whether we are very young, a teenager or an adult. However, starting the process of learning about goals for teenagers is an important step toward learning valuable life skills. This page covers 5 of the most important goal setting tips for teenagers to help them learn how to set goals properly, pick up useful problem solving skills and ultimately realize achievements that will last them a lifetime.

Lesson One: Just Get Started

Developing awareness of the very concept of setting a goal, having some sort of plan, and following that plan can be a huge benefit to a teenager who is in the process of learning valuable life skills. Learning to set a goal, even a simple one, produces a shift in mindset from waiting until something happens for me, to choosing what I want from life and understanding that I can define and follow a plan that will allow me to reach it.

Lesson Two: The Long Term View Is Always Best

Ideal goal setting requires perspective, but youth by definition involves a lack of perspective plus generally impatience and a desire to get things done immediately. When we’re young we simply don’t know that we are likely to overestimate what we can do in the short run, while we don’t have the experience or perspective to realize just how much we can be accomplished over a period of time if we aim for a consistent target (goal). One of the greatest assets of youth IS time, and helping teenagers understand that life is a marathon, not a sprint, can provide them with the perspective needed to make smart choices and set worthy goals. For example, an extra 2-3 years in graduate school is insignificant when compared to a 30 year career doing what you love, but sometimes the notion of another year of school just doesn’t seem worth it. But …. life is a marathon, there’s plenty of time to lay a proper foundation.

Lesson Three: Making A Plan Is Smart

Many time teenagers view a challenge or a goal as a ‘seat of the pants’ effort, i.e. they make an quick, emotional decision to jump in and get started without stopping to consider all their choices. Knowing the importance of creating a thoughtful, well considered plan (written or not, although written is much better) that will describe the steps to lead them to the goal, and getting advice and counsel from someone who has already accomplished that goal, is an incredible advantage. Learning how to make a plan to reach a goal is a skill that provides a teenager an incredible advantage over someone who has no clear direction.

Lesson Four: The Difference Between Important Stuff and Unimportant Stuff

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is an important concept to impart to a teenager who is just learning about achievement. It’s widely known that generally speaking, 20% of our activities or tasks will contribute as much as 80% of our results (e.g. studying to academic achievement), but that’s not necessarily intuitive. Many people, adults included, make the mistake of confusing activity with progress. Helping a teenager realize that some activities contribute far more to achieving their goals than others can help them make better choices. Working smart by focusing on the high impact activities can produce more results with less effort than working hard on “busy work” is a huge lesson.

Lesson Five: The Power of Rewards

If you have or know a teenager and they are willing to share one of their goals with you, regardless how large or small, seize that opportunity to make sure they are rewarded for milestones achieved along the way. Helping a teenager begin to form the mental connection between (a) taking action toward a goal and (b) the progress they make toward that goal is important, and periodic rewards is a useful technique to insure that happens and they stay properly motivated.

Helping teenagers understand these 5 keys can help put them start to develop skills that will serve them well throughout their lives, and put them on a path of success and achievement that will add meaningful to their lives. Knowledge and wisdom are wonderful things, but sometimes they require a benevolent teacher to get the point across.

3 Responses to “Goal Setting for Teenagers”

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  2. Kamil says:

    Dear Tamara,Thank you for all your posts, tips and tricks this year. 2010 was the year I FINALLY bemcae concious of what is right and what is wrong for me and did something about it! Your blog has really helped me and my family to live a healthier life. So again, thank you and Happy Holidays to you and your family.Best regards,Carolina

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