Setting Goals

Defining your goals is the first step to making them real. Even simple goals give you something to work toward. Just look at the successful people you admire. Each of them probably had a plan and a set of goals they kept in mind on their road to success. Those goals may have changed along the way but their goals gave them something to work for. Setting goals will help you map out your plans.


Start Broad

Start with lifetime goals. Whatever they are, think long-term and make them personal. These may include things like:

  • Going to college
  • Starting your own business
  • Achieving your dream career
  • Owning a home
  • Traveling to another country

Don’t burden yourself with trying to figure out how you’re going to achieve them at this point. Just keep them simple and write them down. And know that wherever you write them down, this is a “living” list that you will revisit and change as you go through life.

Get Specific

Now that you’ve got that “living” list of goals you can start making smaller goals to help you achieve each of them. It helps to work in reverse. For example, if your goal is to go to college, start with knowing what you’ll need to achieve to be considered for your schools of choice. Next, think about your high school career and make goals for each school year, each semester and even for each week. By making smaller goals it’s easier to keep on track and not feel overwhelmed by your larger goals. Smaller goals also help you be flexible on the path to your big goals.

Once you’ve determined your goals, you can start making plans to achieve them with some simple steps:

  • Develop and keep to a timeline
  • Tell someone you trust about your goal – they can help you and hold you accountable
  • Don’t get stressed – if you need more time to achieve your goal, adjust your timeline

Sometimes goals are set unrealistically high. Here are some reasons why:

  • Other people: Other people (parents, media, society) can set unrealistic goals for you based on what they want. While these people may want you to succeed, they may pressure you to achieve with disregard to your goals, desires and ambitions.
  • Insufficient information: If you do not have a clear, realistic understanding of what you are trying to achieve and of the skills and knowledge to be mastered, it is difficult to set effective and realistic goals.
  • Always expecting your best performance: Many people base their goals on their best performance, but it is better to set goals that you can accomplish doing a bit more than your average amount of work. Over time, this will raise your average performance and make it more consistent.
  • Lack of respect for yourself: If you do not respect your right to rest, relaxation and pleasure in life then you risk burnout.

On the other hand, goals can be set too low because of:

  • Fear of failure: If you are frightened of failure you will not take the risks needed for optimum performance. As you apply goal setting and see the achievement of goals, your self-confidence should increase, helping you to take bigger risks. Know that failure is a positive thing: it shows you areas where you can improve your skills and performance.
  • Taking it too easy: Don’t set your goals too low in an effort to avoid setting them too high. If you’re not prepared to stretch yourself and work hard, then you are unlikely to achieve anything of any real worth.

It’s important to set your goals at the right level – this is a skill that takes time and practice. You should set goals so that they are slightly out of your reach, but not so far that there is no hope of achieving them. You won’t put serious effort into achieving a goal that you believe is unrealistic. Personal factors such as the need for rest, other commitments, etc., should be taken into account when goals are set.

Now review the goals you have set, and then determine if they are unrealistically high or too low – or if they are at the right level for you. Adjust them if you need to. Remember, don’t give up… it may just take a slight adjustment to achieve your goal!

Defining Success

When you’re setting your goals, don’t just ask yourself “What will I do?” but also and more importantly, “Who will I be?” That’s a complicated question. Who you are is a combination of how you act, what you think, what you say. Sometimes it boils down to one simple question, “What kind of person do you want to be?”

Sometimes our goals can come into conflict with that basic question. When making plans and setting your goals, you might want to ask yourself, “Do my choices impact other people? And is that impact positive or negative?” No one knows exactly what the future holds, but if we plan now, we can work toward making a better future for ourselves and those around us.

So set a goal and make plans to achieve it. The choices are yours. The future is waiting.

If you would like to talk to someone about goal setting, you can contact us or visit our coaching website: Coaching4Teens.