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 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.
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!
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.
Setting goals is an important part of a teen’s development – an essential life skill that will help them to achieve and accomplish their dreams as they move ahead in life. As a parent, it’s important that you teach your child how to set realistic, reachable goals to prepare them for life in the real world. Helping them to set these goals allows you to better understand your teen and helps them take charge of their life. Goal setting teaches teens to take responsibility for their choices. You can be a part of helping your child to establish healthy goals now, and the first step is to help them make plans to achieve their goals. Sit down with them and help them choose a goal and then map out how to get there.
Help your teen to set specific, measurable goals. If a goal is specific and measurable, teens can easily see when they have succeeded and how much work went into the accomplishment. If they don’t achieve their goal, they can retrace their steps, see what went wrong and take steps to avoid making the same mistakes again.
Teaching your teen how to set a realistic goal will prevent them from making some common mistakes:
- Basing their goals on other people’s ambitions for them: Teens experience a lot of pressure to meet others’ expectations (even their parents!) at this age. It’s important to show them how to differentiate between setting their own goal and working for something for someone else.
- Creating goals without enough information: If your teen doesn’t have all the facts when they set their goals, they may be upset when accomplishing their goal proves difficult. Help them to see all the angles.
- Always expecting their best performance: No one can always be the best. Teach your teens that it’s okay to have a bad day once in a while and how to plan for them.
- Failing to respect themselves: While teens may feel invincible, they have to learn to treat their bodies right. Goals shouldn’t get in the way of getting enough rest and relaxation.
Setting Goals Too Low
Conversely, teens may set their goals too low because of:
- Fear of failure: Risk must be approached responsibly, but it’s important for teens to stretch themselves. Successes will build their confidence, and failures will build their character.
- Taking it too easy: Don’t let teens fall into the trap of setting low goals just so they don’t set unrealistically high goals. In order for an accomplishment to have real worth, it must involve hard work and the chance for failure.
Setting Goals at the Right Level
Parents can play an integral role in helping their teens to set realistic goals for themselves. With guidance and practice, teens will learn how to properly set their own goals.
Help your teen to examine their goal from multiple levels. Ask questions. Have they realistically considered how much work is involved? Why do they believe they can or can’t achieve something? Are they letting personal factors like tiredness cloud their vision? If there are faults in their logic, help them to address them and reassess the goal. This will help them to see the importance of setting goals effectively.
Your teen will likely find the difference between a short-term and long-term goal easy to grasp. However, they should also be able to see how setting short term goals can help them achieve their long-term goals. Having these smaller goals will give them the chance track their successes and help them make it through rough patches along the way.
- When your teen chooses a short-term goal, encourage them to set milestones on the way to that goal. It will be helpful for them to think of this in terms short periods of time. What can they do today, next week or next month to reach their goal?
- For long-term goals, have them ask themselves where they want to be in one year, five years, ten years.
For some teens, it may be worthwhile to consider coaching. Coaching is a very specific model that involves helping teens setting their own agenda and goals for the future. Just like a trainer helps an athlete win a gold medal instead of just finishing the race, a coach can help your child not only reach, but exceed, their goals in a balanced, healthy way. A coach can also help your teen deal with any stress or anxiety they may feel. For more information on coaching, check out Coaching 4 Teens.