Ever wonder why it’s hard to follow through on goals? I know I have great intentions when I set goals, but I don’t always follow through. I may start out well, but eventually I stop looking at my goals, and they fade away. I’m certain it’s even more difficult for teens that hear about goal setting all the time. I want to suggest a different approach that will hopefully develop better habits in our kids.
Let me start by saying goals are overrated. Don’t get me wrong, goals are not bad and they do have a purpose. It’s important for our teens to have a bigger vision of what they want to achieve for themselves. Examples of visionary goals may be to get straight A’s, to be the Valedictorian, to be the starting quarterback on the football team, or to be the first chair trombone player. The challenge is that these goals get lost many times and we never look at them again. Eventually they fade away.
Why does this happen? It is because they have not been turned into Well-Designed Actions.
A well-designed action has these four attributes:
- Stated in the positive.
- Completely within your control.
- Bite sized.
- You can measure it and it is very specific.
The biggest difference between visionary goal setting and well-designed actions is #2 – the action is within your control. By helping your teens develop actions that are within their immediate control and by focusing on such immediate action, students are developing systems that lead to positive habits, our ultimate goal when coaching our teens.
Here are some examples of how to take the goal of making all A’s and transitioning it into a well-designed action plan using the four criteria listed above.
- To study for all of my tests for one hour two days before the test.
- After class on Monday, talk to my math teacher to set up a time to talk about my confusion over my proofs in math.
- Set a reminder on my phone at 9 PM each night to double check I’ve done all of my assignments.
These three statements meet the four requirements of a well-designed action. They are stated in the positive, completely within the student’s control, bite sized, measurable and very specific. So, to do this with your teens, have them start with a visionary goal. Once they are motivated, take that goal and break it down to develop a few well-designed actions. This will hopefully lead to positive results on their end and better habits, thereby making them more successful.