One of the most overlooked skills for student success is goal-setting. Even the most capable students fail to reach their full potential without solid goals mapping their course. But when is the best time to start setting goals with your teens?
The time to start is now! In this blog, I’ll explain the top 6 reasons why setting goals is important for students and their success (in whatever endeavors they pursue). It all starts with honing in their focus.
The Importance of Focus
When you live your life without focus, you’re at the whim of whatever happens to come by. Without keeping the finish line in mind, you could wander aimlessly and distracted without ever reaching your destination.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Right now, COVID-19 has come through and pushed a lot of us around. Several of the goals students had before the pandemic might have veered off course.
Fortunately, focus can help them find their footing again. They’ll remember where they want to go and start identifying new paths to get there. When your student is intentionally focused, they can do anything they set their minds to!
Building focus helps students create a roadmap with deadlines, intermediate goals, and a finish line that will keep them from getting distracted and giving up.
When was the last time your student demonstrated focus and achieved their goal?
For most students, real focus comes when they are committed to accomplishing something they are passionate about.
Focus on the Things that Matter
It’s not only important for students to focus, but for them to focus on the things that matter the most to them. Motivation is a powerful tool for overcoming distraction. Teenagers have lots of youthful energy to put forward when they are truly motivated!
Make sure your teen:
- Considers their motivations regularly
- Checks in with themself or mentors about what matters to them.
They may find that their focus isn’t where they thought it was and can adjust their goals accordingly.
In fact, sometimes, goals change.
Goals can even compete with each other.
A little focus can go a long way.
For example, many Bright Futures students set a goal to be a 4-year letterman in the marching band. But one year when we were helping a student put together her schedule for junior year, she told me that one of her goals was to participate in science fairs. She had to make a difficult decision and identify what mattered most. She left the marching band and ended up being nationally recognized for her science fair activities that year.
It was a risk to change her goals halfway through high school. But because she identified what truly mattered to her, she had the motivation to set her goal, focus on it, and succeed.
The Difference Between Setting Goals & Living Strategically
Some students might find goal-setting to be overwhelming – especially when they are living reactively instead of strategically.
Oftentimes, these students are plenty focused, but they run into trouble when they try to anticipate the future. When things do not go according to plan, students who live reactively can become stressed or feel hopeless.
These goal-setters are missing a key element of the equation: living strategically. Living strategically takes into account the following:
- And capability
This doesn’t mean giving up on your goal. It simply means being strategic about what you can realistically do in this moment.
“Be stubborn about your goals yet flexible about your methods to reach them.”
Parents, encourage your student to:
- Visualize the finish line without stressing the small stuff
- Be practical and present
- Find opportunities for growth in any situation
- Ask themselves, “what’s possible now?”
Stress and growth are both difficult.
But the latter has more focus, productivity, and satisfaction.
Overcoming a Defeatist Mindset
Part of living strategically is overcoming a defeatist mindset. During the teenage years, it is very easy to see the glass as half empty.
This year, the pandemic has changed a lot for students. Many juniors have had to radically shift with all the changes. But it’s important to train students to shift their mindset from victim to “I’m okay and in charge”.
Parents, empower your students whenever they get into a helpless headspace. They need to have a “can do” attitude, so they can start setting goals sooner rather than later.
6 Reasons Why Setting Goals Is Important For Students
No matter where your teenager is, they need to start setting goals now. Here are six reasons why setting goals is important for students and their future. Those goals will help your teenager succeed in whatever endeavors they pursue with strategy, focus, and intention.
1. It Will Encourage Your Student to Get Creative
To set a goal, your student needs to paint a picture of what their future looks like in their mind. They also need to understand and accept that sometimes their future won’t actually look like what they envisioned. And that presents a perfect opportunity to get creative.
Have you ever started to cook something but found you were missing an ingredient and decided to improvise and adapt the recipe? It may not have looked like the picture in the cookbook, but it probably turned out even better than you imagined.
This kind of creative problem-solving is a skill that your student will continue to use in all other areas of their life.
2. It Will Fuel Them Toward Their Next Set of Goals
Arriving at results can be incredibly rewarding! Your high schooler can begin to get excited about their life when they realize they have the power to set goals and chase after them. Once they achieve them, the satisfaction they feel can fuel them toward their next set of goals.
3. It Will Help Them Form Their Life After High School
For the earlier part of their lives, students are used to parents and school making the rules for them. They rely on this structured setting. But in college, they won’t have the structure of 6 classes a day and their extracurricular activities planned out. They must create their own life… But what will that look like?
Parents, let your student start to form their life after high school by giving them more opportunities to set goals. If you are goal-setting for your student or they are afraid to start setting goals themselves, their transition after high school will be far more difficult.
4. They’ll Learn How To Deal With Setbacks
In today’s world, things are changing daily. Our students feel that stress in their core. Many students are asking, “Why should I even set goals?”.
Setting goals in the face of uncertainty will help your student learn to navigate setbacks. We are all guaranteed to have setbacks. And that’s okay! Setbacks are a big part of the goal setting process.
Parents, work with your teenager to continue to reach for their goals in the middle of setbacks. If they don’t know how, let them flounder for a while – most will figure it out. Avoid the temptation to take over.
If they do come to you for help, have your teen try these 3 steps:
- Move, don’t freeze. Walk outside or get up to talk with friends and family. It’ll put you in a more positive mindset.
- Dream honestly. What do you really want? What is your goal? Where do you want to be going?
- Take action (in baby-steps). Create an action list and check them off. No matter how small, any step forward will help you gain momentum for your comeback.
Listen to episode #8 of Self-Accepted podcast for more expert advice from Bright Futures Consultant Elana Gurerra, M.Ed. about how to cope with setbacks.
5. It Pushes Them To Identify Who They Are
Another reason why setting goals now will help your teenager succeed is because the goal setting process requires students to identify who they are.
Students should be able to stand firm in who they are and know their heart and intentions. They need to align their goals with who they are as a person. When they face setbacks, your teenager will learn how to stay true to themselves. This will have a trickle down effect on all areas of your student’s life.
Parents, help your student be clear on who they are by learning self-acceptance. At Bright Futures, we use the Birkman Assessment to identify student’s strengths, interests, stress behaviors and needs. Learn more about the Birkman here.
6. They’ll Learn Healthy Coping Skills
Finally, goal setting helps your teenager to learn coping skills.
Not all coping skills are created equal. You’ll want your student to develop coping skills that are healthy and won’t evolve into another setback. If your teenager starts setting goals now, they will get a better understanding of how they react under challenging situations.
Parents, if you are constantly dropping off your teenager’s forgotten lunch or homework, it will be more difficult for your teenager to mature.
They need to learn to channel their emotions by working towards a goal and overcoming challenges. If their natural coping style isn’t sustainable, they will be able to learn to create healthier ones sooner rather than later.
How To Help Your Student Start Setting Goals Now
A key component of the Bright Futures Consulting method is our emphasis on goal setting. We put a lot of weight there because it can drastically change where a student wants to go or could end up. That being said, we have a lot of parents say, “I can’t get my kid to set goals.”
I recommend you start by training them to live strategically. For instance, the first goal they set might have to do with their hobby of playing video games. Have them identify what they want to accomplish in that game. Speak to them in their language to help them get started and practice staying focused.
If your student is looking for personalized one-on-one expert guidance in goal setting, schedule a consultation with a Bright Futures Counselor today.
We streamline the college planning and application process (and have a little fun along the way)!