Goals for Teens: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Are you a parent or teacher of teenagers? If so, you want the best for them. They are at a crucial time in their lives and you will have an impact on their success. You are their guide, a mentor, tasked with helping them find meaning and purpose in life.

One way to help them achieve this is to teach them goal-setting skills. Setting goals will foster a growth mindset that will keep your teen moving forward along their life's path. To follow is a step-by-step guide on how you can help your teen set tangible goals.

Why Is It Important to Teach Teens to Set Goals?

The importance of teaching teens to set goals goes beyond encouraging a growth mindset. In addition, teaching teens to set goals, promotes:

  • Organization skills
  • Time-management
  • Motivation
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Self-Confidence
  • Taking on challenges
  • Visualization practices
  • Chunking- breaking down the big picture into manageable steps

As you can see, teaching teens to set goals incorporates so many skillsets that provide your teen with opportunities for success.

The Difference between Dreams and Goals

Before you can set a goal, you have to have a dream. A dream is something you think about. It's something you aspire to. It's a future outcome. As such, a dream is the vision of where you want to go and who you want to be. Thus, dreams can only be realized, not achieved.

On the other hand, a goal can be accomplished. A goal represents a plan of action. You have to work to achieve a goal.

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Teaching teens to set goals incorporates so many skillsets that provide your teen with opportunities for success.

A dream is the destination. The goal is the journey. You achieve your goals in order to fulfill your dreams. Thus, dreams require work and cost you something.

One final difference between dreams and goals involves results. Since a dream is a vision of the future, it has no results. If you dream something, that doesn't bring it into reality. If you set a goal, then you work towards a result. Therefore, goals have results while dreams don't.

WOOP Goals vs SMART Goals

To help your teens achieve their goals, you need to teach them a goal-setting strategy. While there are many goal-setting strategies available, WOOP and SMART work well with teens.

SMART Goals was created in 1981 by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham. It was created as a tool to help management drive success within an organization. To do so, it establishes criteria for setting a goal. These criteria can also be used in teaching setting goals for teens.

SMART, an acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

These criteria ensure that your teen's goals are focused, trackable, and realistic. Also, they make a teen's goals matter to them. Finally, they provide a deadline.

All of this helps your teens focus on their goals as they ask questions to create their SMART objective.

Just like SMART, WOOP is an acronym that stands for:

  • Wish
  • Outcome
  • Obstacles
  • Plan

Introduced in the 90s by Dr. Gabriele Oettingen, WOOP takes goal-setting a little further than SMART does. Unlike SMART, WOOP takes obstacles into consideration. Obstacles are anything that could get in the way of fulfilling your wish. In WOOP, the wish represents the goal, and the outcome represents the result you want to achieve.

Therefore, an obstacle can be either internal or external that would block you from achieving the outcome. As you visualize the wish and the outcome, the obstacles become apparent to you. To get past the obstacles, you create a plan of action.

As you can see, the major difference between WOOP and SMART is the approach. For SMART goals, your teen utilizes questions. On the other hand, with WOOP, your teen relies on visualization.

Which is best for teens? It depends on the age and maturity of your teen. SMART requires more critical thinking skills to be able to answer questions. Whereas, WOOP requires your teen use their imagination. Overall, WOOP would be appropriate for most teens because of the visualization factor.

7 Step Process to Help Teens Build the Habit of Setting Goals

1. Establish Teen Ownership of the Process

It's their goal, not yours. Encourage them to set their own goal. Then, give them ownership of the process. Avoid manipulation tactics.

Instead, ask them what they're excited about. Invoke their passions. Guide them to choose a dream to set a goal to achieve.

2. Start Small

Goal setting can be overwhelming for teens, especially teens that are struggling. By starting with a small goal, you establish a small win. This will build your teenager's confidence. Then, they can build upon this success with more success.

Here are examples of some small goals for teens:

  • Get a good grade on the next Math test
  • Read one book in one month
  • Organize school notebook
  • Clean their room
  • Improving within a hobby or sport
  • Save up money to buy something they want

3. Introduce a Goal-Setting Strategy

Choose either the SMART or WOOP strategy and teach it to your teen. To do so, walk them through each step. Pick a goal to use as an example. Then, model for them how you would use the strategy to achieve the goal.

Be sure to make the learning process fun and relatable for your teen. Think of it as bonding time. Most of all, practice patience as they're learning. This will help maintain a positive learning environment.

4. Partner with Them

This is not the time to be the one with all the answers. Be the mentor that guides them along their journey. Support them as they think through the process.

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Be the mentor that guides them along their journey.

Take a step back. Let them work the strategy, but be available to step in when they need help. This will promote self-sufficiency while providing them with the proper level of support and encouragement they need.

Think of it as being a partner in their success. They do most of the legwork. You're just there to provide them with what they need to get it done.

5. Demonstrate that they’re in Control of the Process

While they're implementing their action plan, continue to offer them encouragement and support. Check in with them to see how things are going. When they accomplish a step in the plan, praise them for it. Acknowledging the hard work they've put in will encourage them to keep going.

When they're discouraged, remind them of when they were successful. This will give them a boost of confidence to try again. You need to help your teen realize that setbacks happen. Encourage them to learn from the experience. After all, life is a journey, not a destination.

6. Help Them Revise If Necessary

Sometimes, goals go off track because of circumstances out of one's control. For example, the actions of others may create an obstacle to overcome. When these situations arise, your teen may need to revise their goals.

Help your teen identify what needs to be done to get back on track. Then, guide them to create a revised plan of action. Remind them that things happen in our lives that are out of one's control. This will teach them to be adaptable.

Above all, encourage them to keep moving forward.

7. Show Your Teen the Value of Setting Goals

While your teen may be focused on accomplishing the immediate goal, the value of setting goals goes beyond the here and now. Goal setting is a skill that will help your teen be successful in life. Also, it will help them lead a meaningful and purposeful life.

Show them this. Let them see the benefits of goal setting. Provide examples. Teenagers need to see it to believe it. Even better, point out examples within their own process to make the lesson more meaningful.

Having these discussions with your teenager will help them have a deeper appreciation for what they've accomplished. As a result, they'll find deeper meaning in life.

Final Thoughts on Goals for Teens

Teaching the art of goal setting is one of the most important things you can do for a teenager. It provides them with important skills that will help them be successful in life.

Also, it teaches them to take ownership of their life… especially if they set goals based on their dreams. As they work to achieve these goals, they're involved in their passions. This provides meaning and purpose.

Ultimately, setting goals provides your teen with a positive environment where they are able to grow as individuals and unlock their vast potential. If you want to see more examples of goals for teens, check out our 31 SMART Goal Examples for Students of All Ages.

Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.

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