SMART Goal Setting For Teens

Published 04 August 2020 at 19:40

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SMART Goal Setting For Teens

“There is a fellow student in my class. He is so good at everything he does. And believe me, he does many things. He is good at academics, instruments, singing, sports. You name it, he does it and does it well. When I see him, I feel like I’m not doing enough,” – a teen ranted during a session.

There is so much to do, with so little time. In a competitive world we want to be all-rounders. We want to be able to do everything to the best of our abilities. If that is what we want, then where do we go wrong? Everyone has the same number of hours in a day. Then how is it that some people end up getting more out of their days and years than the others? While it's wrong to compare ourselves with others, if we admire someone’s qualities, it's good to learn from them to improve. As they say, we learn from each other and grow together.

What do some people do to get all they want when others don’t? The key lies in setting goals. Knowing WHERE you want to be and WHAT you want to be. Think of it like this. Suppose you want to take a vacation. Would you pack your bags, go to the airport and tell the airline person to give you a ticket to any place? Of course not. If you are using your time and resources, you want to use them effectively.

It’s the same with life goals. We must first choose where do we want to end up and then plan for it. Here are steps you need to take so that it is easy for you to set your goals and to plan your actions.

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Begin with the End in Mind

The first step in goal setting is knowing why you are setting the goal. What are you trying to achieve? Visualisation of the end product is one of the techniques I use with both adults and teens to help them set goals.

Here is a way you can think/visualise what you would like to achieve by the end of the year. Imagine it’s the end of the academic year. You must come to the stage and share your achievements of the year. These achievements should include your academic growth, your extracurriculars, new hobbies you have explored, and how you have developed as an individual. What would you be saying at the forum?

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Areas of Interest

Once you have visualised the kind of person you want to be, make a list of all the areas you want to improve. I always get my clients to divide these areas into two categories:

Improvement Areas. These are the things you have worked on in the past and want to continue on them or get better. Like your academics. Say, you have been getting B+ consistently in Maths. Now you want to target getting A this year.

Exploration Areas. These are the things you have never done before. The more you explore new areas, the better equipped you are to face the world as an adult. Changes in your adolescent brain makes it more integrated and coordinated so it can work faster than a child’s mind. The reason for these changes are so that body is naturally inclined to explore the unknown and the uncomfortable.

Some interesting areas of exploration that my clients have focused on are:

  • Adventure sports
  • Household chores
  • General knowledge
  • Endurance
  • Coding
  • Chess
  • Photography
  • Baking

Photo Credit: Waewkidja

Fantasy Goals vs Real Goals

Once one has chosen areas of growth and exploration, now it's time to set goals. Its imperative to not fall into the trap of setting goals that are a long shot or impossible to reach. It would not only paralyse you with fear, it would demotivate you from setting any goals in the future. Well, you might ask, why would anyone do that? In my experience, people do it for several reasons ranging from narrowly defined goals to setting goals to impress others.

Goals need to be practical and grounded in reality. The key here is to be aware of our strengths and resources available and then set the goal accordingly. Say for example, your goal is to improve your Maths grades and all last year you only achieved B grades. You want to change that to a “better” grade. A better grade, as you can see is quite vague. Instead, you can make use of the SMART goal framework developed by Paul J Meyer:

Specific – I want to get better at Maths;

Measurable – I want to get As;

Achievable – I can start with B+ and gradually move towards A;

Resources – I can get a tutor to help me get better;

Timed – By the end of this academic year.

Photo Credit: Tom Wang


Adolescence is a time when our brain is forming new neural networks. The more experiences we expose ourselves to, the stronger pathways become. Richer neural pathways means the more creative you. Learning comes easy now. We are living in times where the learning is a click away. Use your time, energy and resources on becoming the kind of person you want to be. Set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed (SMART) goals and put a plan in place to reach them. Only the sky is the limit for you.

By Shalini Bindal

About the Author

Shalini Bindal is a coach certified by International Coaching Federation. She focusses her coaching efforts on Teens, Parents and Women. Shalini has an MBA in Human Resources and has worked in consulting firms for more than 10 years, consulting companies from the list of Fortune 500 like GE, Aviva, BMS etc. If you would like to help to move from holding yourself back to discovering a NEW YOU, check out her GET-SET-GOAL programme.

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