11 ways you can guide a teenager to achieve their goals

11 ways you can guide a teenager to achieve their goals

Who helped you set and achieve your goals as a teenager? How effective was this relationship? Do you still set goals? What would you think are key ways you can help a young person on the goal-getting journey, knowing that goal setting is a positive aspect of a teenager’s brain development? How do you arrange your ducks in a row?!

These are some of the questions I was pondering in recent times when when Glen came to see me. He specifically wanted assistance with planning, organization and management of his time, as he is heavily involved in his school community and a fine role model to younger students.

Glen is fortunate, as he is highly motivated, works hard in and out of the classroom and has some career goals in place, but he had been feeling stressed and had not been sleeping well.

I have learnt over the years that when I encourage a young person to set achievable goals, their lives take on new purpose and their energies are positively channeled in specific directions.

11 ways to assist teenagers set and achieve their goals

Indeed, part of the goal-setting process during the mentoring journey is to assist your mentees to make sense of the confusion they may be experiencing (as is normal at this stage of their lives); to encourage them to try different strategies until they find what works for them.

Once you have developed a relationship of respect and trust, the opportunity will emerge for a discussion on goal setting. When handled positively and in an encouraging manner, I have found on most occasions that our relationship moves to a deeper place. Among the ways you can help mentees along the goal setting path is guiding them to:

  1. Identify their strengths;
  2. Identify their passions and interests;
  3. Determine how they respond to challenges;
  4. Take non-life-threatening risks in a safe and secure environment;
  5. Plan, prioritize and develop strategies, using resources available to them;
  6. Commit to something and see it through to a conclusion;
  7. Identify and solve problems, seeing obstacles as opportunities;
  8. Evaluate their progress – always ask your mentee if he or she is wanting feedback before you offer it;
  9. Appreciate that usually they have control over their choices and goals;
  10. Appreciate that a dream is an end in itself, while goals are normally a means to an end – when all the goals (pieces of a puzzle) come together, they realize the dream;
  11. Visualize their goals as if they have already achieved them, thereby increasing their self-confidence and self-esteem.

3 key roles of an effective mentor on the goal setting journey

At this time you should appreciate that:

  • you have a role as a coach and a cheerleader, aiming to motivate your mentees to move out of their comfort zone, chase their dreams and reach their unique potential;
  • your mentees will be looking to their parents as well as a range of other adults in loco parentis – you, teachers, workplace superiors – for definitions of life, goals and values. Encourage this development of supportive networks;
  • goal setting requires patience with your mentees, perseverance, plenty of encouragement and empathy, and good role-modelling. Offer to share your personal goal setting experiences, even a current goal.

Glen and I spent about an hour looking at many of the above aspects and I was most definitely in the Cheerleader seat that day.

Glen headed off to experiment with some of the strategies we discussed and returned three weeks later, as we had planned. By that stage we were better positioned to decide on  more specific strategies moving forward, as Glen had a much better idea as to which strategies worked more effectively than others. One of the most important developments was hearing Glen say he was having nine hours sleep every night, exercising regularly and was already seeing positive outcomes. 

Glen and I continued to meet on occasions to compare notes on how he was travelling. He completed a stellar school career and headed off to University well prepared and with the self-confidence to continue on his goal setting journey.

How about you? Have you any recent examples of helping a young person on the goal-getting journey?

About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in New Zealand and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website  Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.