SMART Goals, Smart Teens


We all know that teens have great hopes and dreams for the future, but how do we help them get there? Having a goal is more than just an idea, it requires work and planning … learning to set goals is a skill.

Being able to set goals can help teens:

Take charge of their personal growth
See progress towards where they want to be
Maintain momentum
Improve time management
Reduce anxiety
Increase self-esteem

Amazing right!?

I’m sure many of you have heard of “SMART” Goals. If you haven’t tried it, this is a great method for crafting goals. It’s easiest to see how this works through an example. Usually you’ll see examples like “losing weight” or “running a marathon” … instead let’s use a goal your teen may have for school like getting a better grade in math.

Specific – Goals need to be as specific as possible, really define what you want. Getting a better grade isn’t very specific … how about “Get an ‘A’ in math”

Measurable – You have to be able to see your progress. Ask yourself, “How will I know if I’m heading in the right direction?” Most teachers use a standard grading scale so measuring your progress towards an ‘A’ will be pretty straight forward.

Achievable – Is your goal achievable? You need to be realistic about your abilities. If getting a ‘C’ in math takes a lot of effort maybe start by shooting for a ’B’. It’s discouraging to work towards a goal that is out of your reach.

BonusAction Oriented – Goals work best when you DO something. Develop action steps to get you towards your goal. For our example that could include a daily review of class notes, extra time with the teacher to clarify concepts or designated times for homework.

Relevant – Is the goal important to you? If getting an ‘A’ in math is not important for your larger goals you won’t feel very motivated to

Timely – Set a time frame for your goal. If you leave the goal open ended how will you know when you get there? At the very least a time frame gives you a definite time to evaluate and adjust your goal if needed. “I want to earn an ‘A’ in math 1st semester.”

Here are some other strategies that will help your teen be successful once they have set a goal or two.

  • Write your goals down and put them where you can see them.
  • Break down each goal into steps (Action Oriented) and write those down too. If it seems like you have too many steps maybe you need make a couple smaller goals.
  • Tell someone about your goal. If no one knows what your goal is it may be easier to let it slide. If you have a buddy they can help you stay on track. Being accountable to someone (or a couple someone’s) is a powerful tool!
  • Successes breeds success. Celebrate staying on track!

Even with a great goal and a solid plan, sometimes things don’t go the way we expect. If your teen gets off track that’s ok! We all get sidetracked at some point. With goals set and a plan in place you can help your teen pick right back up where they left off.

I’d love to hear from you!
What have you found to be effective when setting and working on goals?


3 responses to “SMART Goals, Smart Teens

  1. Hey, Jodi! I’ve been away from your blog for too long! I love your focus on helping teens set goals for their future and your use of the SMART goals! Nice job!

    I’m reading a book right now on persuasion and it makes 2 of the points that you are making . . . . (1) Simply by writing down our goals / intentions increases the likelihood that we will achieve them and (2) telling someone else what our goals are also increases the likelihood that we will achieve them.

    This is so helpful to parents of teens, educators, and even mature teens who are interested in helping teens accomplish more! Thanks for taking time to share this with us!


    • Hi Tamara, thanks for checking in!

      Isn’t it amazing how building in some accountability (writing things down and telling someone) can really get us going? I know that if I’m dragging my feel on something I need to sit down and plan it out on paper and tell someone else what I’m doing to get moving!


      • Oh, it’s true! I’ve also worked with an accountability partner for about 3 years and I’m STUNNED at how much more I get done. It doesn’t always mean EVERYTHING gets done but it does mean I stay a little more focused – even if it sometimes happens an hour before my accountability call:!)


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