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  • Daniel Jenkins

This is Why Your Teen Struggles With Goals



The older I get the faster time seems to move. As people say, “Time flies!” I never really understood that as a teenager. I mean… I knew what those people were saying, but it never really clicked. Now, as a 31-year-old parent of two daughters, I’ve finally been able to understand and know why time seems to move faster. Time perception is relative.


Think about what the world must have looked like to yourself as a toddler. Everything was bigger than you. You would have to climb up onto a chair to sit down. These seemingly giant, strong people could lift you up and fly you around. You had to reach up to turn a door knob. To you, being so small, the world must have felt so large. But as we all grow, things begin feeling smaller and smaller. The world around us becomes easier to manage. Then, if you’re able to travel the world or learn more about other cultures, everything feels even smaller. At a recent point in history, people viewed the moon as this far out, nearly impossible to reach, place in space. Now, space and moon travel have almost become commonplace.


Time works the exact same way. One second is still the same amount of time in 2019 AD as it was in 2019 BC. Time is not moving faster. Yet we perceive it as such. Today, at thirty-one, a year of my life is only 3.2% of what I’ve already lived. But for a fifteen year old? For them, a year is 6.7% of their life. That’s over twice as much! For me at thirty-one to ask a 15 year old student to create a five or ten year plan for their life, that’s as if I would be asked to make a 10.5 to 21 year plan! For a teenager, that can be overwhelming. Not only can it be overwhelming, but it could feel nearly impossible.


This is why so many teenagers either avoid goals entirely or give up before they achieve them. If teens, like most of us, can’t see the immediate, positive effects of their discipline, they’re likely to stop trying. Let me be clear for a moment, I believe goals can be helpful for teens. In Self-Leadership Academy, I guide teens through creating a vision for their future and goals to help them get there. The goals, though, should be something relatively soon within their immediate future. I want the teen to know what successfully achieving their goals feels like. So, I recommend keeping the goals few and have a time limit of no more than a year or so.


Instead of harping on goals, the real secret to success for teens is to incorporate life standards. These life standards appear like tiny goals or habits, but they’re much more powerful than that. By implementing a life standard, we take the person we envision ourselves to be in the future and bring it into the present. A good life standard will bring you closer to your goals whether or not those goals even exist. Where goals tell us what life or achievement will look like in the future, life standards determine what our lives will look like today. Here are some quick examples:


Goal: Achieve a 12% body fat by September 1st, 2019.


• Life Standard: Only eat breads and sweets on the weekends.

• Life Standard: Only drink water.

• Life Standard: Work out for one hour at least three days a week.


Goal: Read 12 nonfiction books by the end of the year.


• Life Standard: Spend 30 minutes a day reading a nonfiction book.


I hope that clarifies the differences between goals and life standards. Arguably, the teenager who holds to their life standards is already the person they envision themselves to be. After all, today is all we ever have. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. When a goal says “one day I will…” a life standard says “today I am…”.

As a parent, you have the ability to not only guide your teen through the process of creating life standards, but also to hold them accountable to them. As your teen creates their own vision for their life, creating life standards to support that vision, you can become their accountability partner.

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