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Goal Setting When You're Fourteen

Why set goals at 14?

Can a high school freshman be goal-oriented? Should they—or is this too early? Though many deliberate, no one yet has invented a time machine to unring the proverbial bell. And high school requires the ringing of many academic, social and economic bells. Many future-shaping decisions become final based on these four years.

Zoe, like your sons and daughters, is thinking about which college she wants to attend. Some value just academics, and others academics and sports/fine arts/community service/a passionate involvement in something. Often contradictory, choices must be made early in the high school regarding ambitions, focus, and intents.

‘No goals’ means decisions are made for you. If you don’t commit yourself to “do” high school (work hard, take challenging classes, never never never give up even one extra-credit point on a test), then you have made a choice. It’s passive, but effective. Each time you make the decision to skip studying for one test, or make the decision to not put the extra time into one project, you shorten the height of your grasp on the future. Too many compromises, and goals become dreams for someone ‘luckier’ than you.

To paraphrase Dylan Thomas: Never go gently into that good night. Rage against any grasp-shortening decision, any course of action that leads away from your dreams, or any choice that compromises your ability to accomplish. My daughter is trying to make a habit of completing tasks, not making excuses for inaction. It’s hard the summer before high school, but she’s trying.

Without a plan, you will be forced to react to circumstances, rather than act aggressively and passionately in your best interests. Never a good plan when you’re talking about eternity. No one cares about your future as much as you do.

And if she does care, if she takes those first and second and third steps toward being the captain of her ship, he has empowered her future.

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a tech columnist for TeachHUB and, Editorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing Teachers, and freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer.

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