New Year’s Resolutions can lose their oomph after a while. What seemed like an exciting tradition to start fresh and new, may turn into nothing more than an Icebreaker question.
“OK everyone, why don’t we share our New Year’s Resolutions?” Sure, some of you may be overachievers that made your resolutions as soon as Halloween ended. However, many of us come up with something humble and cliché in the 5 minutes before it is our turn to share and then promptly forget all about it until, maybe, December 31st.
With teens and young adults, it can be especially hard to muster up that fresh excitement for a new year. Many youths may still be recovering from less-than-jolly holidays or dread returning to school.
This is precisely why it’s a fitting time to encourage thought about where we are now and where we are going in a positive and purposeful way. Something more tangible and with less pressure than pulling in all A's in school, or spending countless hours at the gym.
A proven way to get youth motivated and ready to handle the challenges of 2023 (and beyond) is to make them Grittier.
Grit is a concept coined by psychologist Angela Duckworth that comes down to two things: passion and perseverance.
Angela Duckworth began spreading the word about Grit after studying cadets at West Point, young finalists in the National Spelling Bee, and other stories she details in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She found that many traditional measures of excellence needed to be more accurate in predicting success. Those who achieved what they sought were not those with the best grades or athletic ability. They weren't from specific regions or families. Instead, the best indicator of future success was Grit: how passionate they were about their goals and how long they were willing to persevere to achieve them.
At Next Step To Success, we provide homework assistance programs for teens to benefit youth educational development. We have youth academic programs to help the youth of Norfolk build the independent, resilient character they will need to succeed and enjoy happy, fulfilling lives as adults. With that mission, we hope to cut the poverty rate in Norfolk in half within one generation. Notice that each goal serves another.
Get those around you, youth especially, excited about the New Year by building their Grit. A good start is developing something called a “Goal Hierarchy.”
A goal hierarchy is a pyramid of low-level, mid-level, and higher-level goals that reach your top-level goal, or “Ultimate Concern.” This top-level goal should be something that marks your identity. It should be your legacy or your purpose. Something you are so passionate about that you find connections to it everywhere. Typically, you should be able to sum it up in a sentence of about 10 words or fewer. Duckworth highlights examples from athletes, business professionals, and celebrities in her book.
In this New Year, sit your teen down with a piece of paper (or digital format for those tech-savvy individuals) and map out your goal hierarchy. Start with low-level goals like things on your to-do list or in your daily routine, and ask what purpose they serve. The answers will be your mid-level goals.
For example, a low-level goal can be to wake up on time. That serves the purpose of showing up to work on time, which serves another purpose and another. The list goes on until all goals point to one principal purpose. The purpose you find is something you do because of how important it is to you, not something you do to accomplish something else. Setting low-level goals is an important life skill for both youth and adulthood.
This exercise can take as little as ten minutes, or you can return to it and mold it over a lifetime. Encourage your friends, family, and youth or young adults around you to do the same.
Planners with monthly, weekly, and daily calendars can be a terrific way to track your goals and stay on top of tasks. For those that are more artistically inclined or want more freedom in a planner, think about taking a blank journal and creating the daily planner of your dreams. Starting a journal early on can be extremely beneficial in teen emotional development, along with helping increase cognitive skills. Do this as a morning ritual to start your day right or at night to reflect on the day you just had.
Many of us have tons of items on our to-do list. We may even have more than one list! Seeing the whole list of chores in front of you at one time can be intimidating. When we’re overwhelmed, it can be hard to get anything done at all. That’s why it’s really important to focus on 1-3 goals at a time. You may try to give each day a professional (school or work related) goal and personal goal. Getting into the habit of setting goals while still in your youth is an important life skill that can benefit you throughout adulthood. You can still try to get more things done, but you focus your time and energy on what is most important for the day. This helps us reflect on what we are most passionate about and prioritize what needs to be done.
OK, maybe a well-established time management technique isn’t exactly magic, but it certainly seems that way when we turn a mess of tasks and deadlines into a fluid and clear plan. There are many different techniques out there, so you can find the perfect fit for you. If you find yourself stuck, look into the time management app, Todoist. Todoist is a task manager and to-do list app used by Fortune 500 companies. You can even check out their website for examples of techniques and a quiz that will match the right one to you at https://todoist.com/productivity-methods.
A common mistake we make when we look at New Year’s Resolutions is expecting perfection. If we want to get in shape, we tell ourselves we’ll be in the gym daily. If we want to do well in school, that one D- on a test can make it tempting to give up, which is another example of how important it is to have Grit. Grit is more than the initial motivation and excitement of a goal. Grit is about persevering with that goal, even in moments when we stumble. Remind yourself that each inch of progress is just as important as the huge milestones. Treat yourself and pat yourself on the back when you accomplish tasks so that you continue to gain motivation throughout the year.
Next time you chat with colleagues or see the New Year’s hype on social media, think about getting Grittier as your New Year’s Resolution. Resurface your passion for your goals and crush 2023 as you persist through the year. Encourage Grit in the classroom and enroll youth in teen development programs focusing on traits like Grit. For colleagues, recommend Duckworth’s book as reading material. You may even find yourself teaching others more about Grit and passing the goal-driven mindset to others.
You can find more information about Grit and Angela Duckworth’s work under the Parent Resources tab of our website.