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Forget the “New Year, New Me” Goal Hype – Consider Focusing on Life Habits Instead

New Years Resolution HabitsAdults and teens alike often achieve results by setting goals and taking actionable steps to reach those goals. But what if you can find a better way to help you accomplish your dreams? Instead of focusing on short-term goals, teens can learn how to set good habits that will carry them through life, which will naturally propel them toward achieving their goals.

Defining the Difference between Setting Goals and Learning Life Habits

Most adults and teens understand what it means to set a goal. Whether you want to learn a new language, lose 20 pounds, write a book or train for a 5K, you set a goal and then take action to reach your dream. You evaluate what you need to do to reach that goal, such as buying books on the language, listening to podcasts or CDs, watching YouTube videos, visiting a foreign country or taking college classes.

However, you can instead try a different approach — instill in your teen the value of life-long learning. He will then place a high priority on learning a new language. By emphasizing the habit instead of the goal, he will easily achieve the goal. The habit includes setting up a disciplined system to follow to accomplish any goal in life. Instead of viewing each goal as a separate dream, your teen will learn effective life skills that will serve him in whatever he does.

Developing Life Habits

If your teen focuses on life habits, such as continuing education, then he will keep learning, even if he doesn’t set a specific goal, such as speaking conversational Spanish in 18 months. Simply by disciplining himself and spending time studying for 30 to 60 minutes each day, for example, as part of developing good habits, he will learn what he sets his mind to learn, in this case, how to speak Spanish. Instead of working toward a goal, he is committing to a process. Goals have a much more immediate and urgent feel while the process allows you to focus on long-term, personal development. Furthermore, in many cases, goals might depend on something that is out of your control. Habits help you see progress while goals help you plan that progress.

Habits of Effective Teens

Author Sean Covey further outlines this process in his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, modeled after his father’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, which focuses on adults and has sales of more than 15 million copies. Sean claims that teens should implement the following habits in order to be successful.

  • Set Priorities
    Time management and prioritizing activities helps teens focus and finish what they need to do. By putting first things first, they will be able to move forward past difficult situations and develop persistence during the tough times.
  • Consider the Goal and End Result
    If you don’t know what you want from life, you will not be able to achieve your goals. Focus on setting a life vision statement that can guide you and help you determine if you are taking the right steps to move you toward the person who you want to be and that help you reach your goals.
  • Live Proactively
    A proactive life will move a teen toward successful living. This means that your son will need to own his life and take responsibility for his actions. He alone is responsible for his feelings and can take steps to improve his situation.
  • Develop an Attitude of Win-Win even in Difficult Situations
    Win-win means that there are no losers — everyone comes out ahead. Brainstorm solutions that benefits all parties as much as possible. By rethinking their approach, your teen will learn the art of compromise. You can instill some of this at home by making suggestions that help your teen understand how both of you can win in discussions, such as curfew, chores and responsibilities and privileges.
  • Work to Understand Others
    When your teen understands others, they will be more likely to reciprocate and work to understand him. Teach him how to actively listen as the foundation of effective communication.
  • Cooperate to Obtain Better Results
    Synergy means that two or more people work together to accomplish something greater than any of them can alone. This teaches teens that everyone brings different gifts to the table that enhance the end result.
  • Refresh and Renew
    Rest and take breaks in order to avoid burnout and perform at your peak levels.

By learning good habits, teens can establish a productive foundation for their lives. They can continue to build on this foundation toward a successful future.

Resources: Wood, Danielle. May 31, 2013.

Forget the “New Year, New Me” Goal Hype – Consider Focusing on Life Habits Instead

Tyler Jacobson

Tyler enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative designs. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on: Twitter or LinkedIn.

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APA Reference
Jacobson, T. (2019). Forget the “New Year, New Me” Goal Hype – Consider Focusing on Life Habits Instead. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Dec 2019 (Originally: 30 Dec 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 6 Dec 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.