Why Does Being Goal Oriented Matter?

I would also say I work really hard with her on the path to achieving goals. Not just having one—but   helping her really develop on her own how to get there. With little things or big things. You know, just   sort of brainstorm with her.

A future focus helps young people in a few ways. First, it helps them put their current activities, challenges, and priorities in the spotlight. Then it helps them manage their daily lives with an eye on the future. Researchers see many benefits of a future focus, including these:

  • Young people who learn to manage their feelings and actions to achieve longer-term goals do better in school. This is known as “executive function.” They have better friendships, go to college, get good jobs, make more money as adults, and have fewer health problems.4,5
  • Young people with high levels of hope are better adjusted, more satisfied with life, and do better in school.1,2 They tend to avoid violence and risky behaviors.7,8 They are better at moving past stressful events8 and solving problems.8
  • When young people imagine good futures for themselves they gain a sense of their “possible selves.” They are more likely to set high expectations and be more motivated. They make plans and take action to work on their goals, and ignore things that distract them.6

Teenagers and young adults who are good at planning have a greater sense of well-being and lower levels of depression.3

Next Steps

  • Take the quiz to reflect on the power of creating and working toward future goals.
  • Find out why education beyond high school is increasingly essential.

Research Sources

1. Gilman, R., Dooley, J., & Florell, D. (2006). Relative levels of hope and their relationship with academic and psychological indicators among adolescents. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25(2), 166–178. doi:10.1521/jscp.2006.25.2.166

2. Lopez, S. J., Rose, S., Robinson, C., Marques, S. C., & Pais-Ribeiro, J. (2009). Measuring and Promoting Hope in Schoolchildren. In R. Gilman, E. S. Huebner, & M. J. Furlong (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools (pp. 37–50). New York, NY: Routledge.

3. Luyckx, K., & Robitschek, C. (2014). Personal growth initiative and identity formation in adolescence through young adulthood: Mediating processes on the pathway to well-being. Journal of Adolescence, 37(7), 973–981. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2014.07.009

4. Mischel, W., Ayduik, O., Berman, M. G., Casey, B. J., Gotlib, I. H., Jonides, J., . . . Shoda, Y. (2011). “Willpower” over the life span: Decomposing self-regulation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6(2), 252–256.

5. Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J., Harrington, H., . . . Caspi, A. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(7), 2693–2698.

6. Oyserman, D., Bybee, D., Terry, K., & Hart-Johnson, T. (2004). Possible selves as roadmaps. Journal of Research in Personality, 38(2), 130–149. doi:10.1016/S0092-6566(03)00057-6

7. Scales, P. C., & Leffert, N. (2004). Developmental assets: A synthesis of the scientific research on adolescent development (2nd Ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.

8. Stoddard, S. A., Zimmerman, M. A., & Bauermeister, J. A. (2011). Thinking about the future as a way to succeed in the present: a longitudinal study of future orientation and violent behaviors among African American youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 48(3-4), 238–46. doi:10.1007/s10464-010-9383-0