Why your teen’s New Year’s resolution won’t work, and what will

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Guest blogger: Hayden Lee, Certified Academic Life Coach for Teens
Email: hayden@haydenleealc.com
Phone: 310-575-9279

There’s a reason why the gyms are packed in January and February, but then it’s nearly a ghost town with tumbleweeds blowing in April. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but not by much. The same can be said if your teen made goals/New Year’s Resolutions last month. Unfortunately, just making a “goal” is not enough.

At the heart of many teenagers’ academic struggles lie motivation and confidence. With a new year and new semester, many teens made New Year’s resolutions/ goals to “get better grades,” “study more,” or “be a better student.”

However, as an Academic Life Coach for teens, let me tell you that simply having a New Year’s Resolution or goal doesn’t work.

Here’s why.

– Goals are either too vague or too big
– Goals include many factors that are outside of your control (i.e. It’s impossible to control what grade you may get on an essay, yet many students focus their goals on getting an “A”.)
– Goals indicate what you want to achieve, but does not provide a plan on HOW to achieve it
– Goals may have you start off strong, but interest/motivation wanes without a clear action system in place

Try making WELL-DESIGNED ACTIONS (WDAs) instead!

Well-Designed Actions focus on the process and effort of working toward what you want. A WDA meets these four criteria:

1. It is stated in the positive.
2. Getting started and the success (or failure) of the action depends entirely on you.
3. It has a good size to time ratio that gets you moving into action and keeps you moving at a comfortable pace.
4. It is specific and measurable.


Goal: To get better grades this semester.
WDA: To study the entire review sheet TWO days before the actual test date and write down specific questions to ask my teacher before the test.

Goal: To not forget stuff.
WDA: To use my planner every day in every class. If no homework, write “no homework.”

Goal: To get my homework done earlier.
WDA: To log out of and turn off all social media notifications on weekdays until all homework is completed.

The biggest virtue of the Well-Designed Action is that it empowers you with the full control of the success or failure of the action. Learning to break down bigger goals into smaller action steps within your control is less stressful. It helps you motivate toward what you want while building confidence along the way! It’s about creating a specific action system that works well for you.

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso

“It is no use saying ‘We are doing our best.’ You’ve got to succeed in doing what is necessary.” – Winston Churchill

  • What specific actions are necessary for you to accomplish your goals?
  • What is your WDA this week?
  • What worked well last semester?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What is your vision for this semester and what action can you do this week to start making your vision a reality?

Feel free to contact me if you think your teen could benefit from some guidance to make some solid Well-Designed Actions!


Joanna Jullien (Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.