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Before your creative teen goes away to college, you might want to teach her this goal-setting strategy

How to Help Creative Teens With Setting Goals

My daughter is going away to college in a year; she will be completely in charge of her destiny. There is a lot to teach her between now and then. Most importantly, I have to help her understand that there is a difference between lofty aspirations (goals) and empty eloquent words that contain no intention of ever being materialized (daydreams). Yes, in theory, “the sky is the limit.” However, one needs to be willing to “swim upstream” to get there.

Mia spent July and August in NYC before her senior year of high school. She took a four-week drawing and painting class at Parsons and interned for a month at Teen Vogue. It seemed like a great opportunity to get a taste of independence for a measured period of time before going away to college.

Now she has to start thinking very seriously about the admissions process and her portfolio. Thankfully, my summer was devoted to training as a creativity coach and I acquired some necessary tools to help this creative teen leave the nest.

Mia has been proclaiming that she wants to be a famous fashion designer since fourth grade. Well, there are no rules against dreaming big as long as this teen concerns herself with following through.

In order to get where she wants to go, Mia has to plot her way. My daughter’s ephemeral dream, the one she’s been holding on to since age nine, has to be brought into a harsh, unpredictable and unstable environment of physical reality.

In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Carol Dweck, Ph.D. assures: “You gain confidence as you repeatedly meet and master a challenge.” What course of action can Mia embrace to assist her in the process of developing her portfolio? I happen to have a viable plan! Actually, any creative teen going away to college can benefit from this advice.

Step one

Define your Life’s Creative Intentions. Think about what is important to you and what propels your hopes and dreams. Discern what really matters in your life. In his book Coaching the Artist Within, Eric Maisel explains: “Translating our values into how we live is our main activity. Values guide us. The meaning we make sustains us.”

In Mastering Life’s Energies Maria Nemeth describes and defines the concept of “Life’s Intentions,” she explains: “…they exist as possibilities that call out to us in a fundamental way.” Life’s Creative Intentions are our guiding light and our compass, they are:

1. a source of meaning around which to organize your life

2. your foundation

3. your blueprint for action

Step two

Convert your Life’s Creative Intentions into goals. Each goal has to be:

  • MEASURABLE or clearly defined: consider the difference between “I want to get into the best art school” and “I want to have 20 strong examples of my work in my portfolio.”
  • ATTAINABLE or a small stretch, not exhausting: “I make a commitment to work on it every day.”
  • SPECIFIC or explicit and precise: “I create a new series of figure drawings, finish two oil paintings, and do a self-portrait.”
  • TIME-BASED or have a deadline: “I submit my portfolio to Pratt Institute by December 31st, 2009.”
  • ENJOYABLE or focused on the present: “This project is challenging and empowering at the same time!”
  • RELEVANT or meaningful: “It is my Life’s Creative Intention to be a successful fashion designer.”

Step three

Make a collage to visualize it:

  • The image representing you should be in the middle
  • Spell out the deadline at the top
  • The bottom portion should be devoted to how you would feel once the goal is accomplished
  • Life’s Creative Intentions that uphold this goal should be on either side of the image that represents you

Step four

Then start attaining it. Have a schedule. Work on it every day.

Put in the effort. Focus on the process. Embrace and accept: to hone your skills, your goal will present you with challenges that will be harder than you could ever anticipate. Master them. Be flexible. There is no prescribed course of action. Take risks.

Being a typical teenager, Mia rejects the whole concept and tells me that I am “annoying.” The following day she stays home sick. To my surprise, she spends the entire morning in bed, working on her creative interpretation of the goal-setting collage. Later on, she admits: “Our conversation jolted me into action.”

Before your creative teen goes away to college, you might want to teach her this goal-setting strategy.

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