Description: I have posted a number of times on a related cluster of topics including: Identity Development, Life Planning, and Emerging Adulthood (you can search these terms on this site to see the posts). The topics in this cluster reflect the developmental task or moment that is at play through that life phase — figuring out what you are going to do, what you are going to believe and how you are going to live your life. There are many ways to look at how young people are managing this task. We can assess their Identity Style, we can look at their stress/anxiety levels as they negotiate the transition from high school to post-secondary pursuits and we can look at population data that tells us a bit about how emerging adults (18 to 25 or 29 years of age) are doing “these days” as opposed to how previous generations managed this transition. All of this is wonderfully descriptive but if you happen to be in the middle of this and are trying to figure out what you can do to feel like things are moving forward positively for you and the anxiety you are experiencing is, or may soon, abate then what you likely want to know is what you can DO. A good place to start is to begin by understanding that your developmental task right now is to determine what your life purpose is – what your Ikigai is (you can search that term on this site too). Yah, I know, even that is rather vague and unhelpful isn’t it. Ok how about this as a sort of ‘fake it until you make it’ strategy – set some goals and get going on them. The idea is that if set some goals and get going on them your life purpose will slowly become clearer to you as you move along. That is the is the huge paradox of this developmental stage – if you believe you have to know exactly where you are going to end up before you get started you will go nowhere. So, the article linked below does not try to answer these sorts of big existential questions it just tells you about what research has to say about what works and what does not work in relation to setting goals, working towards goals and attaining goals. It is very practical advice that could be just what you need to get going. Give it a read — life purpose and lower stress and anxiety levels await!
Source: Five tips to help year 12 students set better goals in the final year of school, Joanne Dickson, The Conversation.
Date: January 30, 2019
Photo Credit: www.pembinanorthcommunityschool.ca
There is a sort of ‘Just do it’ quality to the suggestions offered in the linked article but if you found yourself wondering why or how one or the other of the suggestions offered might work you can follow the link in the article and see the research studies that support the suggested goal setting and working strategies. Through those links you can see that setting goals and working towards them are just what you need now developmentally. If the goals you set are truly yours (and not what you think you should do), are specifically worded (rather than simple aspirational statements like work harder or bee smarter), and if you are somewhat flexible as to exactly what your goals require or involve (so you can balance your various goals and current realties and make adjustments as needed or as things change nor as further opportunities open up) you will be getting somewhere. Don’t think of the goal setting process as aiming and pulling a trigger but rather think of it as a design project (search Life Design on this site) in which you are going to start with a possible goal and you are going to build or try out a number of prototypes and you are going to pay close attention to how those prototypes work (how they feel, what they show you about yourself and where you are and where you could go) and you will find a sense of purpose and direction building for you not because you are wishing for it but because you are working on, on purpose.
Questions for Discussion:
- Why is it helpful to spend time working on setting goals as you enter or prepare to enter the stage of emerging adulthood?
- What are some of the characteristics of good (life purpose generating) goals as opposed to self-defeating goals?
- What are some of the psychological theories and concepts that underly good goal setting or that help us to understand just what good goal setting involves (e.g., Internal Locus of Control)?
References (Read Further):
Dickson, J. M., Johnson, S., Huntley, C. D., Peckham, A., & Taylor, P. J. (2017). An integrative study of motivation and goal regulation processes in subclinical anxiety, depression and hypomania. Psychiatry research, 256, 6-12. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165178116318108
Winch, A., Moberly, N. J., & Dickson, J. M. (2015). Unique associations between anxiety, depression and motives for approach and avoidance goal pursuit. Cognition and Emotion, 29(7), 1295-1305. https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/bitstream/handle/10871/18758/Winch%20et%20al%20CE%202015%20FINAL.docx?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Watkins, E. (2011). Dysregulation in level of goal and action identification across psychological disorders. Clinical psychology review, 31(2), 260-278. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735810000905
Wrosch, C., Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Schulz, R. (2003). The importance of goal disengagement in adaptive self-regulation: When giving up is beneficial. Self and Identity, 2(1), 1-20. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Carsten_Wrosch/publication/233264292_The_Importance_of_Goal_Disengagement_in_Adaptive_Self-Regulation_When_Giving_Up_is_Beneficial/links/0c960533315df7b28c000000/The-Importance-of-Goal-Disengagement-in-Adaptive-Self-Regulation-When-Giving-Up-is-Beneficial.pdf
Schmuck, P. E., & Sheldon, K. M. (2001). Life goals and well-being: Towards a positive psychology of human striving. Hogrefe & Huber Publishers.