Working with troubled teens, I have found myself with a new perspective on the whole New Year’s resolution racket. It isn’t about these sweeping, end of year promises to do incredible things. It is about setting small goals, and sticking to them through the year. How do I know? Because the troubled teens I work with do this at different points all year long, and they are more successful than any of the resolutions I have made. They are learning long term habits for life, not merely ticking tasks off a master list.

Resolutions Versus Lifelong Habits

What is the difference between a resolution, and a habit? For starters, a resolution is a promise that you make to yourself, a commitment to complete a goal, usually a big one. People will make resolutions to stop smoking, to lose weight, to get out of credit card debt. Which is great, but ultimately most attempts fail because it is taking on so much, with such a strict deadline.

A lifelong habit is one that is developed over time. It instills positive values that enrich your life, in either small or big ways. Going back to the teens I have worked with, they will make small changes to their daily lives and commit to sticking to them. This might be exercising for 20 minutes every day. Or finishing their homework before they go out in the evenings. Maybe it is even something as simple as limited time looking at screens.

These are small habits that can be perfected over time, which become a part of their daily rituals. Learning how to develop these habits are a crucial life skill far more valuable than meeting resolutions. It is also a way to be more happy.

The Beauty Of These Habits

One of my favorite examples of a lifelong habit formed by a teen happened in my own family. My son’s grades were slipping as he went through a stressful period of working on an extracurricular activity that was very important to him. Rather than make him drop this hobby, or berate him for his academic performance, my wife and I asked him to make one change. He was to dedicate 60 minutes a day, broken up or all at once, to studying.

Guess what? Immediate improvement to his grades, without losing out on his hobby time. It turns out that he had been rushing through his schoolwork, and wasn’t being as careful as he should have been. Making that block of time a habit had the added benefit of slowing him down.

The 7 Habits Teens Need To Succeed

You have probably heard of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. What you might not know is that the author’s son, Sean Covey, wrote a version specifically targeted towards teens. He posits that instilling these habits earlier lead to greater results. He suggests the following habits:

  1. Learn To Prioritize - Not every task is as important as another. It is crucial that everyone learns to prioritize, in order to manage both time and productivity.
  2. Don’t Set Goals, Set Ends - Is it the goal that is important? Of course not! It is the end result the goal leads to. You can get a lot in life by learning to envision what it is you are wishing to get out of each life habit.
  3. Be Proactive - Nothing happens for those who just sit around waiting. If you want good things, you have to be proactive about working for them.
  4. Try To Find The Way For Everyone To Win - Nobody likes a win-lose situation, and even less a lose-lose situation. Learning to compromise in order to find a win-win is a great life skill that has many applications.
  5. Listen Actively - You may have taught your teen to listen, but are they really understanding? Teaching your child to be empathetic and truly understand the view of others will give them an edge over most.
  6. Sizzle With Synergy - It might sound like a buzzword, but synergy is an important skill. It means discovering the art of diplomacy and cooperation, working with others toward a common goal.
  7. Rest, Rest, Rest! - One that we can all learn from is to rest once in awhile. Without breaks, no one is fresh enough to complete tasks well.
Author's Bio: 

As the content writer and outreach coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow, Tyler Jacobson joined the team after years of parenting a son with Reactive Attachment Disorder. He lends his experiences and education to other parents looking for ways to help their teens that struggle in school, social, and family circles. Topics that Tyler commonly writes on are parenting, troubled teens, education problems, behavioral disorders, and addictions. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn