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Being a teenager is tricky. It’s a confusing, awkward, in-between state between the independence of adulthood and the dependence of childhood. The whole confusion of the age can make it difficult for teens to achieve some goals. It’s not that they don’t have goals or don’t want to work to achieve them, they just sometimes struggle with figuring out what needs to be done to achieve their goals. Luckily, there is a simple tool that can help! Here’s How to Use a Goal Ladder to Help Teens Achieve Their Goals, with a printable goal ladder available at the end of the post!

Interested in the kids version? Grab it here! 


How to Use a Goal Ladder to Help Teens Achieve Their Goals

I remember goal-setting when I was a teen. Driven by the desire for independence common for the age, my goals were big. But they were backed by the naiveté of childhood, with me thinking that it was totally logical for a few simple steps to create big results. As a result, not many of my first big goals were achieved (or at least, not achieved in the way I thought they would be). I certainly could have used something like a goal ladder!


Franklin planner for Teenagers MY GOAL A5 No date 60071Franklin planner for Teenagers MY GOAL A5 No date 60071


Goal ladders actually aren’t teen specific tools, though they are a great tool to help teens achieve their goals. They can also be used by kids and adults. A goal ladder is simply a visual tool that helps you figure out logical steps you need to take to achieve goals. The printable goal ladder at the end of this post has 10 steps, a good number for the bigger goals that teens usually attempt. Each step has to be achieved before you can move on to the step above it. 

There are 2 ways a goal ladder can be filled out to help teens achieve their goals- either from top to bottom, or from bottom to top. I think top to bottom uses the most critical thinking skills and is thus the trickiest, while bottom to top is easiest. But depending on the goal you’re trying to create steps for, you may prefer one direction over the other. For example, really big goals or goals where you have no idea how to get started are best planned out from top to bottom. Easier goals where figuring out the first steps is simple can be done from bottom to top.

Figuring Out the Steps From Bottom to Top


Let’s start with an example of the easiest direction – bottom to top. Let’s say your teen’s goal is to learn to drive. What should step #1 be? A great way to begin is with an online driver’s education class. Some even include driving video games! So let’s say that step #1 is to take a driver’s ed class. Well, you can completely ace the class, but still can’t touch a wheel without at least a learner’s permit. So step #2 should be to pass the learner’s permit test. But a textbook education and learner’s permit does not a driver make. How does your teen move on from the classroom and get into an actual car? The same way most people learn to drive – by being a passenger while a parent drives and explains things (step #3). Eventually the teen will need to be the one actually moving the car, so step #4 is to do supervised driving practice. Step #5 is the big one – pass the road test. Your teen could actually leave steps 6-10 blank as this goal doesn’t require any more steps. Once they have a license and can drive themselves to school, work, or run your errands, your teenager has achieved their goal.

Of course, the steps to achieve this can vary. Some teens study the DMV handbook, then take the learner’s permit test, then do a driver’s ed class. And I’m sure there are other possible variations. But you get the general idea- each step builds on the one before it until your teen has finally reached their goal.

This driver’s license goal was pretty easy to figure out, as most people know what needs to be done to get a license. But what if your teen has a bigger goal in mind?

Figuring Out the Steps From Top to Bottom

A goal ladder can help teens achieve their goals even if the goals are huge. For example, what if your teen wants to become a doctor? They (and you) may not know exactly what first step they’d need to take to get on the road to achieving that goal (other than “do well in school”), but you probably know some of the later steps. Step #10 should be to complete a residency program, and Step #9 should be to go to medical school so that your teen can have the medical degree required to get into that program. So then, what’s step #8? Well, how do you get into med school? By completing at least a bachelor’s degree that contained coursework in doctor-relevant areas, like biology and chemistry. So Step #7 should be to finish college with an appropriate major. Following this logic, step #6 should be about getting into that college, so should be about leaving high school with good SAT scores. Step #5 should be about learning enough to get those good scores, so it could be to get a 3.5+ GPA, or to take rigorous classes. So maybe step #4 would be to get into Advanced Placement classes. Step #3 should be to do well enough on tests and assignments in regular classes that your teen can realistically expect to do well in AP classes. Step #2 should be to study enough every night that your teen can do well in those regular classes. And step #1 should simply be to research the medical field more, to ensure this is something your teen really wants to pursue. Some kids are really into the idea of being a doctor because of the money and prestige, but don’t know bout the crazy hours, stress, or all the gross things a doctor has to deal with daily! 

If your teen is filling out their goal ladder from top to bottom because they have a huge goal, encourage them to research the goal. With a goal like becoming a doctor, it’s really easy to find information online that outlines the steps for you. For less conventional goals, your teen may find interviews and biographies to be helpful, or may even come across a useful forum thread. Research is a great way to make sure teens have realistic expectations and come up with logical goal ladder steps.
I highly suggest pairing a goal ladder with the Skill Trek supplemental curriculum, as the whole goal of Skill Trek is to teach young people important life skills (that unfortunately often aren’t even mentioned in school). The goal ladder can help your teen achieve the goals that Skill Trek creates for them as it teaches them those skills. Both the Goal Ladder and Skill Trek are great tools to help teens achieve their goals in life!
Here’s my printable goal ladder! Have your teen use a pencil to fill it out, just in case they want to change anything later on.
Do you remember any of your big goals from your teenage years?

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