The secret of getting ahead is getting started. (Mark Twain).

– Desiree Panlilio



 Self-motivation is a very powerful driving force for success and having our teen internalize that drive is an important priority.  But let’s be clear, motivation is the desire to achieve a goal.  The first steps are to clearly define the goals and the steps to achieve the goals.  

Motivation can be both intrinsic and extrinsic.  Extrinsic motivation is often easy for parents to see and for parents, coaches, and peers to exert.  Extrinsic motivation is having other people to inspire you. It having your football coach cheering you on as you run the ball down the field. Or it is the standing ovation your piano teacher gives you at a recital. It is having others believe in you and encourage you.

Although that is an effective driving force, we all must be able to make motivation a part of our character and intrinsically push ourselves. So how does a teenager develop that internal drive and become intrinsically motivated?  To have intrinsic motivation teenagers have to be self-confident, believe in themselves, have social acceptance, and learn the rewards of motivating themselves. 

All parents desire our teen to avoid the spiral of procrastination and instead be in the mode of moving forward, reaching goals, and achieving personal success.

What are the easiest ways to internalize motivation?  I’ve succeeded by beginning with a personal mission statement. Teenagers need to know who they are in the present and where they want to go.  The personal mission statement does that. For our teens a personal mission statement is their call to action. It is summarizing what they want in the next year. It may start with, “To achieve a 3.6 GPA at the end of my junior year”, “Or it may be to make the varsity volleyball team” All of these personal mission statements and vision your teen has creates the internal motivation and drive to achieve their personal mission statement.

 Next, develop goals that outline a plan to achieve that vision – writing out the goals and breaking them down into manageable steps makes a vision obtainable and creates excitement and motivation for what the possibility of the future brings. Your teen realizes their hard effort and the improvement in their volleyball game and they realize that they will make the varsity team this year. Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are at work.  On the way to achieving their personal mission statement and goal, when daily drudgery of the steps may set in, your teen’s intrinsic motivation must be in place, a character trait.  To nurture this trait and to keep motivation going, have your teen set a schedule, create a time management plan, so that they work on achieving their goals. WIth academics this may be carving out time for homework, review and studying for an exam. It is simple but it keeps the achievement of the goal on autopilot. You are more likely to keep going when your motivation levels are low if you follow a schedule. 

Think about your favorite pro athlete. They follow a set schedule for success. They do not train when they want or eat when they want.  They have professional trainers who help keep them motivated to be the best they can be in their sport.  But those athletes also have the habit of practice and the desire to succeed.  Each of our teenagers can also light that internal fire by creating schedules, and we fan the flames by encouraging them as they achieve their goals.  Later, their goals become bigger and change the world. Personal mission statements are rewritten as goals are achieved and your teen understands that having a personal mission statement, goals and the steps to succeed and the time to work on their goals they are creating the success they want. They are the author of their story.