Goals in the Face of Personal Challenges and Social Injustices

Focusing on goals can be hard for some families.

  • For some families, the future doesn’t seem so bright because of personal issues. These issues include depression, mental illness, addictions, or a major loss. In some cases, bad experiences or poor choices in the past limit the future.
  • For others, the future doesn’t seem positive because of community or social challenges. These challenges include poverty and discrimination. Neighborhood violence or few opportunities can also be a problem.

Still, a focus on a positive future can still make a difference. The young person’s future goals may be shaped by tough realities, but good can come from this. Young people may focus, for example, on how to adapt and be strong in the face of adversity. Young people may join with others to work toward social change.

Even in hard situations, focusing on a good future can motivate a young person. Future goals can help a young person cope with and adapt to problems. Focusing on a positive future also can mean connecting with others to improve the situation. Helping juvenile offenders to think about their future selves led them to think about how to turn their lives around.1

In these cases, extra support is needed. Self-reflection on the part of the young person isn’t enough.  Young people need caring adults who can build developmental relationships with them. These young people need parents, teachers, and other adults who can challenge their growth and provide support.

Next Steps

  • Take the quiz to reflect on the power of creating and working toward future goals.
  • Find out how goal oriented youth are today.

Research Sources

1. Abrams, L. S. (2005). Negative trends, possible selves, and behavior change: A qualitative study of juvenile offenders in residential treatment. Qualitative Social Work, 4(2), 175–196. doi:10.1177/1473325005052392