Critical Success Factors

In every complex challenge there are a few CSFs to pay attention to.  They are the factors that will make the biggest difference.  The twelve CSFs that follow can help you focus and have confidence that you are doing what you need to do – even when progress on the journey is slow.   

1. “Engage fully and with excitement.”  If you don’t engage fully, you simply won’t be bringing your best to the challenges.  That doesn’t mean working at this 24-hours a day and 7 days a week.  But it does mean being committed to paying attention to what’s on the site and applying it to your life on a regular basis. 

Engaging with excitement means coming at these challenges with energy that is positive and with expectations of success – even when the inevitable disappointments happen, or you hit a plateau in developing capabilities.

It means paying attention to the information on the site and being reflective about how it applies to your life.  It means using the worksheets, which are really “thought catchers” designed to catch your thoughts as you have them and save them

2. Remember, it’s a journey.  Being a teenager is a 10-year journey – not a race.  There are times when it feels like a race and you go fast, times when you go slow and even times when you stop for a while or get off the path and feel a bit lost.  Progress on the journey will be uneven, which is why perseverance and resilience are so important.    

Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”


3. Expect a rollercoaster experience.  Thriving does not mean no bumps and bruises, no disappointments, no doubts, etc.  It means dealing with them well.  There will be ups and downs; excitement and anxiety; wins and losses, happiness and sadness, clarity and confusion, connections and disconnections. 

4. Focus on the heart of the journey – becoming “The Author” of your life. How you create your experience and respond to what happens to you (expanding your sphere of influence) – being aware and making conscious choices – the central difference between being a child and a young adult.  You didn’t ask for this journey, but it’s yours, so the key is to get in the position of author vs. victim

5. Look inside and call forth the qualities/characteristics required.  The keys are curiosity, courage, committed action, perseverance and resilience.  You can find those qualities and develop them further as you go.  But you need to look for them and focus on them and build them.

To embark on the journey toward your goals and dreams requires bravery. To remain on that path requires courage. The bridge that merges the two is commitment.

Dr. Steve

6. Push out of your comfort zone and expand your development zone (discomfort zone).  Your comfort zone will be comfortable and you can rest or recover there, but not much will develop there.  Most growth happens in your development zone where there is some discomfort – exploring and taking smart risks (some small and some big) while avoiding your panic zone.  It’s best to stay out of your panic zone, but the discomfort of your development zone is where the growth happens.  That also tends to expand your comfort zone, which means that you can inhabit more and more of the world with a healthy degree of comfort.

7. Face the 3 core challenges directly (identity, relationships and competencies).  These are the dragons you confront on your journey, so it’s wise to face them directly and deal with them.  Ignoring them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  And turning your back on a dragon is not wise.  When you face them directly, they actually get smaller – they can still be intimidating, but less so.

If you follow the other CSFs and face the dragons directly, you can say to yourself, “This is going to be tough and take a while, but I’m up to it and will be successful.”   

8. “Learn to love the plateau” and pay attention to your trajectory on the path vs. completions.  Even though it can be frustrating to be on a plateau, your capabilities are being developed there – even when that’s not visible.  When you see increases in competencies or performance, it’s because they developed on the plateaus – then they show up.

It’s a long tough journey and success results from a lot of small steps taken over time.  Celebrate small wins (and big wins), consistently learn from the experience and decide what to keep doing, start doing or stop doing. 

9. Create a vision and heroic code – your compass.  Your vision of the desired “you” and your heroic code will provide direction even amidst the complexity and confusion.  They also call forth your best.  You won’t always live up to them completely, which is normal.  But they will help you stay on your path and you can take pride in having created them and in following them.

A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.

Rosabeth Moss

10 . Create your purpose and don’t lose your sense of significance.  These add meaning to your journey.  These are reminders of why you are expending the energy, taking the risks and making sacrifices (sacrifices are giving up something for something of greater value).  Your purpose may be your purpose as a teenager or in life in general.  It’s a life-long question, but it starts in the teen years. 

It’s easy to think that you aren’t significant as a teenager, but that is not true.  For most of us, our significance is a result of all the little things we do to make a difference – not some grand act.

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.

Marian Wright

11. Create simple plans and track your experience.  The act of planning is often more important than the plan, so engage in the act of planning.  Keep your plans simple and let them evolve with experience.  If your plans are working, keep going.  If they aren’t, then change them.  They are your plans and plans should be living documents, not made of cement.

Track your experience frequently and informally – celebrate progress and small wins, learn from your experience and determine what to keep doing, start doing or stop doing.

12. Find support and take care of yourself – “Heroes don’t go alone.”  Talk with peers and trusted adults about the site and your experience.  Creating a support network and managing energy traps and energy sources are required for the “long haul”heroes never went alone in the myths and neither do we in journeys of significant change.  You may not need a lot of support, but you need some.  You’re worthy of support, so ask for it – and you may need to coach people in how to support you.  If you’re not good at asking for support or live in an environment with little potential support, take the risk to ask anyway.  If you don’t get the support, keep asking. 

Don’t Overdo it or Force it

And don’t expect consistent progress.  It’s a 10-year journey and you can’t control it – but you can heavily influence it by being the author as much as possible and combining as many of these CSFs as possible.