Alex Zhang / Edge columnist

There’s a heavy emphasis on taking initiative in high school — it is embedded within leadership programs and core competencies. But what does it mean to take initiative, how is it done, and is it even that important?
High school is a four-year period of growth, but time flies by shockingly fast and it’s important to have healthy goals to work towards.

Actions by themselves are meaningless without a purpose. A student may spend their entire four years learning everything about every subject, but nothing about themselves. Initiative is key to preventing that.

Initiative is the product of passion and vision that’s created by the desire to change, remove, or make something, and realized by the steps to get there. Most initiatives are actually small and personal. Perhaps a student has been inspired by an online video of someone doing origami and decides to learn it for themselves. Often, initiative takes the form of a challenge for someone who wants to improve themselves.

When a student takes charge of their own ambition, they are telling themselves that they have the power to change things in their own life. Initiative requires a student to learn about themselves and their own objectives. Whether it be organizing a Ted Talk or learning how to cook — it’s not the destination, but the journey that builds character and empowers students.

Goal setting is the first step in taking action. It’s important to have a happy medium where the task is a challenge but not impossible to do. A very effective metric is the acronym SMART which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. For example, it can be frustrating to know when a goal such as “I will run” is complete but a SMART goal of “I will run for 30 minutes a day for a month,” has a specific and measurable target.

The second step is action, followed by reflection. After the student finishes their 30-minute run, they can ask themselves how it made them feel. Reflection reinforces the lessons learned and the motivation behind the initiative. Initiative is like a snowball, where it gets larger exponentially with every effort. The same is true for the opposite scenario, where an idle person is more likely to remain idle. It’s never to late to start and has a lasting effect on one’s mindset.

Initiative is the point of high school. It is why students are provided with more control over their own lives and choices in what they want to learn.
High school is the final steppingstone before adulthood, and the real world doesn’t come with many instructions. It’s up to the individual to decide where their efforts and initiative will take them during their high school years, what they want to see in the world, and their reason for being.