Monday, April 25, 2011

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When I spoke to a group of teenagers on communication, one teenager wanted to talk about something else. During lunch break she visited with me privately.

What she wanted to talk about was how to hang on to what you believe to be true about yourself, your life and your passions.

Turns out she was tapped in—in a good way—to who she was, what she wanted and what she believed, though the people around her were anything but.

This teenager knew she was losing ground. She wanted to know how to hang on to what she knew to be true.

Her parents were saying that her dreams were impractical, and her friends were criticizing her attitude. “Is it weird for me to decide I want something and then investigate ways to make it happen? My friends tell me I’m compulsive and way too serious. Does this mean it’s true?”

I reassured her that her actions were not peculiar and that being strategic and pursing goals was admirable.

Before I shared with her a secret that would help her stay on track and remain true to herself, I said, “If you had to pick one thing that you enjoy doing more than anything else, what would it be?”

She said, “I love taking pictures. I love using a variety of cameras and lens. Actually, I keep telling my parents I want to be a photojournalist. They think I am nuts and could never support myself.”

She proceeded to tell me that her parents were encouraging her to pursue accounting. “They believe I’m good with numbers and that if I get an accounting degree I will be more likely to make money. I don’t like accounting!”

I asked her to think about how being a photojournalist made her feel? She lit up, almost giddy with excitement. When I asked her to think about what it would feel like to be an accountant, a dull look covered her eyes. She looked tired and drained.

Then I told her the secret: If you want to know what is right for you to do, monitor your feelings. Your feelings are the indicator. If it feels good, you are on track. If it feels bad, you are off course.

Think of your feelings as a compass. A ship captain relies on a navigational system to keep a ship on course. In the beginning of the journey, the captain enters the destination—the ultimate goal. As the journey continues, the captain continues to check his system and makes adjustments because over the course of the trip it takes adjustments to keep the ship on course.

Adjusting throughout as the trip continues means that eventually the captain will arrive at the place he intended to be.

Our feelings work the same way, and so do the guidance systems of our children. What you believe is their path is not a good indicator. What inspires and excites your child are major clues about the direction they need to take to be a fulfilled, prosperous and happy adult.

Hanging on to yourself during adolescence can be difficult to do. When your teenager tells you she or he is losing their ground, pay attention.

What’s the best way to help your teenagers hold on to themselves and what they know to be true during adolescence years? Encourage them to pay attention to their feelings. Help them recognize what brings them joy. Taking the path that follows their bliss is never a wrong path. It might not pay off as they suspected or hoped for, but it will pay off.

Allyn Evans
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