I’ve always wondered what it must’ve been like to be Lebron James as a teenager. I knew who he was when he was 16 years old- the chosen one. There was very little doubt that he would turn out to be who he turned out to be. He didn’t really need to worry about success; he just had to wait and let it all unfold.
A lot of emerging adults have the same mentality. Unfortunately, they don’t share in his generational talent!
A good friend of mine, Dr. Evie Trevino, is a quantitative psychologist and leading researcher out of the University of Oklahoma studying the science of hope. You read that right: hope is a science and is the best predictor of well-being compared to twenty-two other measurable personality traits. It’s not only measurable; it’s malleable. You can increase someone’s hope.
She mentioned something recently that stuck out to me. She said that in a recent study of teenagers and emerging adults, this generation was filled with optimism but low in hope. Hope, by definition, is the belief that the future will be better than the present, and you play a key role in making it so. In other words, optimism is a general sense that things will work out, but hope contains an element of personal responsibility. Your life is a story, and not only are you playing a central role, but you’re also a writer and a producer.
Most young people are waiting to figure out what path to take in life. With lots of encouragement from the adults in their lives, they keep their heads down and focus on what’s right in front of them: school, sports, friends, and their mental health. But, unfortunately, they typically get a wake-up call just a few short years later to answer questions they aren’t prepared to answer. Questions like:
I have to admit I did the same thing. I put my head down as a teenager, told everyone I was going to go into finance or accounting, and avoided all the stress and anxiety that came from actually trying to figure myself out. I woke up at the beginning of my last year in college with a panic: I had to figure out what I wanted to do next, and I had absolutely no clue! Not only that, but no one could help me either.
It’s a mistake to wait for rescue. No one’s coming. Your life is up to you; only you can figure it out.
Now that I’m stepping down from my soapbox, I should consider some practical ideas. What does taking initiative and personal responsibility to find your future path look like?
Of course, you have to be patient in your journey to self-discovery. It’s iterative and takes time. But it’s a mistake to kick the can too far down the road. Yes, you need to focus on your current responsibilities. But today is ripe with opportunities to learn, connect the dots, and make moves toward the best path for your life.
For years we’ve been studying what a young person needs in order to transition into a healthy, thriving adulthood.
They're uncommon sense ideas, really.
Download this checklist and use it with your students (or kids).