An Invaluable Summer Project for Your Teen

Summertime offers many wonderful opportunities to enjoy, explore, and create. We might travel to distant places or camp in a nearby park, gazing at the stars with our s’more in hand. We might read books, check out a concert, take a class just for the heck of it, or learn a new skill. We might even shoot our record round of golf! The possibilities are endless.

But, here’s an idea that meets the “enjoy, explore, and create” test, but costs nothing, can be done anywhere, is not weather dependent, is sure to please all involved, and might just be the most valuable summer project EVER for your high schooler (and maybe even for you)! Any guesses?

The answer is to develop your very own Personal Balance Sheet. (And, I’m not talking about the financial kind.) It might not be as thrilling as a raft trip down the Snake River, but hear me out.

The high school years should be a time of self-discovery and self-awareness. You know, being able to answer the fundamental questions of: Who am I? What do I have to offer? And lastly, What are my opportunities for fulfillment? After all, if your teens haven’t already, they’ll soon be taking courses or attending programs on college and career planning to plot their course. All of this planning implies that students are sufficiently self-aware to judge correctly.

But, is this true?

In my visits with high school students, I’m struck by their lack of self-awareness. All too often, I see students who are insecure about their future because they don’t perceive their value. They don’t understand how they can make a difference. Sometimes it’s from the feeling they can never measure up to the standards of performance-driven parents. Others lack affirmation and a loving support structure. Regardless of the source, too many students are making fundamental life decisions about their future without first having clarity about their identity and dreams. It’s the proverbial cart before the horse.

 

To address this need, we’ve developed a self-discovery leadership assignment that we call the Personal Balance Sheet. Think of it as a personal adaptation of the balance sheet from the business world, but with different categories and without actual numbers. It inventories our assets and our constraints (which a business would term a liability) and creates an overall statement of our value proposition to this world. Wow!

The Personal Balance sheet, which you can access here, is a fantastic project for the entire family or for schools to assign over the summer. It begins with the students taking an open-ended self-assessment of what they consider to be their greatest assets and constraints. But, even more important, they conduct interviews with selected adults in their lives (e.g., parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, mentors) who know them well and have their best interests at heart. From them, they receive their perspectives of their greatest strengths and constraints. The initial list developed by the student is enriched by the invaluable viewpoints of others. It’s both inspirational and revealing.

The end result of completing this exercise is a much more complete and accurate understanding of ourselves—who we are, what we have to offer, and how we might direct our future to make a difference! Just in time for all of our next step preparations, but this time, from a position of strength and clarity!

May this be the summer of self discovery for the teen(s) in your life!

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