Crisis Decision Making 101

It used to be that when I was upset, I either made a rash decision or said something I would later regret. I remember having to go back and clean up my messes or apologize for saying something out-of-line. Being impulsive in the heat of the moment never worked in my favor.

I may have learned it the hard way, but eventually I figured it out. The fact is, we don’t think as clearly when we’re in a highly emotional state (whether we are feeling angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, etc.). There’s too much distraction and we don’t think objectively. Today, if I’m upset and need to make a decision, I make a tentative one, but (where possible) wait until the following morning to confirm it. Generally, it proves to be a better decision because my thinking is clearer and more objective the next day. Often, with the perspective from time and reflection, I change my decision for the better.

Why do we tend to make poor choices when we’re under stress? It’s because of our physiology—that’s right, it’s how we’re wired. But we can learn to compensate.

Being in a stressful situation messes with our brain—and can impair our decision-making capabilities.  A new study shows that in a crisis (or even what feels like a crisis), the brain tends to focus on reward, and ignore the possible negative consequences of a decision. That’s why “feel good” decisions like eating what we shouldn’t, blowing off steam by losing our temper, giving in to peer pressure, or making a rash purchase we can’t afford are more likely to happen when we’re stressed-out.

Even worse, not only does stress make us focus on the ‘feel good” aspect of a risky decision or behavior, it impairs our ability to think about the negative consequences. (Frankly, I’d say that’s a pretty good recipe for potential stupidity, don’t you?)

When you’re in this situation, hold off until the following morning if you can, or at least defer it until you’ve settled down and can think clearly. Ask for more time if you need it. Learn to recognize and release your stress.  Here are 3 quick tips to help unwind and cool you down:

  1. Reach out to your support system. You don’t have to go through hard moments alone. Their wise counsel and perspectives can help immensely.
  2. The endorphin rush you get from exercise will up your mood and help chase away the blues.
  3. Practice conscious breathing and relaxation techniques. Meditate, pray, do yoga, or all of the above. Connect your mind, body, and spirit for a holistic de-stressing.

Also, think about the things that make for good decisions and force yourself to follow them. You’ll be glad you did!

Have you noticed that your decision-making improves when you’re not in an emotional state? Which young people in your life can benefit from this lesson when facing stressful situations?

Take Charge of Your Worries

Have you ever noticed that some people are chronic worriers, while others seem to calmly take things in stride? I’ve often wondered how hard life must be for the worrying types. They face the same uncertainties as more easygoing types, but somehow manage to focus on what could go wrong or how something may potentially negatively affect them. It shows up in their stress level, appearance, disposition, and encounters with almost everyone.

Very early in life, I decided to minimize worry because it rarely did me any good. I noticed that the more I worried, the more difficult life seemed. I learned to adopt a phrase my mom always said: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I realized that things generally worked out fine anyway, and even when they didn’t, I somehow managed to deal with them (and build a little humility and resilience in the process!). The best approach is to focus on the things I can control.

If you have a tendency to worry (as in, “what if he/she won’t like my gift?!?”), I encourage you to reflect on the following questions:

  • How often have your worries actually been justified (i.e., when the bad news DID happen)?
  • If things didn’t work out, did you still deal with them well and grow as a person?
  • Can you remember what you worried about a year ago?
  • What do you tend to worry about and why? Can you instead channel these worries into a productive plan to achieve a good outcome?
  • What can you do to worry less and trust yourself more?

In addition to asking yourself these questions, you can also follow these tips to help you slow down, relax, and focus on the positive and constructive instead of the negative and hypothetical:

  • Accept the fact that uncertainty is a normal part of life..We can’t always know the outcome of a situation before we enter it!
  • Even if your life has been filled with challenges, try to take each opportunity with a fresh start. Keep an open mind and try to avoid jumping to conclusions.
  • Surround yourself with positive people who are uplifting and encouraging. And, by all means, take advantage of the wisdom and care from your friends and family.
  • Set aside a “quiet time” for yourself every day, especially when you’re going through a challenging time or decision. Use this time to reflect, meditate, and think about the things that may be bothering you. When you make this a regular habit, you will notice you spend less time throughout the day distracted by worrisome thoughts.

Every one of us will go through challenges and worries. In fact, our greatest character growth comes from enduring trials, which often prove to be for our own good (even if it’s hard to fathom at the time). So if you’re a worrier, do yourself (and those around you) a favor: take charge of your worries rather than letting them take charge of you!

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” –Leo Buscaglia

 In uncertain situations, do you tend to worry a lot? What steps can you take to worry less and trust more? What tips and tricks have worked for you?

 

 

Making the Best Decision in the Heat of the Moment

Can you remember a time that you were scared, sad, angry, or hurt and made a rash decision based on emotion or said something you later regretted? We’ve all done it. And most likely, these situations never worked out very well.

As we grow older and wiser, we eventually learn that it’s never smart to make important decisions abruptly or in a highly emotional state. Simply put, there’s too much distraction and it’s nearly impossible to think objectively or clearly. Today, if I’m upset and need to make a decision, I make a tentative one, but wait until the following morning to confirm it. Generally, it proves to be a better decision because I’ve had more to consider the pros and cons and potential consequences by then. It’s amazing how often I change my mind!

Why do we tend to make poor choices when we’re under stress or filled with emotion? It’s because of our physiology—that’s right, it’s how we’re wired. But we can learn to compensate.

Stress messes with your brain—and can impair our decision-making capabilities. A new study shows that in a crisis (or even what feels like a crisis), the brain tends to focus on reward, and ignore the possible negative consequences of a decision. That’s why “feel good” decisions like eating what we shouldn’t, blowing off steam by losing our temper, giving in to peer pressure, or making a rash purchase we can’t afford are more likely to happen when we are stressed out.

Even worse, not only does stress make us focus on the ‘feel good” aspect of a risky decision or behavior, it impairs our ability to think about the negative consequences. (Frankly, I’d say that’s a pretty good recipe for potential stupidity and regret, don’t you?) As I consider my own decisions (and those of our elected officials!), I would argue that failure to consider adverse, unintended consequences, is one of our biggest mistakes. It’s all too common, especially with relationships.

When you’re in this situation, hold off until the following morning if you can. Think about the things that make for good decisions and force yourself to follow them. If you don’t have the time to physically go to sleep and make your decision the next day, here are some tips to help you clear your mind and avoid making a rash decision based on emotion:

  • Learn to recognize and release your stress
  • Consult with a trusted friend and ask for honest advice
  • Science proves that exercise actually can calm our nerves.
  • If you are religious, seek spiritual counsel
  • Go to a place you consider beautiful (a park, a beach, a walking trail) and spend some enjoying nature and breathing in the fresh air. It will be good for your body and soul, and will most likely calm you down.
  • Develop a pro/con list to ensure you’re looking at all sides of a decision
  • Be sure to consider your conscience and intuition. I’ve learned to never disregard my gut feeling about something. Pay attention to yours, too.

As we enter our teen and young adult years, our decisions often have life-altering consequences. So, it pays to evaluate each one as comprehensively and objectively as possible while we’re calm and our thinking is clear. Not only will these tips help you make better ones (especially under stress), but they’ll also help limit your life regrets. That’s huge.

Have you noticed that your decision-making improves when you’re not in an emotional state? How can this lesson be good for young people who may find themselves in stressful situations—do you see how they can be influenced to make potentially life-altering decisions when they’re in the wrong frame of mind? Share your thoughts by commenting below; we’d love to hear your perspective and experiences.

Facing Adversity? Reach Out to Others.

Sometimes life just isn’t easy. Of course we wish it was, but bumps in the road, let-downs, and even heartbreak are inevitable. I bet you can think of more than a dozen situations when life just hasn’t gone your way. When we go through adversity, it’s easy to lose perspective and become consumed by our own situation. Sometimes, the hardships are significant and unquestionable. Other times, we might be making more out of our plight than it deserves, or as my mom used to say, we make mountains out of molehills.

Whether or not that is the case, there is a proven and effective solution for working through loss, obstacles, and adversity that may surprise you (and may even seem hard to do). It comes not by increasing our attention to our situation, but by focusing on others. You may not realize it, but it’s a total “win-win” situation. Let me explain…

 “A few years ago in a small, rural town in Oregon, a teenage boy died in a drowning accident. In all likelihood his death could have been prevented if an ambulance and trained medical personnel had been available. However, this small town was too poor to afford these services.

The boy’s mother grieved for the loss of her son, but she also transformed her grief into a service to her community. While she could not regain her son, she worked to prevent a similar tragedy. This resilient and determined woman became trained as an Emergency Medical Technician. After completing her training she raised money to purchase an ambulance and trained volunteers to help her. It is estimated that this volunteer ambulance service has saved the lives of over 100 people who might have died, like her son, due to a lack of emergency care. When interviewed, this woman said, ‘It’s easier to forget your own loss when you are busy helping others.’”*

If you’re currently in the valley and navigating a trial, find a way to help others even less fortunate than you. This could be a community service opportunity, a mission trip, or a visit to a soup kitchen, hospital, or just taking someone a meal. Or, reach out to a friend who you know is also going through a hard time. Offer to take them out to coffee and give them your undivided attention. Your compassion, encouragement, and maybe even your suggestions might make the world of difference.

When you look outside yourself and focus on others, truly remarkable things can happen. For one, you may find your situation isn’t as troubling or bleak as you thought. Learning of others’ struggles may make you feel more grateful for what you have. Secondly, you’ll experience joy and satisfaction from helping others. You’ll begin to count your blessings, which are easy to forget when facing tough challenges. It also helps you forget your own problems for a while and gives you a completely new perspective (which, many times, is exactly what you need!). Thirdly, just knowing you’ve helped someone out and lifted their spirits is enough to raise your own!

Have you ever reached out to other people in the midst of adversity? What effect did it have on your outlook? What became of your situation? As always, we’d love to hear from you!

*Story excerpted from The Healing Power of Service, by Edward V. Brown, as shared on www.energizeinc.com.

Learn to Handle Disagreements Like a Pro

With election season in full swing, we’ve all been seeing our fair share of disagreement lately. Whether it’s a politically-charged rant on Facebook (followed by the common “If so-and-so becomes president, I’m moving to Canada” threat) or a heated, televised presidential debate (and its subsequent media frenzy), disparities abound. Facebook friends fight with each other over who they believe is the best person for the job, and candidates throw insults at each other in order to be seen as the victor in the public eye. The political scene has always been divisive, with bravado and name-calling the order of the day.

Why is this? One reason is that differences are often irreconcilable due to underlying philosophies, values, and worldviews. Another reason is that most people don’t exactly handle disagreements well. They resort to verbal warfare—name calling, condescension, threats, and insults—in order to convert their opponent to their point of view (or in the case of political candidates—to marginalize their competition).  While negative campaigning often works in politics (sadly)  it’s an unhealthy recipe for life.

Let’s face it: opinions vary extremely, and most people arrive at theirs after legitimate, heartfelt thought. Often, differences are based on deep philosophical or religious views when there isn’t necessarily a right or a wrong answer. Reasonable people may agree on the goal, but differ in methods. A good example is whether government spending or tax cuts do a better job at stimulating the economy. Democrats tend to favor the former while Republicans prefer the latter. Both sides have valid points. They just have different approaches to achieving a common goal.

Politics aside, I am here you to tell you this:

Throughout life, you’ll be in situations with others who aren’t “on the same page.” It might be with a family member, friend, or work colleague. When you’re interacting with someone with whom you disagree, it’s important to be “agreeable” in your demeanor. After sharing your thoughts and genuinely listening to his or hers as well, it’s okay to “agree to disagree” if you’re unable to come to a compromise. When each party is passionate about their point-of-view, compromises aren’t always possible! Whether it’s about politics or something else, remember to avoid making it personal, and recognize that differences of opinion are a part of life. In most instances, you’re not going to change their mind anyway!

Do a self-check, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you keep your cool and a respectful attitude when you are debating with others?
  2. Are you able to separate the person from his or her belief? Are you genuinely interested in hearing his or her point of view? Do you notice the difference between the two?
  3. What is your knee-jerk reaction when someone disagrees with you?

Above all, strive to be a thoughtful, open-minded, and agreeable disagree-er. It will benefit all parties involved and help you avoid a needless war of words!

 

Priceless Mentoring Conversations

mentoring

You did it! You’ve entered into one of the most important and fulfilling roles you’ll ever play. You’re a mentor. And now that you’ve signed up, you’re probably wondering, “What next?” And, then you remember all of the mentors who invested in you and how they…

  • Listened to what was on your mind and heart
  • Encouraged you every step of the way
  • Inspired you to be more than you ever imagined you could be
  • Shared real life stories to help you face difficult situations
  • Offered wisdom that you would apply in the years ahead
  • Understood you and believed in you

    These are the hallmarks of a great mentor.

If you are a new mentor, perhaps you’re asking the question, “What should we talk about?” Of course, the answer depends on the age of your mentee and whether yours is a more formal or informal mentoring relationship. If it’s a formal one, you’ll be given guidance and direction from your program leaders. Regardless, the age of your mentee will also inform your conversations…helping them navigate life NOW while sharing a glimpse of what lies ahead in the next few years. That’s different for a fourth grader than for a middle schooler or high schooler.

In our work with What I Wish I Knew at 18, we are often asked what are the most important topics to share with the younger generation, whether in the classroom, the home, or in mentoring relationships. Drawing from our recent “Leadership for a Lifetime” blog series, here are some invaluable subjects to discuss in an age-appropriate way and when the timing is right:

  1. Their uniqueness, value, and strengths. Far too many young people have an incomplete understanding of the treasure they are to this world. You can help them build their self awareness of who they are and what they have to offer. This Personal Balance Sheet exercise can help.
  2. The importance of positivity. It is said that you become the average of the five friends with whom you associate with most. Whether it’s friends, music, video games, TV, movies, or websites, surrounding yourself with positive influences is a key in life.
  3. Living with vision and intentionality. Today’s students are facing tremendous pressures, distractions, and anxiety with little margin to spare. It’s easy to become consumed with the NOW. Have them share their dreams and their goals for the next five years. Then, encourage them to make plans to turn their dreams into reality.
  4. Building a personal brand based on integrity. Brands aren’t just for businesses like Coca Cola and Starbucks! Encourage your mentees to develop a strong set of core values like integrity, work ethic, dependability, kindness, generosity, respect, teamwork, humility, and high standards of excellence. Share whom you admire the most and encourage your mentee to do the same, and you’ll open up this critical topic.
  5. The value of adversity and the power of resilience. Help them understand that adversity happens to all of us (using your own story for examples). The question is, How will we handle it? Share the personal growth you’ve gained from adversity and how those who helped you often faced similar challenges. Today’s adversity can become tomorrow’s encouragement to someone else!
  6. Time is of the essence. We’ve never faced a time when distractions were more prevalent. Help your mentees understand that time is a precious asset and should be managed accordingly.
  7. The secret formula to life. In the end, life is about how we use our time, talents, and treasure to make the world a better place. Through conversation and volunteering together, you’ll help them appreciate the formula, U>Me.
  8. Stay flexible. While you may have a lesson topic in mind, it’s important to ask whether there’s anything special they’d like to discuss. Whatever that is, that’s where you go!

We hope these suggestions lead to unforgettable conversations with you and your mentee. We salute you and wish you the very best in your mentoring relationships!

Leadership for a Lifetime: Resilience

Now is no time to think of what you do not have.

Think of what you can do with what there is.

Ernest Hemingway

ID-100352171You don’t have to live very long to realize that things don’t always go the way we plan—or the way we want. You’ll bomb a test or get a low grade in a class. A boyfriend or girlfriend will break up with you. You may get sick or experience an injury. It may take a while to make friends or find your dream job.  But, when these kinds of things happen, you don’t have to let your circumstances overwhelm you. You can be RESILIENT!

The most resilient, impressive leaders I know have found ways to be courageous in the face of great adversity; life challenges lift them up instead of knock them down. Adversity happens to everyone, and it can take many forms. Unfortunately, not everyone is prepared to handle adversity well. Peter Gray, Ph.D., a research professor at Boston College, recently wrote for Psychology Today about this issue:

“A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services at a major university to join faculty and administrators for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilience among students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life… (Later), that head of Counseling sent a follow-up email, …including this sobering paragraph:

‘Our students are no different from what is being reported across the country on the state of late adolescence/early adulthood. There has been … a decrease in the ability of many young people to manage the everyday bumps in the road of life… The lack of resilience is interfering with the academic mission of the University and is thwarting the emotional and personal development of students.’”

The everyday bumps in life will happen; you can be sure of it! And since it’s not likely we’re going to avoid adversity, it pays to learn to take a healthy perspective to it.

Resilient people don’t give in to anger or despair when faced with a setback. Instead, they tap into a greater purpose to bounce back stronger than ever. They know how to bend to inevitable failures and tragedies and not break. Here are six habits of people who know how to confront adversity and move on to live their lives stronger than before:

  1. They are persistent and have a strong sense of purpose.
  2. They are self-confident and self-reliant.
  3. They have a strong network of supportive relationships.
  4. They accept that adversity is inevitable and are not resentful. They don’t have a victimized (“Oh, poor me …”) mindset.
  5. They are optimistic. They perceive bad times as a temporary state of affairs and an opportunity for personal growth.
  6. They take care of their health. They know how to deal with the physiological and emotional toll that stress and adversity take on their bodies and minds and take proactive steps to stay healthy, fit, and positive.

If you want to be a resilient person, it also helps to be self aware of your own stressors. Stress comes in different forms to different people, and with different underlying causes. What’s your biggest stressor? Is it time? Finances? Relationships? Academics? Order vs. chaos? If you know this about yourself, you can fight through stress/adversity by tapping into your stress relievers (exercise, quality time with friends/family, time alone, prayer, music, etc.). DON’T make the mistake of turning to false comforts to make you “feel better” when adversity hits. That’s how people get sucked into addictions like drugs, alcohol, and overeating, or into bad relationships because they don’t want to be alone. We address resilience in our book, What I Wish I Knew at 18, with an entire chapter devoted to “Overcoming Adversity.”

You have to be able to see past the current circumstances and know your world is not going to ultimately crumble because of any of them. There are so many wonderful things about YOU, built into your character, personality, and unique skill sets, that you can draw on to find a way to persevere, overcome, and bounce back. This is resilience and it is one of the hallmarks of great leaders!

For more tips on developing resilience, check out our blog series: “Stress-Busting Tips for Parents and Teens,” Parts One, Two, and Three.

 

Photo: Freedigitalphotos.net, by Sira Anamwong

Not All Challenges Are a Closed Door: Handle Adversity One Step at a Time

ID-100271746If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

– Winston Churchill

 

What’s your reaction when the going gets tough?  Do you just keep trudging right along, or are you more likely to go back to bed and hope that when you wake up, it will all have blown over?

There’s something to be said for both of those approaches in their own way and at the right time. Sometimes we need to ride out a trial or a sticky situation and let it resolve itself. Other times we need to buckle down, roll up our sleeves, and attack the problem.
Easier said than done?  Not necessarily.
When our most difficult trials occur, such as the loss of a job or the end of a cherished relationship, it’s easy to get consumed with hopelessness and despair. These emotions are often followed by panic and a complete sense of failure. People in this situation have difficulty seeing the other side of the valley. It’s a terrible place to be.
There are two key ways to avoid this trap. One involves perspective—considering that some good may come out of this experience. At least give it a chance! Perhaps an even better job opportunity might come your way. You may find a new friend or love interest that’s a better match. Who knows? The fact is a change in one’s direction often requires a catalyst that’s negative in the short term. So, it pays to consider whether it’s a new beginning or an important growing lesson.
The second key is to develop a step by step plan and take things one day at a time. Rather than focusing so much on the outcome (which often seems insurmountable), divide it up in pieces and work the plan. This way, the situation doesn’t seem so overwhelming and you’ll build momentum with each small success. As you make progress, you become more optimistic and perform better. There’s nothing like seeing some light at the end of the tunnel to help you regain hope.
A perfect example comes from the corporate world where managements are controlling their headcount (and payrolls!) like never before, even despite posting record profits. Many excellent and dedicated workers have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. This is extremely painful because of the economic hardship and the loss of the daily contacts with colleagues and friends. People tend to react to this situation in one of two ways. Some fall into a deep trap of bitterness and self-pity, waiting for something good to come along. Others use this as an opportunity to consider new career possibilities and/or to improve their skills. Then, they actively seek out new employment situations, often finding them superior to their former job. The same is true for younger people who don’t make the team or get into the college of their dreams.
You’d be amazed at how often these kinds of disappointments prove to be the catalyst for a better future. By taking the process step by step, you sustain a positive attitude during your transition period and prepare yourself better for the rest of your life. And this doesn’t just go for job losses; the same principle applies in many other challenges you may face in your life time.
When a trial strikes or your circumstances throw you for a loop, think about ways to slow down, step back, and focus on what (and who) is important. Remember that time heals pain, and, as Scarlett O’Hara famously said as she stood on the smoldering ruins of Tara in Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

When you go through an especially tough time, are you able to take things one step at a time? Do you see how progress helps improve your confidence and attitude? How can you encourage someone around you with this perspective? Please share your stories, insights, and questions with us; we’d love to hear from you!

Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net, Stuart Miles

Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes; Don’t Blame Others!

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible
for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

 When we experience a personal disappointment, it’s usually because we made an innocent mistake or our effort simply fell short. Is one worse than another? Well, to my way of thinking, a mistake is a little more serious because it’s an error, whereas a shortfall may have occurred despite our best effort. (After all, we can’t always win.)

Since we’re all human, mistakes and shortfalls are part of life. While no one keeps track, they number well into the thousands during our lifetime. That being the case, one has to wonder why it’s so difficult for people to admit their mistakes and accept responsibility.

Is it because the words “I’m sorry” don’t come easily? In such cases, it’s sometimes easier (and feels less shameful) to blame others and make excuses.

Is there a better way to handle our mistakes?

People who are prone to blame are actually reflecting their own insecurities. Implicitly, they assume their relationships can’t withstand an acknowledgement of a mistake or shortfall. However, it’s a false assumption, especially since people appreciate it when someone admits a mistake and asks for forgiveness.

When you make a mistake or your best efforts fall short of the goal, you can do one of two things:

  1. You can TAKE responsibility, apologize if appropriate, and do what you can to make things right.
  2. You can DODGE responsibility, blame someone else (or blame circumstances), and walk away from the situation – leaving others with the problem you created.

Choice #1 one will likely gain you the respect of your family, peers, and colleagues and help you learn from your mistake. Choice #2, on the other hand, will cause damage to your reputation and deprive you of a valuable opportunity for personal growth.

Why not exercise a little humility and take the high road? Learn to swallow your pride and admit it when you’ve fallen short. You’ll be respected and admired by others when you do… and you might be surprised by the grace they extend to you in return!

Do you find it difficult to admit your mistakes and accept that you aren’t perfect?

Are you harder on yourself than others would be if you took responsibility for your shortcomings? Share your thoughts and comments with our online community by commenting below; we’d love to hear your perspective!

4 Tips to Help Teens Listen to Their Conscience and Stick to Their Values

Parents and teachers, your teens and students are facing tough decisions every single day, and their choices are only going to get more difficult. Where should they go to college? What should they major in? Should they really go to that party? Should they take things to the next level with their boyfriend or girlfriend? This week’s post focuses on choices, and how to ensure your teen is equipped to stick to his or her values and make the right call. We encourage you to share it with the young people in your life or use it as a tool in your classroom or household.

Life is a series of choices, some planned and some not. Some involve fun, while others involve pain and heartache. Some are made from the mind after lots of thought and reasoning, while others are made impulsively from the heart or what “feels right.” Some turn out well and impact our lives for better, and some we regret.

Are your kids ready to make the right choices, both now and in the future?

I had the privilege of working for an inspiring leader, George Russell, who could distill the complex down to profound, but simple truisms. One of them was, “If you’re not sure whether to do something, imagine it as the headline in tomorrow’s newspaper.” Wow! How’s that for clarity and common sense? This works like a charm in our professional and academic lives, but also our personal lives, too—heeding that “inner voice” that has our best interests at heart. I know every time I ignored what my conscience was telling me, I lived to regret it. And, I know I’m not alone!

In a cultural climate where “values” are often measured on a slippery scale of personal taste, convenience, self-gratification, and “tolerance,” kids can get into real trouble when they dismiss the caution signals. That’s why helping young people identify their values and strengthen their conscience is so important. It’s more than important…it’s crucial!

Yes, this is what some refer to as “conscience training.” In times of growing independence, freedom, and opportunities, young people are increasingly faced with risky situations that require quick decisions. In some cases (many that involve alcohol, drugs, sex, social media, and cheating), one bad decision in the heat of the moment may do irrevocable harm to their reputation, college career, personal health and safety, or relationships, and derail their future plans and dreams.

That’s why having—and always listening to—that inner voice is so important in high-risk situations. Here are some ways to help set your teen up for success when it’s their turn:

  • Have them talk about their non-negotiable values. Moreover, encourage them to write them down and stick them in a school binder or on their desk. Make sure they don’t forget the principles that are important to them. These values are a big part of their brand.
  • Realizing that most unhealthy choices involve succumbing to peer pressure, be sure they understand their value and surround themselves with positive people and influences who have their best interests at heart.
  • Discuss potential situations that may put their reputation and integrity at risk. Remind them their best bet is to avoid high-risk situations altogether. And, if they can’t avoid them, they should at least decide in advance how they will react if their values are tested.I’ve heard far too many stories of people who didn’t heed this advice and whose futures were severely impacted because of it. They often lose years of momentum and wander confused and broken in the aftermath. Many times this could have been avoided had they asked themselves these simple questions:

“How will my conscience feel in the morning? What is it telling me to do right now?”

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to make a choice that challenged your value system? Did you have the courage to go with your values over the pressure you received from others? Share your experiences with your teen. Remember that life is about learning and recovering from our mistakes, and that stories are often the best teachers.

Note: We encourage you to visit our Resources page and download your FREE copy of our Personal Balance Sheet Assignment to share with the young adults in your life. Making sure they understand their own value is a crucial part of making good choices!