Our Top Ten Parenting Goals for the School Year: Part One

Last week, we challenged students to set fresh new goals to jumpstart the school year. Goals that would enrich their lives and build valuable leadership skills. Now, dads and moms, it’s your turn! We can always up our games, too.

As we at LifeSmart evaluate the trends among today’s teens and young adults—the success stories and the struggles—we can often correlate the results to parenting effectiveness. No, we are not in control of our children’s success, but we can foster a supportive and empowering environment to give them the best chances. And, when we do, it’s a “win win” for all.

Based on feedback from students, educators, employers, and mentors, we crafted our top ten goals for parents this year. We’re sure you’re already modeling many very well, and, that’s great! But, as you reflect on this (and next week’s) blog, we hope you’ll find some areas to sharpen that will accrue to the benefit of your children.

In no particular order, here goes:

  1. Equip and empower for independence: Many teens are struggling with their transitions into adulthood. Although well intentioned, parents are often contributing by helicoptering, overprotecting, doing versus guiding, and treating their children as friends. Instead, let’s focus on raising self confident and well prepared future adults who are resilient and independent problem solvers. Let’s move emotionally and practically from the driver seat to the passenger seat by giving them greater responsibility and accountability and treating them like adults. Sure they may underachieve or make mistakes, but those lessons are vital to their personal growth and success.

 

  1. Develop soft skills and professionalism: Book smarts don’t always translate into life smarts. Ask any employer of young people. The lack of work experience and character education, as well as our casual culture and communication, are taking a toll. So, use every opportunity to build these vital skills for the workplace and life: high standards, integrity, dependability, positivity, motivation, teamwork/relationship building, communication, resilience, respect, and professional manners. It’ll help them build a great brand and gain admirers.

 

  1. Invest in your relationship: As teens exert their independence, it can feel like they’re pushing their parents away. But, no matter how discouraging this can be, continue to invest in your relationship—it will pay off. Keep those lines of communication wide open and put your listening skills to good use! Think “share with” more than “talk to.” Affirm their uniqueness and value, and demonstrate how much you believe in them. Find the time and place they open up most and make it happen. And, go tech free during meals.

 

  1. Build a strong work ethic: What happens when we do our children’s work because of their busy schedules or our desire to see them happy? It hampers their motivation and work ethic, and employers are indicating that this is a BIG issue. As teens mature, so should their responsibilities around the home. That means doing chores that will not only help your household, but will also prepare them for life on their own. Part-time jobs and volunteering for the community or neighborhood contribute too.

 

  1. Quash any sense of entitlement: Over the past few decades, our culture has become child centric. So, it’s not surprising that many young people see the world as revolving around them. (Many universities are playing into this too and delaying their students’ maturation.) Consequently, young adults are in for a rude awakening when they enter the competitive workforce. Be on the lookout for signs of an entitlement mentality brewing in your children, and take corrective measures if needed. A volunteer trip to the soup kitchen can do wonders. Teach yours that privileges and success are earned, often the hard way.

 

If these resonate with you, we hope you share this blog with your friends and pick up a copy of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. It’s filled with encouragement and practical tips to help you parent with purpose and let go with confidence!

So, how are you doing on these five? Stay tuned for part two next week.

The Most Important Lesson For This School Year?

In a world consumed with constant distractions and multitasking, it seems like we’re becoming more like bumblebees—paying short visits to one flower after another. We’ve never faced “incoming” like this before, and it’s affecting our attention spans, stress levels, and ultimately, our productivity.

So, how can we help our children navigate this noisy world where they’re being pulled in so many directions?

In my years of evaluating leaders, I’ve come to appreciate what virtually all of them have in common:

  1. Vision: an overarching idea of where they want to go. The person they want to become. The impact they would like to have in this world. The life they want to live.
  2. Intentionality: a commitment to setting goals and plans to turn their vision into a reality. Goals that are challenging but realistic, specific, and measurable.
  3. Relentless Effort: they are self motivated and focused like laser beams to achieve their goals and implement their plans. They don’t just work hard—they work smart. They have high standards and manage their time effectively and efficiently. And, they regularly review whether they’re on track and make midcourse corrections along the way.
  4. Resilience: an ability to overcome and learn from their mistakes, shortcomings, and failures. They don’t let disappointments defeat them; rather, they face their challenges head on and persevere.

With a new school year upon us, this is a great opportunity to teach your children and students how to apply these concepts in their lives. Arguably, this could be their most important learning lesson of the year!

So, whether you’re a parent, teacher, mentor, or coach, have the children under your influence set new goals and strategies for the coming year. Encourage them to develop at least one goal in each of the following categories, and to create action steps (with deadlines!) for achieving them:

  • Career: surveying career matches, attending job fairs, creating a resume, sharpening interview skills, meeting people in careers of interest, etc.
  • Education: improving a GPA, taking valuable courses, reading specific books, watching/listening to media-based programs/trainings, etc.
  • Character: developing strengths, addressing weaknesses, modeling qualities/soft skills of admired people, etc.
  • Relationships: improving existing relationships, building new ones (peer, network), etc.
  • Skill: learning a new skill for personal growth, fun, creativity, etc.
  • Service: volunteering time and talent to support your community
  • Experience: checking off a “bucket list” item or two

The more we can instill the value of setting goals, plans, and strategies for life in our children at an early age, the better positioned they will be to achieve success, fulfillment, joy, and impact. Otherwise, especially in this day and age, they’ll be destined for distraction and random (at best) outcomes. It may be a mindshift for them, but they and their dreams are worth it! And, trust me, one day they’ll thank you for it!

Building Workplace Readiness Skills: Part Two

Last week we began our three-part series on workplace readiness skills for teens and young adults. We’re writing this series because we share the concern being voiced by many employers and educators that our nation’s young people are not (generally speaking) well-equipped with the skills to succeed in today’s workforce.

As an organization committed to empowering the next generation, LifeSmart is honored to contribute our perspectives on this subject. Whether your role is educator, mentor, parent, or otherwise, we hope you’ll find these insights helpful in preparing the young adults in your life for success in the “real world.”

Today we’ll focus on four important personal leadership attributes: teamwork, diversity awareness, conflict resolution, and creativity/ resourcefulness.

 

Teamwork

With rare exceptions, most young adults will pursue careers where teamwork skills are critical. Today’s workplace is far more collaborative than in the past, and career success is greatly influenced by a person’s ability to work well with others. Here are the attitudes and actions of great team players:

  1. Giving everything their best. This means delivering excellent results for their assumed roles/tasks and relating well with the others. They set their bar even higher in a team context since others are counting on them.
  2. Encouraging and appreciating their teammates.
  3. Embracing feedback, rather than treating it defensively.
  4. Keeping their communications neutral or positive.
  5. Focusing foremost on the team and achieving its goals. “Team > me!”

 

Diversity Awareness

As they find their way in the workplace, young adults will be working with people of different ages, genders, ethnicities, faiths, backgrounds, and worldviews. By making a concerted effort to appreciate others’ uniqueness and value, they will build synergy, trust, AND a better workplace environment. That means:

  1. Taking opportunities to get to know their colleagues both professionally and personally. How are their personalities wired? What are their interests? By better understanding their coworkers, everyone can relate more successfully.
  2. Always looking for the best in people even if they won’t make the “BFF” list (hint: most won’t!).
  3. Being respectful and tactful while building relationship capital.
  4. Being an inspiring team player and avoiding supercharged conversation topics (hint: be careful during election season!).
  5. Always remembering that no one can know the burdens each person is carrying.

 

Conflict Resolution

It would be nice if everyone always got along, but the workplace offers special challenges. Some people position for advantage and power. Some won’t pull their weight.  Some people prefer drama and gossip. Some lack integrity. And, sometimes personalities clash.

When conflict does arise in the workplace, here are some successful strategies to manage it:

  1. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. Often, conflict arises from simple misunderstandings. Try not to prejudge or assign motives.
  2. Respecting themselves and their right to be heard.
  3. Striving for mutual understanding, sharing perspectives respectfully, and agreeing to disagree if their positions are irreconcilable.

 

Creativity and Resourcefulness

As I share in my “How to Be an MVP Employee” DVD, one of the keys for career advancement is building value in the eyes of an employer. That means not only delivering excellent job performance, but also contributing to the overall success of the organization. It means going above and beyond the job description with initiative and creativity to improve results.

“Workplace MVPs” build their value by:

  1. Improving revenues (increasing sales and customer loyalty)
  2. Reducing costs and improving organizational efficiency
  3. Innovating (developing new products, services, or procedures)
  4. Leading high impact projects that contribute to the success of the enterprise

 

Importantly, each of these soft skills applies to our personal lives as well, and it’s never too soon to start building them. How would the teens you know fare in these skill areas? Yourself? Stay tuned for Part Three next week!

Out with the Old, In with the New!

ID-10052540

A fresh year always inspires fresh dreams. Most of us think, “What are the things I could improve in my life, if I had a fresh start?” For some reason, “January 1st” symbolizes new possibilities and a chance for a “do-over.”

In what area of your life would you like a fresh start? In your parenting or other relationships? Your performance at school or on the job? How about being more financially savvy or more organized? Or, maybe yours is like mine: to take control of busyness and reserve more time to reflect. All of these are admirable aspirations—but how can we make them a reality?

Most successful people accomplish their aspirations by staring with dreams and then establishing goals and plans to help make them come true. And, they know that the most effective goals are both specific and measurable (as opposed to vague and difficult to evaluate). As you start to identify your aspirations for 2016 and beyond, it’s important to develop short-, intermediate-, and long-range goals to help get you there.

Even if you’re not naturally a goal-setter, it’s not difficult to become one.  Start by imagining what you want your life to look like. What are the large-scale goals you hope to achieve? These are your long-term or lifetime goals.  It’s important to set these first because they will shape your overall perspective and help frame your smaller and shorter-term goals. Think about such areas as:

  • Education and learning
  • Career
  • Marriage and family
  • Finances
  • Community service
  • Relationships
  • Spiritual life
  • Physical goals (sports, etc.)
  • Talents and skills
  • Travel
  • Experiences
  • Retirement

Once you’ve established your long-term goals, you can set some medium-term goals (e.g., three to five years) that will help you achieve your long-term goals.  From there, you can set one-year, six-month, and one-month goals, all of which will ultimately contribute to the larger picture. Periodically check on your long-term goals to make sure they remain high on your list. Also, monitor your progress on your medium-range goals to make sure you’re on track.

(Parents, you may want to make some parenting goals … check out our book, Parenting for the Launch, for some ideas to help you set goals and create a family mission statement.)

Finally, start making daily to-do lists, prioritized by importance and urgency. If you do, you’ll be contributing on a daily basis toward the things that will make your lifetime goals and dreams possible. Here are some guidelines as you do:

  • Phrase your goals in the positive, not the negative
  • Make them realistic goals—ones that are possible and achievable
  • Make them measurable and specific, such as “visit five continents” as opposed to “travel around the world”

What are your aspirations for 2016? Beyond that? This can be fun and lively discussion with family and friends over the holiday season. Make a plan to check back with each other next New Year’s and see who has gained the most ground in accomplishing their goals.

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

Leadership for a Lifetime: Balance

ID-100109460Perhaps one of the greatest challenges for students post-high school isn’t how to avoid all the potential pitfalls of independent living. For many, it can be learning to say NO to too many good things!

  • In college, for example (or in their new environment), there are so many new opportunities to spend their time: New friends. New classes. Intramurals. Games. Parties. Clubs. Service opportunities. And what if they “go Greek?”—another entirely different set of possibilities! It all means that they have to be choosy—and realistic. After all, too much of a good thing… is never a good thing!

In our work with Parenting for the Launch, our book for parents of teens, we share that many kids today are too busy and have no margin… an issue that’s often parent-driven. We can be unwittingly burning out our kids with countless activities to build their resumes and position for college scholarships, etc.. Huge demands from athletics are also taking their toll.

“Burnout” is the state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when we feel overwhelmed and unable to meet the demands of all our responsibilities, activities, and relationships. When we’re burned out, we may feel exhausted, emotional, irritable, and out of control. The resulting stress impairs our sleep, health, and ability to perform at our best.

The reality is that no one can do it all, much less do it well. We all have to find that sweet spot of equilibrium that provides a proper allocation of time and attention to family, friends, work/school, career, and personal and spiritual growth. That sweet spot is “balance,” and it doesn’t happen by accident. Without a clear plan and commitment to maintaining balance, it’s easy to become overcommitted and out of control.

We need to help our children build margin as eagerly as we help them build resumes. Here are five tips to help them maintain balance in life:

  1. Be self aware. What are the signs that you’re out of balance? When it happens, ask yourself, “Is there too much on my plate?” We’re not talking about what you had for dinner last night—rather, what’s on your “plate” of activities, responsibilities, and relationships? Is it manageable?
  2. Identify your priorities. Time management, distractions, new responsibilities, variable schedules, and the like are all new facts of life post-high school. Plus, in today’s technology-laden world, the temptation to play video games or surf social media instead of studying can be huge. Develop a purposeful list of priorities. If you’re visual, write them down and keep them within view. What’s important to you? Grades? Fitness? New friends? Clubs? Spiritual life? What matters most?
  3. Be intentional. Remember that time is precious and you must use it wisely. Make a realistic evaluation of how you are allocating your time and energy, and consider the value and the time requirements of any new commitment before saying “yes.” Also, skimping on exercise, sleep, and quiet time are not the way to deal with overcommitment and will only exacerbate the burnout.
  4. Learn to say “no.Although it may feel uncomfortable to say “no” to fun things and delightful people, each time you say “yes,” you are implying it’s a priority. Those who are “people pleasers” or high achievers may particularly struggle with saying “no.” Encourage them to value the peace that comes from balance and the opportunities for spontaneity when there is margin.
  5. Avoid all consuming work. Everyone lives between two ends of a spectrum. On one end are our relationships. On the other end are our performance arenas like school, career, and wealth building. In this competitive world, people often overinvest in the performance areas and underinvest in their relationships, with devastating consequences. Truly successful people recognize the importance of relationships and reflect this in their priorities and time management.

Maintaining balance is a hallmark of successful people. If you are a parent or educator of a high schooler, teach them the value of margin and to spend their time on what matters most. It’s a leadership lesson that will last a lifetime!

photo: freedigitalphotos.net, by Jeroen van Oostrom

Leadership for a Lifetime: Passion

The year was 1973 and I was enjoying my first year of independent life as a college freshman. On the other hand, our nation was in a full-blown funk, consumed with Watergate and the Vietnam War. We needed a shot in the arm and bad. Who would have known it would come in the form of a horse?

For a quarter of a century, America had been waiting for another Triple Crown winner. Some had come close, but often the Belmont Stakes proved insurmountable. But, this year would be different. It was Secretariat’s year. The chestnut-colored thoroughbred had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness handily and in record form. But, how would he fare in the stiffest of tests?

In what remains history’s greatest horse race, Secretariat annihilated the field, running with an abandon never seen before or since. Under jockey Ron Turcotte, Secretariat smashed the record by an unthinkable two-plus seconds, winning by an unheard of 31 lengths. To this day, I consider it the greatest feat in sport. Legendary athletes were in tears as they witnessed perfection. [If you haven’t, you must watch this incredible performance (just Google “Secretariat Belmont”) or better yet, the full documentary.]

Did Secretariat have a special secret? He most assuredly was an amazing physical specimen. However, after he was euthanized at 19, the autopsy revealed that Secretariat’s heart was twice as large as normal. No wonder. His engine was like no other.

Secretariat raced with heart and with passion.

I believe passion is the special sauce of life. And, while no one exemplified this better than Secretariat, it’s not a quality only reserved for the supremely gifted. Great leaders live with passion. And, so can you.

Here’s how I describe it to young adults, facing newfound freedom and setting the stage for their lives:

  • Giving everything your best
  • Committing to continuous improvement and an insatiable appetite for learning
  • Viewing each day as an opportunity to make a difference
  • Not just attending all classes (and putting academics first), but sitting in the front row
  • Stretching yourself in new ways and “going for it!”
  • Seeking opportunities to uplift others
  • Prioritizing relationships and meeting new people
  • Viewing your time as a precious asset to be used wisely
  • Being proactive rather than reactive
  • Building your competitive edge through learning, experiences, and leadership opportunities
  • Ensuring that no other candidate in a job interview is more enthusiastic than you!
  • Always demonstrating a positive attitude and a grateful heart

My challenge to you is to unleash your “inner Secretariat” and live with passion. There’s nothing like it!

Leadership for a Lifetime: Brand

The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.

~Socrates

What do Google, Apple, Facebook, Disney, Nike, McDonalds, BMW, Coca Cola, Lego, Coach, Harley Davidson, and you have in common? The answer is your own brand. That’s right—your brand! Chances are you don’t think of yourself in this way, but hear me out.

If you Google the term “brand,” you’ll see descriptions such as:

  • what you stand for
  • the representation, identity, or image of you or your organization
  • what differentiates you
  • how you are uniquely perceived by others

I like to think of it as a composite of qualities and values that represent your unique identity and value proposition. Now the parallels make more sense, don’t they?

Businesses go to great lengths to build their brand and reputation. In fact, they treat theirs as a prized possession! They invest massive amounts in developing quality products and services that are both consistent and appealing to customers. They train their employees to represent their core values and high standards in the marketplace. And, they promote their brands through carefully crafted advertising and PR. There’s no better way to build a loyal customer base than having an appealing brand.

Great leaders invest in their own brand, too—both personally and professionally. People who are brand aware view themselves as an asset to offer this world and demonstrate high standards both on and off the court. They are regarded not only for their impact but also for the effect they have on others.

In our conversations with teens and young adults, we stress the importance of building a great brand through an “excellence in everything” mindset. But, in a world that is increasingly shying away from the concept of universal values, what does that look like? To facilitate conversations and self assessments, I encourage students to develop their “Values GPA” by grading themselves on several personal and professional quality indicators. It’s a great way of building their “values vocabulary” and identifying their brand strengths and areas for growth.

Here’s a great way to put this into action. Following is a categorized list of brand-related qualities for your students/children/mentees to evaluate. It can also make for a fun family exercise with opportunities for feedback.

Professional Brand Qualities

Here are my top ten brand qualities of a workplace MVP (link to blog: http://www.dennistrittin.com/view_blog.aspx?blog_id=132 ): high standards, integrity, reliability, relationally skilled, positivity, enthusiasm, motivation, innovation, resilience, and likeability. 

Personal Brand Qualities

At a personal level, the components of our brand are similarly multi-faceted. Consider which of the following qualities you/your students/your children model well and which could benefit from improvement:
Heart Related: kindness, sincerity, compassion, friendliness, helpfulness, generosity, empathy, patience, unselfishness

Integrity Related: honesty, trustworthiness, honor, respect, loyalty, courtesy, tact, obedience, courage, self discipline, authenticity

Personal Nature Related: cheerfulness, self confidence, positivity, enthusiasm, active, sociability, good-humored, stability, expressiveness, politeness, cooperativeness

Productivity Related: reliability, high standards, purposeful, disciplined, resourcefulness, ambition, motivation, strong work ethic, decisiveness, conscientiousness, responsibility, curiosity, objectivity

Spirituality Related: faith, gratefulness, perseverance, resilience, grace, dignity, modesty, humility

 

Your personal brand is a prized possession and one of the most important leadership pillars to nurture and grow. How would you describe yours?

Leadership for a Lifetime: Positivity

It’s been said you will become the average of the three to five people with whom you spend the most time. Can you see it?  Positive, motivated people challenge and inspire us to be our best.  Negative, unmotivated people can drag us down and reinforce a mindset of mediocrity.

Great leaders surround themselves with positive influences and steer clear of the negative ones. This principle is not only true for relationships; it applies to any influence we take in, such as music, TV, movies, Internet, etc. We become the sum of our input—which is why positivity should be the reigning theme of what we expose ourselves to.

There are few places in the life of a young person where this plays out more importantly than the relationship choices they make after high school, when they leave their comfortable well-known environment for a new one (e.g., college, tech. school, military, gap year). It’s arguably their biggest test.

In the transition from high school to college, for example, they will go from “big fish in small pond” to “small fish in big pond” where no one (including the professors) knows them. They’ll be in a sea of strangers. This is one of the biggest reasons why many people never take the plunge to move from the comfort and security of home/hometown.  Yes, it’s intimidating. Yes, it’s worth it!

When I (Arlyn) was a young adult, I lived overseas for a few years when my husband and I were newlyweds and he was in the military. This was before the Internet and inexpensive phone services were available. I could afford to talk to my parents and friends only briefly and infrequently. I lived in a community where I couldn’t speak the language or even read the street signs!

There were other young adults in my situation, and a number of them responded with negativity and victimization—poor me—and surrounded themselves with others who felt the same. Obviously, their overseas experience was very different than mine. I took university classes, worked at a local school teaching English, volunteered, learned to speak the language, and got to know my neighbors (even though we barely understood each other!).

 

The results? Those who chose negativity were either miserable or short-lived in their overseas experience, while I had a blast. What made the difference? I believe it was the power of positivity.

Loneliness can be one of the biggest de-railers post-high school (after one’s support system is distant and scattered), and can cause depression or compel a person to rush into unhealthy social situations. When this happens, we need to be patient and remember that it took a while to make the great friends we already have. After all, true love and friendship take time and timing!

Here’s how to apply the principle of “positivity” to new situations:

Tip #1: Find people who share your values and interests. (It pays to make a list of your non-negotiable values in a friend before you enter your new environment.) Join a group, club, or team (make a big place small). Proactively seek out a small community where you’ll feel at home.

Tip #2: Steer clear of destructive/complaining/melancholy/unmotivated people, as well as those who don’t respect your values. Recognize not everyone is meant to be your friend. When you do have someone like this in your life, it’s not your job to cheer them up, make them happy, or provide positivity for them (this can lead to a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship).

Do you know any young people in this position—or getting ready to be? Maybe they are high school seniors getting ready to “launch,” new college students, or others who have moved away to take their first job in another city. Maybe they’ve joined the military and are in their first duty station away from home.

Whatever the case, encourage them not to get sidetracked by loneliness—and to choose the power of positivity. It pays to choose wisely!

Leadership for a Lifetime: Self-Awareness

When you look at yourself in the mirror, whom do you see? Is the image clear or blurry? Do you like what you see or wish you could have a makeover? Are you a kitten who sees a lion or a lion who sees a kitten?

Unfortunately, most of us lack a complete and accurate understanding of ourselves because our perception is distorted through our own biased lens. Each one of us is filled with valuable treasure, but for many it lies buried beneath the surface, waiting to be revealed. I daresay this is true for most adults, but it’s especially so with adolescents. Unfortunately, they’re making fundamental, life-changing decisions without truly understanding themselves.  We call this essential leadership quality self-awareness.

When it comes right down to it, teens and young adults are trying to answer these fundamental questions at this stage of life: 1) who am? 2) what do I have to offer? and 3) what are my opportunities? The first two get at the heart of their identity… their value proposition to the world. It’s vital that they get these answers right because they will heavily shape their future.

Within each and every person, there is a treasure of talent, qualities, assets, and skills. How would you like to mine that treasure in you? How about the treasure in your students, children, and others around you? How can you develop a clearer understanding of yourself and the tremendous value you have to offer—and help others do the same?

Here’s one way: Knowing that self awareness comes through self discovery and affirmation from others, we’ve developed a personal leadership assignment you can access here. It not only helps you assess your own unique assets/strengths, but it also captures the invaluable perspectives of others who know you well and have your best interests at heart. As you complete this project, you’ll have a much more complete and accurate perspective of…You!

Briefly, your assets fall into several categories:

  • Foundational Assets:
    • Physical: strength, speed, agility, dexterity
    • Mental: intelligence, reasoning, creativity, subject specific
    • Behavioral: personality, attitude, emotional intelligence
    • Spiritual: faith, values, inspirational experiences
  • Relational Assets:
    • Support System: companionship, security, love from others
    • Network: pool of personal and professional ambassadors
  • Aspirational Assets:
    • Experiential: credentials, life skills, service, leadership
    • Interests: knowledge pursuits, recreational, leisure
    • Passions and Dreams: desires, causes, purpose, impact

The power of gaining input from others as you inventory your strengths cannot be overstated. They will call out perspectives you either never realized or never fully appreciated. Remember the later scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when the Wizard honored the Scarecrow with a degree, the Tin Man with a heart, and the Cowardly Lion with a badge of courage? Each of them always had smarts, kindness, and courage, but it took someone else to reveal it for them to believe it!

Great leaders are self aware and lead from their strengths. They have an intuitive grasp of their uniqueness and value and how to offer it to others. Then they align their lives accordingly.

So, what are your greatest strengths? A commitment to self awareness will help you identify and develop them—and use them in a way that brings joy to you and is a benefit to the world!