Stop Comparing; Change the World

I often hear from young people that they feel dissatisfied with their lives. They report feeling lost, unnoticed, and hard-done-by, and that everyone else seems to have it better than them. And exactly where are they perceiving these messages from, you might ask? Social media.

With social media (sadly) being the chief influencer of millennials, many teens and young adults find themselves comparing themselves to “Instagram celebrities,” and therefore feeling inadequate for not measuring up. Of course, we all know that “social media isn’t real,” but it can in fact be very hard for some people to separate what they see on Facebook or Instagram from reality. They are constantly bombarded with images of success, wealth, unattainable body ideals, and other unrealistic expectations. They’re left feeling lost, unworthy, and searching for a meaning that nothing on social media will ever give them.

If you have a teen or college student in your life (or if you are one yourself), I encourage you to share this message with them.

The times in my life when I have experienced pure joy and fulfillment have been when I did things that had a lasting impact on other people. Not when I lost a certain amount of weight, not when I bought a new car, not when I bought a whole new wardrobe, not when one of my posts was liked by hundreds of people, and not when I had a certain number of friends (online or in real life).

It’s crucial for young people to understand that true joy comes from doing good for others and using their gifts and talents to impact the world for the better. It most certainly won’t come by comparing yourself to social media stars or to the most popular students in your class. .

To the young people, I urge you: your time is now. Now is the time to serve others and impact the world. If you want to experience meaning and ultimate joy, turn off your smart phone and aim to make your life a living legacy by using the best that you, uniquely, have to offer. In this way, you’ll see your impact firsthand while inspiring others in the process. And, you’ll be changed for the better, too!

If you are finding comparison hanging over your life like a dark cloud, find a cause you’re passionate about or an issue you believe needs addressing, and chase after it. In this blog post, you will find some tips for discovering what inspires you and how to make your impact..

What opportunities will you pursue today to invest in others and help make life a little (or a lot) better for someone else? Strike while the iron is hot, and start building your legacy.

Remember, what you see on social media will ebb and flow. Trends and celebrities will change, but your legacy is what will last forever. Don’t wait to change the world!

3 R’s for the New Year: Reflections, Resolutions, and (No) Regrets

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Looking back on 2015, do you have any regrets? Are there things you did and wish you hadn’t—or things you didn’t do and wish you had? Any relationships that are strained? Opportunities missed?

We all have regrets from time to time. However, you can minimize big ones (or avoid them altogether) if you periodically ask yourself the regret question and then actually do something about it. The new year is a great time to start, but reflecting on our regrets and resolutions is a great practice to adopt all year long.

For many people (myself included), personal reflection time is the area we sacrifice when our lives get busier. Unfortunately, when this happens, we can get out of balance, grow impatient, and often burn out. We’re not at our best. That’s why it’s so important—at New Year’s and all the year through—to take time to unwind and reflect. Frankly, it’s the only way we can go deep with ourselves—to explore how we’re doing and consider where we’d like to go. Find a place that inspires you and quiets your soul, and let your mind ponder some new growth possibilities. (If you are a person of faith, it’s a great opportunity to include prayer for discernment and wisdom.) You’ll be surprised by your renewed spirit and by the new ideas and insights that can surface during quiet times like this.

I also find there is wisdom to be gained from older people who are in a naturally more reflective stage of life. When I’ve asked some of them about their life regrets, I’ve heard things like:

  1. I didn’t spend enough time with my loved ones.
  2. I didn’t tell my family and friends that I loved them often enough.
  3. I was too stubborn or proud to admit my mistakes and apologize.
  4. I chose bitterness over reconciliation.
  5. I allowed my life to be consumed by work.
  6. I was too hesitant to take risks, try new things, and believe in myself.
  7. I wasted too much time.
  8. I didn’t appreciate the little things in life.
  9. I valued things over relationships.
  10. I worried too much.

Do any of these apply to you? Be honest! Although regrets run the gamut, did you notice that most involve relationships and priorities? This is why it’s so important that our life be balanced and our priorities right. When we see something is out of order, let’s resolve to make a mid-course correction.

After some time for reflection, ask yourself what resolutions you’d like to make for the upcoming year, especially those that might minimize regrets next New Year’s Eve. The Oxford English Dictionary describes resolutions as “(decisions) to do or to refrain from doing a specified thing from that time onwards, or to attempt to achieve a particular goal, usually during the coming year.” What have you been doing that you’d like to stop doing? What have you not been doing that you want to begin? Are there new growth opportunities or experiences on your bucket list? Then don’t stop there. Turn your resolutions into goals and your goals into executable actions. That’s living with intentionality!

This discipline of regrets, reflection, and resolution is a good one for all ages. Consider sharing it with the young people in your life. It will help you—and them—make needed changes and “relationship repairs” along the way. Wouldn’t it be great, though, to reach the end of 2016—and even to the end of life—and be able to say, “NO (or few) REGRETS?”

Image credit: Brianna Showalter
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Out with the Old, In with the New!

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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.

Raising Purposeful Children

ID-10089296Somewhere in the midst of final exams, prom, Friday night sporting events and texting with friends, American teenagers are setting a course for their future. They’ve been asked a thousand times, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now, as they approach adulthood, it’s almost show time. For some, the path is clear, while for many (most!) others, it’s a colossal question mark. No wonder recent surveys are showing that teens are more stressed than adults!

The good news is that parents can play an extremely beneficial role at this pivotal time in their teens’ lives. Through effective coaching and affirmation, we can help our teens navigate these years of uncertainty with confidence and purpose. We can help them answer the fundamental questions of who am I, what do I have to offer and what are my opportunities. Here’s how…
Every child is unique and filled with treasure (assets) to offer the world. Unfortunately, most people – adults sometimes included – don’t have a complete and accurate understanding of their value and all of their assets. Some assets are obvious, but in other cases, the treasure lies buried beneath the surface waiting to be revealed. This is a huge issue during adolescence when teens are often planning their future through a blurry windshield.

Parents: as your teen’s biggest fan, this is where you come in. You can help mine your child’s treasure by inventorying his or her assets. Sit down one-on-one with your teen and talk through his or her strengths. By doing so, you’ll improve your teen’s self-awareness and self-confidence, as well as provide a clearer vision for the future.

One way to facilitate this conversation is by having your teen develop his or her Personal Balance Sheet.  This tool helps identify and inventory an individual’s assets through self-assessments, feedback from others, and surveys. The one I developed is available here. This balance sheet offers powerful insights for helping plan your teen’s future – plus, it’s fun to complete!

Cultivating a Purposeful Mindset
Adolescence is also a time to begin considering how we’ll offer ourselves – and our talents – to positively impact the world. Life purposes are generally cause-driven (e.g., curing a disease, educating disadvantaged youth, sheltering the homeless, cleaning the planet, protecting our country) or skill-driven (e.g., athletes, artists, mathematicians, designers). Some of the most powerful are a blend of both. Importantly, purposes are not always tied to our careers. After all, some of our most significant work comes through community service and family management!

  1. What causes (e.g., global or community needs, people groups, situations, organizations) am I most passionate about?
  2. What problems would I most like to solve?
  3. What inspires me the most?
  4. What brings me the greatest joy and sense of fulfillment?
  5. Whose life would I most like to emulate and why?
  6. What are my special gifts and talents?
  7. Where can my skills have the greatest potential impact?
  8. What experience has had the greatest influence on me?

These questions provide great fodder for personal reflection and family discussions. They’re worth answering throughout our adult lives, too.

By helping our children discover their uniqueness and value and by training them to be purposeful, we give them a gift of a lifetime. And, when we see them live it out, there’s nothing more fulfilling in the world.

Have you started talking with your teen about his/her life purpose and life goals? What tools have you used to help them discover their passions?

 

Image courtesy of: freedigitalphotos.net, photo by: Imagerymajestic

8 Ways to Find Your Purpose

“Great minds have purposes; others have wishes.”

Washington Irving

           What in the world are you doing here?  Ever asked yourself that question?

            Your life purpose is an incredibly powerful force that will direct your life and determine the legacy you will leave behind you. Find a successful person who is content and fulfilled, and you’ll likely find a life guided by an inspired purpose or mission, and a person who has applied his or her unique talents to a worthy cause.

            Knowing your life purpose—what makes you tick, what motivates you, what you are alive on earth to do—is what ignites passion.

            What makes YOU tick … and if you don’t know, how can you find out?

            Passion inspires initiative and creativity. It’s what builds momentum and creates enthusiasm. It also sustains hope and perseverance in difficult times, and provides a reason (and enthusiasm!) for getting out of bed every morning. However, it’s not always easy to identify what your particular passion is.

            Life purposes can be cause-driven (e.g., curing a disease, educating disadvantaged youth, sheltering the homeless, cleaning the planet, protecting our country) or skill-driven (e.g., athletes, artists, mathematicians, designers).

            How can you discover your life purpose(s)? Here are eight questions to ask yourself that can help you figure it out:

1.     What causes (e.g., global or community needs, people, situations, organizations) am I most passionate about?

2.     What problems would I most like to solve?

3.      What needs or people tug at my heart?

4.     What inspires me the most?

5.     What brings me the greatest joy and sense of fulfillment?

6.     Whose lives would I most like to emulate and why?

7.     What are my special gifts and talents?

8.     Where can my skills have the greatest potential impact?

            Once you ponder these questions, see if a picture emerges about what inspires and motivates you. Then, as that picture solidifies into an identifiable sense of purpose, calling, and passion, start thinking about how you can live it out. Keep in mind that there may be more than one, and that it may evolve or change over your lifetime.

            Whatever you do, don’t set your life purpose on a shelf and forget about it. You are a unique individual with gifts, talents, and perspective only YOU can give to the world.  No amount of money, fame, or accomplishment can ever compete with that!

Someday, you’ll want to be able to look back on your life and say, “Mission accomplished!” What’s your mission? Are you living it out with purpose and passion? Please visit us on our website and share your comments;  we’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

Give the Gifts that Keep on Giving

What do you want for Christmas?” It’s probably the most asked question this month. There was a time when my Christmas list was a mile long, but now it’s filled with hopes for others—especially for the young people in this world. (Truth be told, my first career desire was to be Santa.)

 It is said that the first half of one’s life is the “accumulation stage” and the second half is the “distribution stage.” During the accumulation stage, you’re in “gathering mode,” spending your efforts on life’s needs and wants. You build a career, buy and furnish a house, start a family, save for retirement, and buy lots of things along the way.  But is that all there is to life?

Then, one day, usually around 50 when, you have all the toys you need and the kids aren’t kids anymore, you become more motivated to give back. You discover that the joy of giving is greater than the joy of receiving, and your perspective changes dramatically. I’m a typical case—it happened to me around 49! That’s when my life focus shifted to helping children and young adults lay a solid leadership foundation for life.

Did you notice how the first half of life tends to be more skewed toward self and family? And, in the second half how the focus often shifts toward others? Had I known this earlier, I would have sought more balance in my accumulation stage and started my distribution stage sooner. The joy and satisfaction that comes from giving our time, talent, and treasure so outweighs the fun of accumulating that I regret not starting this process earlier.

As I write this, it’s the Christmas season. Opportunities for giving and sharing abound. But hopefully directing our lives toward others will not be a once-a-year event. By starting earlier and making it last the whole year long, we receive far more in return than we give.

Do you want your life to have more balance, your spirit to soar, to make new friends, and maximize the impact of your life—and make the world a better place in the meantime? Embrace the gift of giving of yourself this holiday season… then make it the gift that keeps on giving, into January, the New Year, and beyond.                                   

Take a few-second self-check: Where are you centering your life? How are you modeling this principle to the young people in your life? Share your insights and ideas with us; we’d love to hear from you!

 

Give Thanks, Give of Yourself

This week I am thankful—not for what I have for myself, but for what I have to give away. Really, life’s greatest joys come not in the getting, but in the giving. Don’t you agree?
 
            I have special admiration for people who commit their lives to serving others. They’re not motivated by fame or fortune, but rather by joyful service. Their qualities of generosity, empathy, compassion, and kindness seem to come naturally to them, and they’re inspiring treasures to us all.

 
            How you eventually impact the world will be driven by what you have to offer and what you choose to offer. What do you uniquely have to offer the world?
 
            This is a profound question, and one that will evolve throughout your lifetime. At any point, though, your personal assets will generally fall into three categories: your time, talent, and treasure.
 
            There are many different avenues that allow you to allocate these resources to serve others. To decide how best to give what you have to benefit others, there are three main questions to consider:

  • What talents and skills do I have to offer?
  • What groups or community segments (e.g., youth, elderly, homeless) do I feel most called to help?
  • What organizations will allow me to use my talents to help those I feel most passionately about?

 
            I encourage you to develop a servant’s heart as a way of life, embodying the qualities of generosity and compassion in your everyday dealings with people. Learn to proactively and instinctively use all three of your “asset” categories when various situations arise to which you contribute—not just money, but also yourself.


            Living life with a servant’s heart will bring help and hope to others and immense joy to you in return. You’ll receive far more than what you give. Nothing compares with using your gifts and talents to improve the world around you. This is the true spirit of Thanksgiving!

 
Have you experienced the deep thankfulness that “giving yourself away” evokes? Looking ahead, what new ways do you envision using your time, talent, and treasure to make the world a better place? Share your responses by commenting below; we’d love to hear your stories and ideas!
 

Don’t Wait to Change the World!

Not long ago, I spent a day with high school students at a prestigious prep school. It was technically a “day off” on the school calendar, but over 150 courageous students showed up for this special program focused on tackling difficult life issues. The stories in my group ran the gamut, but they mostly involved a lack of parental love, excessive pressure to perform (coming from parents), and the drive to be popular (with peers). It was gut wrenching at times. 
 
          What struck me about this experience was: 1) the willingness and transparency of the students to admit need and be open to the wisdom of the adult mentors, and 2) the humility and commitment of the adults to also be transparent and real, and to invest their time and energy in our younger generation. This was but one small opportunity in a field of millions, and I felt honored to serve.
 
          All around us there are people and causes that would benefit from our time, our energy, our input, our investment. Are you paying attention to the ones that would benefit from you? In What I Wish I Knew at 18, I encourage my readers to take some time to evaluate what  “causes” inspire them and provide some guidelines for discovering what those are. You can also find those guidelines in my recent blog, “Know Your Purpose, Live Your Passion.” 
 
            Which opportunities will you take today to invest in others and help make life a little (or a lot!) better for someone else? Strike while the iron is hot and build a living legacy. Someone out there needs exactly you!



            Don’t wait to change the world!     
 

What are some examples in your life where you experienced pure joy and fulfillment? Or, where you had a significant impact on something or someone? Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below; we’d love to know how YOU’RE changing the world!
 

We All Need to Know We Matter

 

Last week we talked about how a defining purpose inspires a life of passion. Unfortunately, for some, that’s easier said than done.
 
Take teenagers who receive no expressions of love or healthy modeling from home: it doesn’t take long for that deficit to show up in academics, motivation, and demeanor. In acts of desperation, they join gangs or get pregnant or drop out of school. It’s a tragic cycle that has become all too common, with one unhappy ending after another.
 
During the past year, I’ve had many opportunities to speak with teens and young adults who are, in one form or another, facing a crisis of relevance. They see school as irrelevant, and worse yet, themselves as irrelevant. Some of their questions:
 

  • “What am I worth when my parents never tell me they love me?”
  • “What’s the point of staying in school? I’ll never use this stuff anyway.”
  • “What can I do to convince my father to let me live my dream?”
  • “I’m not that smart in academics. Can I still become a great leader?”

 
These conversations can be heart wrenching. But, interestingly, these are the kids who are most engaged in my talks on leadership! They ask the most questions and ask to share in private. They’re searching—for hope, relevance, and worth—even though it may not appear that way on the surface.
 
We’ve got to give it to them. All of them! Until young people see the relevance and value of their lives, there’s simply no way they’ll reach their full potential.
 
Here are some ways adults can help:

  • Recognize that no one (especially a young person) has a complete and accurate perspective on all he or she has to offer—whether character qualities or skills. They need the perspectives of others who can offer a more complete picture of their worth.
  • Parents can ensure each of their children understands his or her unique value, and avoid showing favoritism toward siblings through words or attention.
  • Educators can offer opportunities for skills/aptitude assessments and programs where friends, relatives, and mentors honor each student with expressions of value. For example, some innovative schools hold special retreats where students receive letters collected from important people in their lives—life changing keepsake experiences.
  • Look for opportunities to “speak life” into young people and encourage them to do the same.

 
Remember, relevance breeds hope and hope breeds motivation and direction. It’s a vital gift to give the young people in your life. Give generously.
 
Are you aware of the need for the young people around you to feel a sense of significance–and how much it means to to their ability to succeed in life? In what ways do you “speak life” into them, to make a difference that can last a lifetime? “Share” this blog with a friend, and let us know your thoughts and suggestions by commenting below!