What We Can Learn From Graduation Season

05/21/2015 09:46 am ET | Updated May 21, 2016
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Julie sat in the stands looking over the rows of empty chairs lined up on the football field, waiting to be filled by the graduating class. All around her, families and friends were taking their seats, waiting expectantly for the ceremony to begin. Cameras were held at the ready and rosters swayed back and forth, mimicking fans in the heat. Flowers wrapped in clear plastic tried not to wilt, while balloons swayed aimlessly. As the stadium neared capacity, the master of ceremonies, Dr. Gatson, briskly walked to the microphone on stage and welcomed all those who had gathered to commemorate this milestone in life.

At the end of Dr. Gatson's short speech, the classic graduation anthem began playing on the loudspeakers, raising everyone's anticipation level even more. As the tune continued, the students entered the stadium wearing gowns and hats in a uniform navy blue, the color of Bogaley High School, and waving their arms in a gesture of triumph. Having a whole stadium filled with people relishing their accomplishment brought more power to the moment.

As Julie sat on the edge of her seat, awaiting her cousin Stacey's appearance in the stadium, she was filled with nostalgia and memories. She was so proud of Stacey for accomplishing so much in the four years of high school. Late-night study marathons, relentless track and field practices, social events, learning to drive and maneuvering through the world of dating were just a few of the memories that raced through Julie's mind. They were more like siblings than cousins; sharing was so easy between them despite the nine-year age difference. Now, Stacey had been accepted into the University of California, Los Angeles, one of the state's top universities, and like many others there that day, Julie contemplated her cousin's many achievements with pride.

On graduation day, accomplishments and growth are recognized and celebrated. Unfortunately, our thought processes on such days do not match our thought processes on most other days of the year. Instead, we usually focus on what we have yet to achieve, the dreams that still seem to be floating far, far away, in the clouds. But what if more days were like graduation day - dedicated to recognizing both our own accomplishments and those around us?

Most of us tend to look at our lives as 'cup-half-empty' rather than 'cup-half-full.' With so much we want to accomplish in the future, we rarely look back and see how far we've truly come. Some people even feel shame about their lives because of abuse or trauma that they've had to endure. But the fact is, the more a person has endured, the more they should celebrate being a survivor. No human story is without its villains and dark passages.

To go through hardships and challenges is part of the human condition. Yet, people become so identified with the negative aspects of what they've undergone that they hardly notice, let alone give credit to, the internal strength they've built up, the lessons they've learned or the grace of life that carried them through the trying times. It is in honoring these personal and life characteristics that we empower ourselves. The achievements, however big or small, need to be acknowledged because they will enhance the perspective of a well-balanced life.

Spending time in positive self-reflection will allow your mind to recognize the abundant gifts you have already received, and achieved. Recognizing how far you've come will actually provide the fuel you'll need for continuing. Give yourself credit. Tell yourself, "I am enough." Don't wait for external milestones like graduation ceremonies to congratulate yourself or others on achievements.

Because the truth is, what we focus on will expand. If our main focus is on how much more we have yet to achieve, we will come from a place of lack and continue to expand on that mindset. However, if we focus on all that we have accomplished, we will come from a place of abundance, and continue to build on that mindset.

Once you recognize and honor your accomplishments, you will carry that energy, causing others to respond to you in the same way. The way we feel about ourselves will set the precedence for all of our interactions. One of the basic human needs is for validation, and the most profound validation comes from our own selves.

So go ahead, celebrate yourself and fill your cup of life!
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