How does a teen who can't remember his lunch money or his homework and rarely makes his bed become an adult who creates the kind of life that brings him meaning, purpose... and joy? Does he just magically stumble into the keys to life in high school, or college?
That's a good question, and one that parents everywhere struggle with. Is there a magic moment?
I would say, rather than a magic moment or a key secret, it's more of a perspective that teens can be taught by their parents.
Time and again, I've found in my work a particular quality that makes a profound difference in every phase of a teen's life, and that's the ability to look into the future and paint an image in his mind of what he wants it to be like. Orienting our teens to look towards positive outcomes is critical to success.
A run-in with failure can be devastating to the inexperienced. And without being taught how to respond to it, it can be destructive in its impact on a person's confidence. But it's far more easily managed when you can see a positive outcome in the end.
A project is more exciting when you can visualize a successful result. Life itself is engaging, stimulating and worthwhile when you can see that the path you're on is the one where you're truly alive. At times like this, you know the direction you're heading is right, and you can feel it in your gut.
Envisioning your future is the ability to project into the future that you're living the life you want, and the success that you will have then becomes a driving force now to get there. This is a skill that teens can develop with guidance.
Parents, tell your stories. Give an example of when you projected an outcome and it was successful. What will happen if X takes place? What will occur if you do Y and Z?
Tell the stories about your own run-ins with failure... and how you turned it around. Share how you had vision for your own future and all the things you did to help bring it into reality. Go into detail about how your own vision kept you on track in pursuing your dream.
Visualization also plays an important role in envisioning someone's future. Show your teen how you painted a picture in your mind of your life taking the form you wanted it to take.
Creating a mental picture of an ideal outcome greatly increases its likelihood.
And here's another way you can help: Show your teen how to recognize the powerful link between cause and effect. When you contribute negative or destructive elements to your life, like blame, apathy or negative friends, the outcome is not likely to be positive. But if you invest in positive things, like choosing healthy relationships, investing in reading and school and practicing a healthy lifestyle, the outcome is likely to be progress toward your dreams.
By the same token, if your teen falsely believes that success stems from chance, there's little reason for them to envision or look forward to what's to come. But when your teen sees the truth -- that our causes trigger effects -- they gain a sense of control, of hope and of excitement about what's to come. And they invest in it.
So, let's teach our teens to become visionaries so they can truly live the meaningful lives they want. Let's model the path to get there, and who knows? ...Maybe we as parents will find better paths in our own lives, too.