Power & Influence –
Being the Author
“So, how do I manage this journey I am on as a teenager?”
“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end. ”
― Ursula K. Leguin
“OK, I have to form an identity as a young woman or man; develop a new relationship with my parents, new friendships and maybe romantic relationships; and build a whole bunch of competencies.
How do I do that?
This is a ten-year journey, full of unknowns and new stuff, with lots of ups and downs along the way.
Where do I find the guidance and strength?
I’m supposed to leave the dependence of childhood behind and take on the responsibility of being the author of my life as a young adult.”
How do I manage that?
Where is the Power? Six Strategies for Being the Author
There are six strategies that can help you become the author and find your way through the challenges of the journey. The trick is to figure out how to use the strategies to your best advantage.
The key, as always with the heroic journey, is becoming the author of your life. These strategies help do that. They are basic strategies, so adapt them, add to them – make them yours.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. ”
The Six Strategies
Each strategy brings benefits and together they can dramatically increase the amount of power and influence you have in creating the life you want.
Strategy #1: Understand and Face the Challenges Directly
Strategy #2: Create Your Heroic Code
Strategy #3: Put an Action Plan in Place
Strategy #4: Connect with the Right People – network of support
Strategy #5: Build Capability - mastery & habits
Strategy #6: “Hold the Course” - taking care of yourself, building resilience, dealing with setbacks
The teen heroic journey has a common foundation, yet plays out in a unique way for everyone. In a similar fashion the six strategies for managing the journey will need to be adapted and will look different for everyone.
There is Some Seriously Good News:
- These are the same strategies that you can use
- throughout your adult life, so any practice you get as a teenager, sets you up for success as an adult
- These strategies may be new to you, but they are very practical, well within your abilities – and they work
Table of Contents
“What’s Here? What Can I Get From this Section?”
Part One: Becoming the Author of Your Life
Power & Influence – Being the Author
At the heart of the heroic journey – your journey as a teenager – is the challenge to be the author of your life. It’s the journey from the dependency of childhood to the independence of young adulthood. And it is a long journey that plays out differently for everyone.
⦁ It’s about influence, not control
⦁ It’s about responsibility and choices
⦁ It’s about taking charge vs. letting life happen to you
⦁ Others will have scripts for you
More than anything, the process of becoming the author of your life is what separates a teenager from a child. ...Read More
“One of the things my parents taught me, and I’ll always be grateful for the gift, is to not ever let anybody else define me.”
Part Two: Six Strategies for Managing Your Journey
Strategy #1: Understand and Face the Challenges Directly (Courage to see the truth)
⦁ The Three Core Challenges
⦁ Forming an identity as a young adult
⦁ Building more mature relationships and connections
⦁ Developing the competencies of a young adult
⦁ Understanding and managing the journey
Strategy #2: Put an Action Plan in Place (Courage to Commit)
⦁ Personal plans
⦁ Basic elements of a plan
⦁ Examples of goals and actions
Strategy #3: Connect with the Right People – Build a
Web of Support (Courage to Engage & Rely on Others)
⦁ Who can I connect with?
⦁ Coach people in how to support you
Strategy #4: Build Capability - Mastery & Habits (Courage to act & persevere)
⦁ Where much of your power lies
⦁ OK – Good – Master?
⦁ The natural steps in mastery - “Learning to love the plateau”
⦁ We create our habits and then they create us
⦁ 7 steps to developing a desired habit
Strategy #5: Persevere - “Hold the Course” (Courage to Persevere)
⦁ Sometimes it just comes down to persevering
⦁ Strategies for developing resilience
⦁ The energy traps – challenges to the heart
⦁ Possible sources of life energy & renewal
⦁ Check-ins to stay on the path (3 questions)
Strategy #6: Create Your Heroic Code (Courage to commit)
⦁ The importance of a heroic code
Part Three: Barriers & Pitfalls
⦁ “I’m just a teenager. How much of an author can I really be?”
⦁ “Who am I to have a heroic code or plan for my life as a teenager?”
⦁ “Will people really support me? Am I worthy of their support?”
⦁ ”I’m just not mastering all this stuff. I’m falling behind. I’m tired.”
⦁ “I’m poor and have no resources. I live in a dangerous neighborhood/family. People are pulling me down.”
Part Four: Act When You Are Ready
You can currently be in any of four groupings based on how ready you are to take on “being the author.” You can also move from one group to another
⦁ “Look out world, here I come.”
⦁ “Pretty much ready to go, but not quite ready to go full speed”
⦁ “On the sidelines, but interested”
⦁ “Never going to engage.”
“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react.”
― John Maxwell
Part One: Becoming the Author of Your Life
“Am I facing life directly and making my way on this journey or just along for the ride?”
It will be a mix of both, but the challenge is to consistently increase how much you are the author and decrease how much you are just on “auto-pilot” or along for the ride.
It’s a process at the heart of the journey
Becoming the author of your life is a process – you have to learn how to do it and practice and build on experience. This is the big challenge of being a teenager – leaving behind the dependence of childhood and taking on the responsibility to be the author of a life.
As a child, you weren’t very much of an author
There were lots of people guiding and directing you with lots of rules in place. Then, as a teenager, you were naturally thrown into a journey where the expectation is that you take on the responsibility for your life – while the adults in your life try to figure out how much to hold on and how much to let go. It’s a dance and often an awkward and confusing one.
You and a President of a corporation have many of the same challenges
That may sound weird, but it’s true in many ways. There are six strategies required of a President and they are the same ones that will support you in being successful on the heroic journey. But, like the President of a company, you have to craft the strategies to fit your reality – and then persevere to implement them.
These are common strategies, but customized by everyone
Although these six strategies provide a solid common model, they will look different for everyone as everyone gets to design the steps for him or her-self. These steps won’t restrict you at all and they aren’t a step-by-step prescription. They just provide a focus for your attention and actions, so that you can act with increasing confidence.
How well you take on these six strategies will say a lot about how well and how fast you become the author of your life.
Part Two: Six Strategies for Being the Author
Each of these strategies can be a source of power and influence in becoming the author of your life and managing your journey as a teenager. They also apply to adult life, so if you get good at them as a teenager, you will be well positioned for adult life.
The key is to determine for yourself how to go about implementing these strategies – making them work for you. Everyone will do this differently, but talking with others can make a dramatic difference in how well you do this. Being a teenager is bets done as a team sport – even if a team of as few as two.
“I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility
that comes with his freedom.”
― Bob Dylan
Strategy #1: Understand & Face the Challenges Directly
(Courage to see the truth)
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
― Anais Nin Diary, 1069
Presidents of companies must understand the challenges their businesses face or they can’t focus actions. Basically, your business as a teenager is to successfully meet the big challenges of:
⦁ Forming an identity as a young adult
⦁ Developing more mature relationships and connections
⦁ Building the competencies of a young adult
⦁ Managing yourself on the journey and dealing with the emotional rollercoaster of endings, beginnings and “inbetweenity”
It’s always tough to look the dragons directly in the eye, particularly these three big dragons faced as a teenager, because they are so big and it takes so long to really deal with them successfully. That’s why it takes the courage to see the truth and the discipline to engage them directly.
Strategy #2: Put an Action Plan in Place (Courage to Commit)
Businesses have lots of plans – long-term strategic plans, annual operating plans, plans for each division, etc. You only need one because you can have some long-term goals and some short-term goals in the same plan. You can keep it simple and you can craft it to fit your needs, but the difference between having a simple plan and not having a plan is dramatic.
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
― Alan Lakein, How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life
The Hidden Challenge of Plans – They Are a Set of Commitments
Making a plan is a key part of being the author of your life. The sneaky challenge is that you must:
- Decide what is important
- Commit to action in a period of time
- Do it – act and persevere – “hold the course.”
This is being the author in word and action.
In business, people plan together. As a teenager, it would also be useful to plan with others. You might all be working on your own plan, but you would enrich each other’s plans significantly.
Basic Elements of a Plan
Plans come in all kinds of formats. There is no single “right way” to create your plan. The following four elements will give you a good foundation and you can add any other elements you like.
1. Your goals – what do you want to achieve, create, become? For goals that might take a long time, you can add interim goals (milestones along the way). You can add definition to your goals by defining how you would know if you had achieved the goal (sometimes that’s useful and sometimes the goal is clear enough by itself).
2. Key strategies/actions – what will you actually need to do in order to achieve your goal? A goal may only require a few actions, but other goals may require a bunch of actions.
3. Your timeframes – when will you start and by when do you want to achieve your interim goals or final goals? This can vary a great deal from goal to goal and sometimes you find that you have to extend the date, so don’t worry if that happens (unless it happens too much). The most important part is starting.
4. Your supporters – who can help you reach your goals? Remember, heroes don’t go alone. Adults pursuing corporate goals also need supporters, so get used to creating a web of support.
That’s about as simple as it gets, but simple is good in most cases. Once you have started planning you will probably find that you keep discovering ways to improve your plan and make it more useful. There are other elements you can put in a personal plan, such as resources required or barriers to remove, but the five that are noted cover most of the territory most of the time.
"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless,
but planning is indispensable."
― Dwight D. Eisenhower, President & Allied Commander in Chief in WWII
Five Keys to a Plan Worth Having
1. Do it - the process of planning is as important as the plan
Planning is a form of thinking – assessing, thinking about possible actions, making choices and committing, timing and sequencing actions, etc. Planning is just a way to guide thinking and set up for effectively acting.
2. Make it Yours - Make it what you want
Planning is a way to be the author of your life – to gain influence over what happens in your life. It should be about what you want in the vast majority of cases. There will always be some things that other want you to do or require you to do – that’s life – but most planning should be focused on what you want – bein g the author of your life.
3. Keep it Simple - don’t over-plan
Plans do not need to be big and complex and fancy. Simple is often best. If you find you need more detail, then add it, but start simple. And don’t worry about whether it is a perfect plan. An OK plan today is better than a perfect plan next month.
4. Give it Life - feed it attention & energy
If you followed the first three guidelines, then you probably have a plan or plans worth investing in. So, invest some time and energy and see where it takes you. Give your plan some life. Act on it.
5. Persevere & Keep it Flexible - life will intrude
Usually the pattern is that we plan, then reality intrudes and blows up the plan and we have to revise the plan – usually more than once. Having a good plan is important, even if reality interferes and we have to change it. What is often more important is our ability to learn from experience and refine our plan as we go.
Your initial timing may have been unrealistic, you may have missed something that helps or hinders your plan, new factors may appear, you may hit an unforeseen barrier or pitfall, etc. You can also hit spots where you get frustrated or tired or discouraged and in those spots, it’s a matter of simply putting one foot in the other until you get through the tough spot.
"Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start."
― Nido Qubein
- This is for you
- This is about you being the author and creating my life
- This is to guide you in reflecting on my life and what I can do.
- This is not about “completing” a task/plan
- This is not about complying with adult expectations
- This is about learning how to manage your life and the journey you are on
- This is important in your adult years also
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”
Strategy #3: Connect with the Right People – Build a Web of Support (Courage to Engage & Rely on Others)
Waiting for the resources to come to you is a mistake
You have resources that can support you in your journeys. The key, as the author of your life, is to use these resources. Waiting for others to somehow be the author for you doesn’t work. That was childhood, which is what needs to be left behind.
One of the keys for a company president (or any manager) is to make sure that they have the right people on the team. If you don’t have the right people on the team, it’s hard to play the game – even with lots of information and a great plan.
For you, on a heroic journey, this is particularly important
It takes courage to engage people in supporting you and then relying on them – but heroes don’t go alone. They never do in the myths and stories and they don’t in real life either. None of us will be very successful if we try to go alone on our journeys. Unfortunately, for teenagers this is particularly challenging because you are in the process of learning how to develop relationships that are deeper and more mature than those of childhood.
The good news
The good news is that there are a surprising number of people who will be willing to support you – if you ask – and sometimes help them support you. You do have to build your support network as they don’t usually form on their own.
Who Can I Connect With?
There are a surprising number of potential supporters out there. The key is engaging a bunch of people in small ways and not relying on just a few. That way no one will feel too much pressure and you will have lots of support from different perspectives. Plus, sometimes people leave your support network.
People in your support network can support you in achieving the goals in your plan as well as developing specific capabilities that you are pursuing.
AND you can support others in your network. It’s not all one way.
For example, you can call on:
- Family members
- Extended family
- Guidance Counselors
- Assistant Principals
- People in community organizations
- People in faith communities
- Colleagues/co-workers of parents
You might know these people through individual relationships or through groups, organizations or communities of which you are a part.
Coach People About How to Support You
Help Them Help You
You are asking people to support you not because you are weak or inadequate or “needy.” You are putting together a team to help you achieve goals so that you can realize your vision. You matter and are of significance, so you are worth supporting.
Many times, people simply won’t know that you want their support or what kind of support they can provide. They want to help, but don’t really know how. So, help them help you.
This can be as simple as saying, “I am pursuing these goals and, if you are willing, I would like you to support me by __________________ (fill in the blank).”
That may seem awkward, but in the majority of cases you will probably be very surprised at how willing people are to support you – they will like doing it. For most adults, teenagers are a mystery and they aren’t sure how to be supportive. If you tell them how to support you, you will actually be doing them a favor.
Go Forth Together
You can also “contract” with peers to go forth together – challenging and supporting each other on the journey. “Let’s go forth together and challenge and support each other. I invite you to challenge me to __________. And you can support me by __________.”
AND ask yourself how you can support others, particularly your peers. A good question is, “What role am I playing in other people’s journey?”
It Takes Courage
It takes courage to engage people in supporting you and then relying on them – but heroes don’t go alone. They never do in the myths and stories and they don’t in real life either.
Strategy #4: Build Capability - Mastery & Habits
(Courage to act & persevere)
Building capabilities is a central challenge, whether you are learning a new dance, learning new skills in a sport, learning algebra, developing relationship skills, learning to take care of yourself, etc. It is central to your life and will be throughout your adult years as well as your teenage years.
A note on habits. Habits are part of the mastery process, but are broken out here because of their importance.
Where Much of Your Power Lies
As a Teenager
The more you know about the process of mastery, the better – now and as an adult because this is a life-long challenge. As a teenager, you are naturally thrown into the unknown of the teenage years and out of the known world and safety of childhood. You face the need to develop an impressive range of new competencies – more than you will face at any other point in your life.
You need to avoid that trap by focusing on developing the capabilities that will make you successful as a young adult. That means taking responsibility for developing those capabilities and not just relying on school or family. Schools and families will address some of the capabilities, but not all. You will need to fill in the gaps.
In Building Organizations
In corporate change projects the challenge that sabotages more projects than any other is the failure to build capability. Businesses often define the desired future state, but then come up woefully short in helping people build the capability to be successful in that future state.
Consequently, most corporate change is disappointing because people resist leaving their known world – where they feel competent and safe - to enter the unknown in pursuit of a desired future where they might not be as competent or safe.
The Key for Both
The key for you as a teenager and for leaders of organizational change is the same. Follow the path of mastery and develop the skills and competencies required to be successful. To go very far down that path requires understanding what is natural and normal on the path and what it takes to navigate those challenges.
OK? Good? Master?
You don’t need to master everything. There are some skills or competencies that you only need to be OK at or good at. You really don’t need to be an expert at everything.
The path of mastery that you travel will be the same, but how far you travel on it will vary. You don’t need to go far on the mastery path to be OK at a skill. You need to go further on the path to be good at it. To master a skill or competency requires that you travel a long way on the path.
The Path of Mastery – The Basics
It’s a Journey
Remember that this is a journey and journeys happen over time – and they happen because we keep putting one foot in front of the other. Mastering competencies happens over time and with practice.
Getting to “OK” may not take too long or require too much practice and that will be enough with some capabilities. Getting to “good” will take a longer time and more practice, but will be worth it for other skills or competencies. “Mastery” will take a long time and a great deal of practice.
It Requires Practice
Competency doesn’t happen without practice, so try to see practice as a valuable activity that gets you what you want – not just something that you have to do. As hard as it is to feel warm and fuzzy about homework, homework is a form of practice that leads down the mastery path.
It is in practice that skills and competencies are built. In performing is where those skills and competencies are shown – but they develop primarily in practice.
“Heroes Don’t Go Alone on the Journey”
The pursuit of mastery also benefits from having people who can teach, coach, mentor, tutor and generally support you. It also helps to have companions. In other words – in most cases - mastery is a team sport.
Danger – “ Getting Discouraged”
The biggest danger in pursuing mastery is getting discouraged. There are always times on the heroic journey when discouragement, sometimes even hopelessness, intrudes and that can sidetrack or end a journey if we aren’t ready. The keys are (1) to realize that mastery has a rhythm to it and (2) we have to “learn to love the plateau” and trust our practice.
The Path of Mastery – The Basics“Learning to Love the Plateau” The Sneaky Challenge of Mastery
The Rhythm of Mastery
The rhythm of mastery includes times when our competency seems to be developing rapidly and it gets exciting as we make leaps. The practice obviously pays off. The natural rhythm of mastery also includes times when improvement just doesn’t seem to be happening – even when we practice as hard as ever. That’s the plateau and that’s where it is very easy to get discouraged, cut back on the practice and maybe even give up.
The Improvement Happens on the Plateaus
The weird thing about this is that the improvement happens on the plateaus, when we are often frustrated or discouraged - and shows up in the spurts of improved performance. This pattern is a natural part of the heroic journey, so expect it and don’t be discouraged by it. Learn to love the plateaus – where the improvement actually happens.
The Natural Steps in Mastery How the Rhythm Plays Out
- Performance Spurt. As we begin the process of mastery we often experience a spurt of increased ability that feels good and encourages more effort.
- Plateau. At some point following that initial spurt we hit a plateau where our ability doesn’t seem to improve despite continued, or even increased, effort. Sometimes there is even some loss of performance after a spurt. It is on the plateaus where we basically have to trust in the process and in our practice and keep going even without the encouragement that obvious improvement provides. If we do, we almost always come to the next period of leaps in competency – and probably won’t be able to see it coming.
- Warning! As that competence plateau extends despite efforts, it becomes very easy to get discouraged and lose heart.
- Drop Out? Losing heart leaves us vulnerable to giving up or investing less effort – we can get stuck or drop out. The danger is not in getting stuck – because we can get out of the stuck places. The danger is in getting discouraged and dropping out of the mastery process.
- Persevering. If we persevere and focus on “right practice” vs. immediate outcomes, we eventually experience the next spurt in increased competence.
- Another Performance Spurt. It is usually impossible to see the spurt coming, which is one reason the mastery process is so tough and why perseverance and “right practice” is so important.
- Repeat. The pattern repeats. Hopefully, we learn from early plateaus and aren’t discouraged, so that persevering becomes a way of life and we get better and better at mastering the competencies we need.
One “heads-up.” As we begin to master a competency the spurts can be less dramatic and the plateaus can get longer. The more we master a competency, the more this may prove to be true. Again, don’t be discouraged. It’s just the way it works.
We Create Our Habits and Then Our Habits Create Us
A habit is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously.
Habits save energy and time – good ones make things easier. Bad ones make things harder. But good or bad – they save time and energy because they are unconscious. We don’t have to think about them, we just do it.
Bad habits are hard to break – so focus on good habits. Sometimes you can substitute a new habit for a bad habit, but often you will need help in breaking a bad habit. It’s just not easy. It’s usually wise to focus on developing good habits.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Seven Steps to Developing a Desired Habit
"Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables."
― Spanish Proverb
1. Make sure it’s a habit that you want to develop. Make sure it’s really something you want to do and you can see the benefit of it.
2. Focus on the small steps (they can lead to big goals). Start, do little bits and form the habit. Once started, it is easier to grow. Work on the small habit for as long as it takes to becomes a ritual (something you're pulled towards rather than something that requires a lot of willpower).
Connect new habits to current habits or regular events. It helps develop a new habit when it can be linked to a current habit or a regular event. When I wake up in the morning, I do sit-ups before I get out of bed. It’s now automatic and I’ve done something before I even get out of bed. When I wanted to start a habit of reflecting on how I would conduct my day, I linked it to having coffee first thing (an existing habit).
"If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude."
― Colin Powell
3. Simplify - Create Routines
If you want to be able to have more mental resources throughout the day - to form new habits or just be creative – it helps to identify those parts of your life that can be turned into routines that happen the same way or at the same time. This is really not restrictive. It’s actually quite freeing.
Routines help get rid of clutter – they make decisions easier. The idea is to have fewer decisions to make, so you aren’t wasting time and attention on decisions that you’re probably going to make pretty much the same way. Then you can focus on the decisions that really need some thought.
There are lots of examples and most of them are small – but they add up. For instance, you can:
- Put out your clothes for the next day in the same place at night and then, when you wake up sleep deprived, you just stumble over and put them on.
- Do the same thing for anything you need for school or work the next day. The added benefit here is that you will forget fewer things.
- Brush your teeth immediately after a meal.
- Do your laundry the same night each week (if you do your own laundry).
- As soon as you get home, review your calendar to make sure you haven’t missed recording anything (like assignments) and know what’s coming
- There are lots of other examples.
The grass isn’t greener on the other side – it’s greener where you water it
4. Practice. That sounds simplistic, but practice is what builds the habit. Whether you feel like it or not, practice. If you are keeping your steps small, it’s not hard to practice even when you don’t feel like it. For more extensive habits, it might take more willpower.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."
5. Go public and get support.
This is surprisingly effective for a couple of reasons. First, telling someone about your desire to develop a new habit is a form of commitment – it’s out there now. Second, that person can be supportive and help keep the new habit going when it is young and vulnerable. You might find someone that also wants to develop a new habit and support each other.
6. Give yourself a reward. If you practice well, take pride in it and give yourself a small reward that acknowledges your commitment.
7. Be prepared to fail or break your habit. Setbacks, frustrations and failures can undo a good process of developing a habit. We’re human, so assume you will break your habit at least once and probably more before it develops (and after). Just acknowledge it as part of the normal process of development and move on. Don’t be hard on yourself. You can feel a little guilty (that’s healthy), but then just get back in the habit.
Strategy #5: Persevere - “Hold the Course” Track Progress, Renew Energy and Build Resilience (Courage to Persevere)
The heroic journey for teenagers takes a long time – eight to ten years or so. That means that a key to success being able to stay on the path and stay healthy. That means persevering.
- Becoming more and more resilient
- Avoiding the energy traps and finding the sources of energy
- Developing the awareness to stay on track and learn from the experience
These are also keys to life as an adult, but they are critical for the teenage years because of the number of challenges and changes and just how long the journey is.
"It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer."
― Albert Einstein
Sometimes it Just Comes Down to Persevering
Perseverance is refusing to quit, to give up in the face of setbacks, disappointments or losses. It is refusing to be a victim. There are times when anyone can be hurt, discouraged, depressed, scared or anxious, tired or worn out. You just can’t quit.
The journey is like a rollercoaster – often an emotional rollercoaster and sometimes a physical, intellectual or even spiritual rollercoaster. There will be ups and downs by definition. There will be successes and failures. The key is to enjoy the successes and the ups – and survive or power through the failures and the downs.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says…I’ll try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher-Hershey
You can build a foundation for perseverance. You will find that your ability to persevere will depend heavily on how much success you have had creating your vision and plan as well as how well you have done developing a web of support. That will help you deal with the challenges of mastery (remember “learning to love the plateau”?) as well as recovering from the inevitable setbacks and injuries that everyone encounters in some form of the journey.
Developing resilience is central to being able to persevere. And sometimes it just comes down to finding the courage to persevere.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
― Thomas Edison
Resilience – “Bouncing Back”
“Resilience is very different than being numb. Resilience means you experience, you feel, you fail, you hurt. You fall. But, you keep going.”
― Yasmin Mogahed
Resilience is the ability to successfully adapt to life - dealing with the inevitable stresses, traumas, threats and setbacks. Life comes with relationship problems, family problems, health problems, school and work problems. That’s just the way it works and our resilience helps us “bounce back” – hopefully increasingly strong, wise and resilient.
Resilience is not a characteristic that people are simply born with – or without. The good news is that research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. It involves thoughts and behaviors that can be learned and developed and it grows through experience. Some people are more resilient than others, but resilience is a surprisingly common characteristic of people of all ages, although sometimes you have to look for it when you don’t feel particularly resilient.
Being resilient does not mean that you don’t experience distress. Emotions like anger, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, doubt, depression, confusion, or lack of hope are natural in tough or traumatic situations. In fact, it’s not particularly healthy to not feel some of those emotions. The key is to experience and accept them and then manage them. That sets the stage for bouncing back.
Trauma/Opportunity. Different people will have different reactions to the same potentially traumatic event. Those reactions can range from being traumatized to
seeing a tough situation that provides the opportunity to grow and develop – to get stronger, smarter about life, more resilient, more mature. Sometimes after initially being badly hurt or traumatized, a person can even flip over into going after the potential opportunities for growth.
“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”
― Steve Maraboli. Life, the Truth and Being Free
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”
There is no magic formula for developing resilience
But there are things that you can do to help you build resilience in almost any setting. These actions will look different for different people, but they will work for almost anyone. The key is using as many of these actions as possible and not relying on any one or two.
It takes time and effort and experience. Resilience doesn’t develop all at once. You may not feel very resilient, but you can develop it.
The actions below aren’t just for developing “resilience.” They are pretty good strategies for life in general.
Use Your Support Network
Support networks have been talked about in most sections of this site – for a good reason. They matter – a lot. Whether face-to-face or digital, support networks can make a big difference in your resilience – your ability to bounce back from difficult or traumatic events. Remember – support networks can include individuals, groups or organizations that you are a part of.
If you don’t have a good support network, all is not lost. It just makes the other strategies for developing resilience more important.
Keep Things in Perspective
You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events.
- The area of difficulty or trauma is not the only area of your life, so don’t let it dominate (at least not for long).
- “Now” is not forever, so don’t let the difficulty or trauma color how you see your future.
- Avoid blowing the event out of proportion. The experience might initially seem huge, but then appear smaller when you have a chance to step back and look at it.
Take Decisive Actions
Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, even if they are small actions, rather than withdrawing or feeling paralyzed. Small actions matter, particularly when they keep coming.
Some of the decisive actions will relate to the other strategies in this section, for example calling on people or groups in your support network, taking care of yourself or focusing on engaging in activities you enjoy.
Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in significant ways as a result of their experience with traumatic or difficult situations. Sometimes those opportunities are obvious, but sometimes you have to look for them.
Remember what you’ve done in the past. Think back on experiences you’ve had where you had to bounce back from a loss you suffered or when you had to solve significant problems. You will develop resilience over time, but don’t ignore what you have already developed.
Take care of yourself. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find rewarding or stress reducing. This varies widely for people and can include activities like exercise, going to movies, surfing the internet for interesting sites, writing in a journal, going for walks, hunting, creating art, etc. It often doesn’t take much to make a big difference.
“My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.”
― Steve Goodier
The Energy Traps: "Challenges to the Heart"
Living Takes Energy - the Teen Journey Takes Lots of Energy
This section addresses how energy can be lost or quickly burned up. The next section looks at sources of energy – of which there are a surprising number.
One word of Caution
The energy traps that follow are natural and everyone must deal with them. They are just part of the landscape on the journey. Their existence does not mean that something is wrong or that mistakes have been made or that all is lost.
Reviewing the list is particularly helpful when energy starts to diminish. Sometimes just identifying a source of energy drain can take the power away from it. You can also talk with others and help each other deal with these energy traps
The fact that there are an impressive number of energy traps may be daunting, but that's the way it works on the journey. Everyone is dealing with these demons. The key is to:
- Know they are there;
- Understand that they are natural and not an indication that you are failing or inadequate; and
- Deal with them directly;
- Remember that heroes don’t go alone, so talk with others about how to deal with them.
Common Energy Traps Encountered on the Journey
⦁ Refusing to let go of old ways, relationships, images, affiliations,...
⦁ Losing sight of your vision or a lack of a sense of purpose or significance
⦁ Getting tired, worn-out (physically, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually)
⦁ Injuries/illness (hurt, pain, loss of function, etc)
⦁ Failure/defeat/losses/mistakes (those from which little or nothing is learned)
⦁ The unexpected
⦁ Disorientation and confusion
⦁ Negative self-talk
⦁ Becoming disconnected or separated from others
⦁ Difficulty of the learning process - awkwardness of new skills, initial drops in competence and performance, etc.
⦁ Stress - either too intense or unrelieved (chronic)
⦁ Anxiety and fear
⦁ Doubting the worth of the journey or the likelihood of success
⦁ Discouragement or despair
Elements Beyond You
⦁ Others’ fears and anxieties
⦁ “Nay-sayers” – “you can’t…” or ”who are you to…?”
⦁ Bullies, “mean girls”, people who are jealous of your progress, etc.
⦁ Lack of money or other resources
⦁ People who should support you, but fail to do so
⦁ A lack of opportunities
Sources of Life Energy for the Journey: The 70/30 Principle
One of the differences between these sources of energy and the preceding energy traps is that people on a heroic journey usually have more influence over the sources of energy than they do over the energy traps.
The 70/30 Principle
That is not true in every instance, but it does reinforce the 70/30 principle, which argues that it is best to spend 70% of your attention and effort taking advantage of the sources of energy and 30% dealing with the energy traps.
Being the Author
Taking advantage of these sources of energy is another direct challenge to "be the author". It means not allowing yourself to be the victim of the inevitable traps. This is a big list of possible sources of energy, so stay aware of just how many opportunities there are for you to take care of yourself. Some of these sources of energy are simple and some are more complex. Simple can still be powerful. The key is to draw energy from a bunch of these sources.
Possible Sources of Life Energy
⦁ Places of rest or renewal – where you can go that allows you to rest and relax – places that give you energy⦁ Celebrating success in meeting tests and challenges, (small successes as well as large ones)
⦁ Revisiting or renewing purpose and sense of significance or heroic code
⦁ Reviewing desired personal profiles or heroic codes or heroic spirit
⦁ Building competence and capabilities and employing them
⦁ Symbols and objects that have meaning to you
⦁ Receiving support from companions and helpers, healers, teachers, and mentors
⦁ Positive internal dialogue
⦁ The experience of learning (insights, skills, capabilities)
⦁ Time with pets
⦁ Time spent on hobbies
⦁ Sports or exercise
⦁ Listening to music
⦁ Creating artwork
⦁ Cooking or baking
⦁ Making things (from woodwork to knitting)
⦁ Going to movies
⦁ Writing in a journal
⦁ Being in a group that is fun or meaningful
⦁ Community service
⦁ Being part of a performing art
⦁ Playing on a team
⦁ Helping someone else
Staying on the Path – Three Questions
“History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.”
― B.C. Forbes
How will you review progress and stay on your path? The best way to do this is to keep it frequent and informal – and with others as much as possible. A good way to do a review is in three parts (celebrate, learn and determine next actions).
This three-part check-in also creates energy.
It’s focused on what you have done – not what you have not done. It celebrates small wins and draws learning from the experiences you have had whether successful or not so successful. It also focuses on what to do next.
1. First ask, “What do I have to celebrate right now?” These can be final goal achievements or steps on the way (even small steps).
2. Second, ask, “What have I learned?” You might have learned something about yourself, about what’s required to achieve a goal, about others, about relationships, about how the world works, etc.
3. Third ask, “What do I want to keep doing, start doing or stop doing?” This gives you a lot of power because you can keep identifying the most effective actions.
"The wonderful thing about saints is that they were human. They lost their tempers, got hungry, scolded God, were egotistical or impatient in their turns, made mistakes and regretted them. Still they went on doggedly blundering toward heaven."
― Phyllis McGinley
A Life-Long Skill
One of the benefits to paying attention to renewing energy and staying on the path as a teenager is that it naturally builds your ability to deal with change and that will be important throughout life. By paying attention you get more savvy, you become more resilient, and your confidence grows.
The teenage journey is a long one and your life energy will naturally go up and down along the path. If you get used to focusing some on the energy traps and how to avoid or manage them – but mostly on the sources of energy – you will not only be more successful on the teenage journey, you will develop good practices and habits for life as an adult.
Strategy #6: Create Your Heroic Code (Courage to commit)
A heroic (or personal) code is surprisingly important. It is a key part of being the author of a life and it is an acknowledgement that you matter – who you are and how you conduct yourself matters.
Your heroic code makes a big difference throughout the journey and it makes a particularly big difference in the middle of the journey when it can be confusing and frustrating or scary. It serves as a compass to help keep you on the desired path.
"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."
What is a Heroic Code?
A heroic code is the philosophy you have about life and the way you want to live it. You determine what defines you, the values you want to work toward and what you will base your decisions on. A personal code Influences attitudes, words, actions, and decisions.
It is Your Code
Your heroic code is your code – how you choose to live your life - not something imposed by anyone else.
Your heroic code helps answer the question, “Who am I and what am I about? Who do I want to be? Who do I admire and what do I think their heroic code might be?”
"Trust yourself. Then you will know how to live."
― Johann Wolfgang van Goethe
Forming a Heroic Code
The chapter on forming an identity as a young adult in the section on the three core challenges can provide a lot of guidance for this strategy. You may have captured a lot of thoughts on the worksheets in that chapter related to significance, values, characteristics and purpose.
It takes some exploring and searching to find your code and your code will probably change and evolve as you go. It is the process of exploring and developing your code that is of most importance.
You will not perfectly follow your code, but committing to a code and pursuing it will get you much further toward becoming a successful young adult than drifting or just reacting to what life presents.
"It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you are not."
You Already Have a Code
You have a code that guides how you live whether you are aware of it or not. The key is to make your code a conscious code – write it down. Then you have control of it and it can be a much more powerful and directed influence.
Your heroic code can simplify your life. You will know who you want to be in almost any situation. Your code will draw forth your best without you having to think about it
Living Your Code - It’s a Challenge
Although living by a heroic code draws forth your best and provides quiet guidance in almost any situation, it is not always easy to live by a code.
- Your code will sometimes ask you to do more than you want to do or take on uncomfortable actions
- It can be tough when you don’t live up to your code and have to own that (it happens to everyone)
- The toughest part is that sometimes living by your code means you won’t fit into a group or a relationship. Those will be groups or relationships that probably aren’t good for you, but it’s still tough to not fit in.
Being True to Your Code
“How am I doing?” Use the same three questions for staying on the path. Celebrate, learn, keep, start, keep
When unhappy with how you have followed your code in a particular situation (it will happen), can simply ask, “So, what might I have done differently?” You can also check to see if there is anything you can do to recover from a misstep.
“Real heroes are men [and women] who fall and fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they've stayed true to their ideals and beliefs and commitments.”
― Kevin Costner
Organizations Have Codes
Most organizations have some combination of missions, visions, values or codes of conduct that help define who they are and what is expected of their members. Some live up to their commitments and some do not. For those that make the commitment to “hold the course”, they usually find that these commitments provide a powerful foundation and culture.
Commit to a Heroic Code
Living by a code may sound strange or old fashioned, but it is a pretty central part of a life well lived. As with vision and purpose it is a commitment – to yourself. Your heroic code is simply a set of behaviors that you commit to, that you think reflects your best and will guide you on the journey.
For example, over time I have included the following in my heroic code (the combination has changed):
- I face challenges directly (usually good at this, but not always)
- I never diminish another (very good at this)
- I am aware of my significance – of what I am doing and why – bringing my best where it is needed (fairly good at this, but it comes and goes)
- I always take one more step than required (pretty good at this)
- I am kind (good at this)
- I am open to learning – not needing to be perfect (fairly good at this)
- I am disciplined and focused (Not good at this)
Note. What has made a big difference for me is letting others know what my code is and having them support (and challenge) me in following it.
"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."
― Edward Everett Hale
Part Three: Pitfalls and Barriers
You will hit barriers or fall into pitfalls several times along the way – maybe lots of time. You can’t avoid all of them and they are not an indication of failure. They are a natural part of the journey Just be aware and focus on avoiding as many as possible
These barriers and pitfalls will fall into five basic categories.
1. “I’m just a teenager” – how much influence do I really have – how much of an author can I really be?
Failing to get into the author role and letting life just happen to you is easy to do - and it will happen unless you commit to leaving the dependency of childhood and start experimenting with being the author.
Underestimating the influence you can have in determining your experience is normal, but those doubts need to be challenged directly. It’s a risk and doesn’t always go smoothly or quickly, but it’s at the heart of being a teenager on the journey to adulthood.
2. “Who am I to have a heroic code or a plan for my life as a teenager? If I have a code and a plan, I have made commitments I might not be able to fulfill. Am I a loser if I don’t fulfill my code or plan?”
Not creating a code for yourself to guide behaviors might seem safe, but it isn’t because it leaves you more vulnerable to forces outside yourself. Codes are commitments and they can inspire and guide actions, but they can also feel like demands and they certainly increase a sense of responsibility.
Another pitfall is forgetting that your plan is “your” plan – not what others expect or want. Your plan is another set of commitments – that you make to yourself – and can provide a lot of energy and guidance.
"A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more."
― Rosabeth Moss Cantor
3. “People won’t care enough to support me – am I worth their support?”
That is a natural and powerful question – and the answer is, “yes” you are worthy of their support. You will also need their support – not just as a teenager, but throughout life. Most people are very willing to be supportive, particularly if they know how to support you – so let them know.
Failing to create a support network and keeping it healthy (like a spider in a web) is a common pitfall for teenagers and adults. Putting a support network in place (even a small one) may feel awkward, but it’s worth it.
4. “I’m just not mastering this stuff. I’m falling behind others. I’m tired”
Letting frustrations, setbacks or failures cause you to doubt yourself, get into self-destructive behaviors or drain the energy from your efforts is a common pitfall. The journey from childhood to young adulthood is long and it’s tough, so there is no way to avoid the ups and downs, the doubts and confusion and just the amount of energy it takes. There are lots of “ups”, but the downs can dominate at times.
That’s when it’s important to remember that it is a journey, that mastery requires “learning to love the plateaus” along the way, that you need to rely on your support network (and maintain it), and that you need to focus on the possible sources of energy that are out there for you. And that perseverance is the name of the game – even when you don’t feel like it.
Failing to focus on the sources where you can get or renew your energy for the journey. Forgetting that mastery is a process with plateaus (where the ability is really built) and obvious spurts of performance may take quite a while.
5. I’m poor and have no resources and I live in a dangerous family or neighborhood with no support and lots of people trying to get me to go down a destructive path.
This is a scenario in which being the author is critical, although extremely difficult. While teenagers who live a privileged life may be able to let life just happen to them for a while (but only a while), those in this kind of environment need to act immediately and in any areas where there is even the smallest opportunity.
Having a vision of a desired future or a code, planning specific actions to move toward that future, engaging anyone who will support you – and then persevering – may not show big improvements for a long time, but it is the path that offers the most possibility.
"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it."
― Hellen Keller
Part Four: Act When You are Ready
There is no single “right way” to be a teenager and to manage your experience.
Although the heroic journey is the common path for teenagers, everyone’s journey unfolds in a unique way.
There are no "shoulds" – no guilt - if you are not ready to fully engage with these six strategies for managing your experience. Everyone develops at their own pace.
However – life won’t wait.
It’s important to at least be curious about what’s here and what you might do. You don’t need to be fully committed right now, but you do need to be engaged at some level.
This “what to do about it” section provides a way to integrate all of the thoughts you have captured throughout the site in a way that can dramatically increase the influence you have over your experience. The six strategies are surprisingly powerful in helping to become the author of your life. Start using them when you are ready.
Readiness – Four Groups
1. “Look out world, here I come.”
You are ready to go full speed – ready to go solo or in a group – ready to go after one or all three of the core challenges and develop your strategies to manage your journey. A surprising number of people will fall into this group, but it will definitely be a minority – mostly older teenagers that are starting to feel more powerful.
Action. Work through this section to create your vision and plan, develop a support network and pay attention to your progress (persevere). Pay attention to what it feels like to be the author of a life.
"I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me."
– Dr. Seuss
2. “Pretty much ready to go, but not quite ready to go full speed”
You may be ready to focus on one of the core challenges or the nature of the journey. You may be curious and ready to experiment, but not ready to be really disciplined in working with the six strategies. Most people will fall into this category – and that’s fine.
Action. Explore the different sections in the site and see what strikes your interest. Try creating a simple vision or plan and see what a support network might look like. Act where your interest lies and see what starts to unfold. Talking with others or engaging with a group can help a great deal.
3. “On the sidelines.”
You are finding topics of interest on the site, but not ready to start pulling things together and acting in an organized way. But, you might engage if in a strong relationship with someone that is already engaged or in a group that is going forth together. This is a category that a lot of people fall into, particularly younger teenagers. Even on the sidelines a lot can be going on that prepares you to engage more actively. This is kind of a “preparing to go forth” group.
Action. Just be curious and poke around to see what might be of interest and see where it leads you – trust that you will act when you are ready – just stay engaged in exploring your journey. At some point, someone or some experience will probably come along and cause you to think, “OK, time get more serious about this stuff.”
4. “Never going to engage.”
You are blaming others or “life” for your problems. You are letting life happen to you. You are reacting to what happens vs. making things happen.
Almost everyone will have some of this experience, but most people move beyond them. Those that don’t are in trouble – and so are the people around them. Sometimes an event will help people get out of this rut and sometimes someone will intervene, but some people never get out
Action. Use the site even if you don’t feel like it (if you are in this group right now, you won’t feel like it). Sometimes you just have to act even if you don’t see the point. If you run into someone willing to help you, accept the help. If you can join a group that is taking on the journey – do it because the group can supply the energy you may not feel.
Being in this group is not a failure. Staying in this group for too long will be.
"Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills -- against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence... Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation...
It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man (or a woman) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he (or she) sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
― Robert F. Kennedy, speech Day of Affirmation, University Of Capetown, South Africa