Part Two: 5 Things You Can Do – “Power of Action”

“Being the Author”

Being the author means to make decisions and take actions with intent. These are decisions and actions that are yours – your choices, not someone else’s.  You can be guided and coached by others, but ultimately your choices and actions are yours to make.

Even if you don’t feel powerful – and initially it’s very likely that you won’t – you can still act in ways that combine to be powerful and help you regain a sense of being in charge of your life.  Whether you are able to move quickly or slowly, the key is to commit to yourself and act.

There are five areas in which you can take those actions.  You can focus on one or two of these areas or you can choose a few actions in each area.  These areas will all be important throughout your teen journey, so it’s just a matter of what you want to do now.


The most common way that people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.


#1 Craft Your Identity – “Who Am I?” – Identity

This is one of the three core challenges of being a teenager – crafting your identity as a young adult – and it offers an opportunity to act powerfully.  Part of the power can come from talking with others that you trust about identity.  People you trust can be good sounding boards for you and they can provide you with perspectives on you that you wouldn’t necessarily see.  So talk with others.

Focus on the many elements in your “identity puzzle.”  You can also think of it as your brand. There are a surprising number of elements that go into your identity.  Just a few include your values, purpose, personal qualities, race, gender, sexual orientation, capabilities, nationality, religion, etc.  Just review the identity section and see which parts speak to you now – which ones you want to define and add to your identity puzzle.

Keep the trauma from becoming too big a part of your identity.  Whatever significant trauma has happened to you is certainly a part of your life, but it does not need to define you.  It happened to you, but it isn’t “you.”  You are much more, so this is a good time to explore just what that ?more” looks like.

Watch how you are talking to yourself.  You can build yourself up and you can tear yourself down.  We all have little – or not so little – voices in our heads that are very active.  It’s called self-talk and it’s powerful.  So pay attention to what those voices are saying and make sure they are mostly positive.  That’s not easy because too much self-talk for people tends to be negative.


It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.

Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the

Be careful online.  There may be a lot of connections that you can make online.  But you will need to be careful because of being vulnerable after being knocked down – particularly if you were knocked down online.  Be genuine in what you put online, but be careful because you will be saying, “This is me.”

#2 Develop Your Relationships – Relationships

This is often the toughest of the three core challenges.  That is because so many relationships are changing and because developing and maintaining relationships is not easy.  Relationships are based on “fit” and “fit” is tough when everyone involved is growing and changing.  So almost everyone is a moving target – peers, parents, romantic partners – and you.  Two people can be great individuals, but not have a great “fit” at a point in time.

Pay attention to your current relationships.  Your current relationships may or may not have been significantly affected by your trauma.  The impact may be positive or negative.  And you may have changed so that you need something different in some of your relationships.  Old relationships may need to change a bit and new relationships may be very important.  Work to be clear about what you need from your relationships and be ready to let people know.

Pay attention to what you bring to a relationship.  Most people aren’t very aware of how much they bring to a relationship, which can range from curiosity, honesty and a sense of humor to compassion, empathy and a willingness to listen.  Healthy relationships also have some common characteristics, which can be helpful in identifying what you might bring.

Your trauma may have undermined some of your friendship abilities or it may have actually increased them, but it’s important to take stock now.  And you will bring some common things to your relationships as well as bringing specific things to specific relationships.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring - all of which have the power to turn a life around.


Keep trying if first efforts don’t work out.  This relationship developing really is tough and there will be successes as well as disappointments, so persevering and being resilient are key (as they are in most of life).  Remember that with peers, parents and romantic partners everyone is changing, so “fit” is an ongoing challenge and requires some flexibility and experimentation.

In terms of getting what you need, particularly as it relates to recovering from getting knocked down, you may need to help people bring you what you need by being very clear about what it is that you want from the relationship.  That’s not a bad approach in general, but it’s particularly important when you’re recovering from getting knocked down.

You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.

A. A. Milne, Winnie the

#3 Build Your Competencies – Competencies

This is the third core challenge on the teen heroic journey and it offers some opportunities that are easier to go after than the identity and relationship challenges.

Approach this challenge with a sense of excitement and anticipation. It’s easy to be intimidated by all the competencies required to be a successful young adult, but building competencies is the challenge where you may have the most influence and you don’t have to build them all at once.  Nor do you have to master all of them.  Some you just need to be OK at and some you need to be good at.  You only need to master a few that are most important to you.

Building competencies is a great practice to develop as a teenager because it will make a difference in the short term as well as making a dramatic difference in your adult life where building competencies will be an ongoing challenge.

The competencies you can build range from academic competencies and self-management competencies to life skills and hobbies.

If you are not willing to learn, no on can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.


Just choose the competencies you want to build.  The good news is that there are a lot of competencies that you might want to build and that’s exciting.  Surprisingly, the hard part might be putting some competency development on hold because you can’t develop them all at once.

Competencies can be developed in a lot of settings – some at home, some at school, some at a job or volunteer role, some online, some in your neighborhood, etc.  Some of the opportunities to build competencies are naturally presented in the settings in which you live.  Many you will need to search out and that is key.


There is a surprising array of competencies you can build and you will very likely have ideas to add.  You don’t build your competencies all at once and some are much more challenging than others.  The key to accelerating your growth is to be very intentional about developing your competencies.  Choose the ones that matter the most to you or are of the most interest and be creative in figuring out where and how to develop them.

  1. Self-care – staying healthy
  2. Managing emotions
  3. Managing stress
  4. Being assertive
  5. Showing empathy
  6. Effective listening
  7. Planning and decision-making
  8. Managing risk-taking
  9. Managing personal finances
  10. Mastering technology
  11. Developing teams (or being a good team member)
  12. Collaborating with others
  13. Forming, maintaining or ending relationships
  14. Leadership
  15. Dealing with conflict and negotiating to reach agreement
  16. Sports & the performing arts
  17. Relating to a diverse variety of people
  18. Critical thinking
  19. Written and spoken communication skills
  20. Skilled crafts (carpentry, electrical. plumbing, etc.)
  21. Cooking

Remember:  Developing competencies takes time and it takes patience and perseverance.  Also remember that you are actually becoming “more” at every step in the process, so enjoy the process.

Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.


#4 Develop a Support Web  Connect 

The key is to develop as many elements in your support web as possible. Having a web of support vs. one or two connections is important.  Some connections may be with individuals, some with groups and some with organizations.  Some may be face to face and some may be online.  You may be in contact with some on a regular basis and with others the connections may be sporadic.

There is a wide range of possibilities:

  • Trusted adults, including family and extended family, teachers, counselors, coaches, neighbors, people in a faith community, etc.
  • Groups devoted to your specific situation, from addiction and abuse to chronic illnesses
  • Therapists and physicians
  • Community groups, special interest groups
  • People you meet through volunteer or paid jobs
  • Peers, particularly those who have gone through being knocked down

“Help others help you.”  It might seem strange, but you might need to help others help you.  Most people are very willing to help, but they may not know that you want their help or what kind of help is wanted.  You can let people know that you want their help and what they can do that would be helpful.  That has the added advantage of letting people know that what you want is not unlimited and it’s easier to commit to what you do need.

Remember that you may be affected on physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual levels and you can look for support in each of those areas.  Focusing on each of those levels can not only guide your efforts, but can also be a creative way to identify surprising resources.

Add behaviors that support you.  People are critical in providing support, but you also have a lot of power in being the author of your experience through the behaviors that you put in place.  For example, you can practice self-care (always important), such as exercise, diet, sleep, meditation, etc.  You can also spend time in places that are safe and give you energy.  You can simply do things that you like to do, such as listening to or playing music, reading, playing games online, doing crafts, journaling, playing with and taking care of pets, just going out, etc.

And you can do things that have meaning for you, such as helping others, contributing to the family or organizations of which you are a part or joining groups that are trying to make a positive difference.

Remember – the more people and activities you build into your support web the better.  Building and maintaining a web of support will be important throughout life, so focusing on building one now to deal with your recovery from being knocked down will have long term value.

It will also show you how important your support of others can be – even in little ways – and you will be better prepared to coach others who get knocked down.

Be a rock to others in need, be a rock of support to those who are facing critical issues, be a rock full of caring, but be a rock who recognizes that you will also experience times when you need to seek your own rock.


#5 Draw on Your Courage, Perseverance, and Resilience

Here is another key to life – three qualities that will always be important and almost always develop under pressure.  You already have these qualities to some extent.  This is a chance to significantly add to them.


Courage is not the absence of fear or anxiety, but the willingness to go ahead in spite of them.  It is sometimes called the quality upon which all other qualities are built.  A great deal can be said about courage, but these quotes do a good job of outlining the various aspects of its nature.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anais Nin

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face … we must do that which we think we cannot.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

“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 Radamacher-Hershey

“FEAR has two meanings:  Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise.”  Unknown

“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them.  How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives.  To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”  Judy Blume

“I am not a courageous person by nature.  I have simply discovered that, at certain key moments in this life, you must find courage in yourself in order to move forward and live.  It is like a muscle and must be exercised, first a little, and then more and more.  All the really exciting things possible during the course of a lifetime require a little more courage than we currently have.  A deep breath and a leap.”  John Patrick Shanley



Perseverance is simply refusing to quit – to give up in the face of set backs, disappointments, failures or losses.  It is refusing to be a victim for long when victimized.  There will be times on your journey when you will be frustrated, disappointed, discouraged, depressed, scared or anxious or just tired and worn out.  That’s normal.  You just can’t quit.

She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.


The trap is failing to act because you can’t see a direct and sure connection between your actions and success.  The key is to act even when success – or even progress – isn’t clear.  You act because you can – and you keep acting.  That keeps you in then game.

“One foot.”  Sometimes there are breakthroughs and leaps and “ahas” on the journey.  Sometimes you just grind it out.  Those times when you can only seem to put one foot in front of the other are times when you are still moving froward on your journey – just not the way you would like to be moving – and even if it doesn’t feel like progress.

You never know what's around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you've climbed a mountain.



Resilience is the ability to adapt to life, particularly when recovering from being knocked down in some way.  Resilience is the ability to deal with the inevitable stresses, traumas, threats and setbacks we all encounter.

Life comes with relationship problems, family problems, health problems, school and work problems, and lots of other problems.  That’s just the way it works and the resilience we develop helps us “bounce back” – becoming increasingly strong, wise, flexible and capable.

Growth happens mostly outside our comfort zones and resilience makes it easier and easier to deal with the challenges and tests out there – through which we grow and develop.

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 that 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 able to face the present.


Life has Happened to You – You Have Been Knocked Down

  1. That means you have been thrown into a heroic journey with the challenge to recover from being knocked down and grow and develop in the process.
  2. Commit to getting yourself back into the posture of being the author of your experience – as much as you can and as soon as you can.
  3. Look for the opportunities to accelerate your progress in defining your identity as a young adult, developing more mature relationships and building the competencies required for success as a young adult.
  4. Build a support network of people, groups, organizations and activities.
  5. Draw on and develop your courage, perseverance and resilience.
  6. Run when you can.  Make leaps when you can.  Put one foot in front of the other when you have to.

You're not going to master the rest of your life in one day. Just relax. Master the day. Then just keep doing that every day.