You may be nail biting your way through your final few weeks of high school, scared and worried about what the future holds after graduation, but let me tell you a little secret. Although education is important and useful and will open some doors….it doesn’t guarantee success. It doesn’t make you ‘smart’ and it doesn’t make you a ‘good’ person.
As you emerge from your classroom cocoon into the butterfly you will become, I hope you flutter into your late teens future understanding that in world hindered by a huge emphasis on money, power and popularity, none of this is as important as personal integrity and good values. Certificates and diplomas aside, you will always succeed in life if you excel in these following qualities (although a pass in maths is always a bonus, I might add):
- Kindness and Respect. These two come in hand-in-hand. Just be kind. To everyone. Even if they are complete numpties. Don’t allow anyone to lower your standards. You never have any idea what someone is going through or their background. Nastiness is an ugly quality that will never be appreciated. Likewise be respectful. This is a hugely important quality. No matter who they are – teachers, employers, brothers, friends, shop workers or strangers – you may not agree with them, like them or want to even talk to them, but respectfulness to another person is just about accepting their differences, in so much as someone should always respect yours.
- Work hard. Play hard. I don’t mean work treble shifts and then rave all night. This isn’t about extremes. This is simply just about making a big effort in your work/study life and balancing this with having fun and doing things you enjoy. Some people are lucky enough to find a job they enjoy. Others hate their jobs. Sometimes in life we often have to do things we don’t always like. That doesn’t mean we have to do that forever but we should always work hard at work worth doing. Then have fun. It is a fine balance – because one should exist alongside the other, rather than all of either.
- Choose your Company. Together with family, our friends are hugely important. It’s the tribe we choose. So, pick them wisely and carefully. Make sure they have important qualities like respect, kindness and honesty. It’s ok to ‘be friendly’ but ‘not friends’ with those who don’t quite fit and it’s also ok to walk away from anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable or bad about yourself. Friends come along for various periods of time. Some to teach us something whilst others can span decades. Whatever the type of friend, they are all going to play a significant part in your life, so cherish them – for a reason, season or lifetime.
- Communicate. As a parent, it is really hard when we are confronted with teenage anger or moods or acts of selfishness… I know there’s more beyond that, but it is often hard to see through the barriers. Communication is so important. Equally so is listening 😊 Through this we learn later in life how to sort out any problems at work, or fall outs in a relationship or friendship. You have to communicate to explain yourself, to understand another side and most importantly apologise if you mess up. Which leads into the next point:
- Be honest. Always. Honesty is the best policy. Hard to live a lie in whatever format. I’m not talking about little fibs, but generally just tell the truth because to get caught up in a lie gets messy. People like the truth, it enables them to process it properly and deal with it. It also means they, in turn, will trust you and that is hugely important. Without trust there is nothing. Nada. Zilch. So be truthful and own up to a mistake. This will earn you respect not anger or disappointment.
- Making mistakes. Nothing wrong with making mistakes. We are all human and we all have faults and flaws. Nobody in perfect and without making mistakes how do we learn? You don’t have to have it all figured out. And feeling like you have little or no control over something is completely normal. That never goes away! I’m 50 and still feel the need to seek advice from an adult! The key is to learn how to deal with it and cope with it. Shouting and stomping is fine. We all like a good rant and a good cry. But then you have to pull your big girl pants up and figure out how to sort it, fix it, resolve it, live with it or forget it and move on. It helps to listen to others. There’s a saying – if you always talk you are merely repeating what you know. But if you listen you may learn something new. In the same vein, take responsibility for your own actions. Something which is really hard to learn how to do but important in accepting our own faults and realising we are no different than the next person.
- Focus. On. What. YOU. Want. This might be a long-term goal. It might be something you want to do at the weekend. It might be a 10/10 in your Latin exam. It might be that huge ice cream you are aiming to have tomorrow night. The key is to focus on what you would like to achieve. Small targets are fine because they’ll teach you how to focus and motivate yourself ready for the bigger challenges in life.
- Be you. We are all individuals. You might admire someone’s hair or style or abilities. But we shouldn’t compare ourselves to them or try and replicate them. Be unique. Be yourself. Focus on your own talents and achievements, of which you have many. In the future you will learn to accept yourself for who you are. That’s not to say we can’t all take a good hard look at ourselves from time to time and work on ourselves. Whether it’s changing some aspects of our character, our physical self or learning new skills. But the point is don’t try and be something or someone you are not. There is little value in a copy. You are absolutely good enough as you are.
- Laugh. As the saying goes: “None of us are getting out of here alive.” Enjoy it. Yes, there are bad days but there should be a heap load more good days to counteract them. And those good days are the ones you should relish and remember. We can learn so much from the bad stuff, and as in work hard, play hard motto, life is a balance (yin yang) and one shouldn’t exist without the other. There’s a ton of bad stuff out there ready to strike you in the solar plexus as you round a corner in life. But the majority of bad stuff can be sorted. Or fixed. Or solved. Failing that we can move around it, push it to one side and carry on. There’s always tomorrow.
- Be grateful. Sometimes when things get overwhelming it’s nice to stop and take a deep breath and put things into perspective and be appreciative for the little things in life. Remember who you are, where you are and what you have. And that doesn’t mean materialistically – it means spiritually and personally. We often take far too much for granted and forget to even acknowledge any good fortune in our lives and often focus on the bad luck. If you are healthy and happy and have shelter, food, friends, family and wifi then all is good. Many don’t have even one of those on that list. I know right. No wifi?! Unthinkable. 😉