This is the 12th installment of The Slacker's Guide To Success, based on my work with teens, young adults and their families. The introduction can be found here. The other chapters are available here.
Step Twelve: A full life
Just imagine a happy, successful, life where play time is as fulfilling as work time and learning time. Relationships become opportunities for joy, sharing and lots of close, meaningful contact that is mutually satisfying.
But seriously, we're talking about a full life for teens and young adults. Let's face it, the teenage years are not easy and they're not drama-free. Basically there's lots in them that sucks.
Tell your kids: "You can have a full life that still sucks from time to time. You can have meltdowns and do some really dumb stuff. The difference is, you can learn from it all, if you choose to."
To the parents: The best way to teach is by example. Try the following exercises and share the experience with your child. Wait for them to ask to try some of it on their own and if they don't, find a challenging moment for them and when the dust settles, ask how mindfulness might have changed how they would have dealt with the situation.
Being mindful. We all have moments when we are at our best and nothing can throw us off. Sometimes it can feel like we are outside of ourselves watching the events take place and just knowing what the wise responses for anything that comes our way would be. That is being mindful. Then there are the times that we aren't so mindful. Times when our antics get the 'rents to ask us: whose kid are you anyway?
What follows is a way to get yourself to be present and aware in all circumstances so that on your worst day, you are making conscious choices that can lead to great moments of clarity. I have been teaching this to young adults for the past 11 years and it has always been met with success. Just know that sometimes it takes a bit more time to take hold. Don't give up. It really is worth it and if it was easy, everyone would do it.
It starts with quieting your mind at the beginning of a new day. Take a few moments upon arising to breathe in slowly and deeply, then let out the breath even more slowly. Try to focus, if you can, on the flow of your breath. Imagine letting go of any stress, tension or worries and breathe in qualities such as calm, peacefulness or good health. Do this for a few minutes every day.
Taking a few moments to empty your mind of word "noise" can help you throughout the day perceive what is happening around you without your emotional filters getting in the way.
Repeat a meaningful phrase to yourself -- something you wish to accomplish that day:
a) Today, I will focus on being present for all conversations that are important to me and I will be great at it!
b) Today, I am calm, centred and open to being my best.
c) Today, I will share my thoughts deeply, honestly and with kindness.
d) Today, I will be a team player, thinking about what will help us succeed.
e) Make up your own here _______________________________________
Now we shall bring this concept into our learning, work, play and relationships.
Being mindful in learning: It doesn't matter if your are learning for school, work or a hobby. This is about seeing what learning style you are best at and how you learn. Use this awareness of your strengths to make your own successful learning methods.
a) Take a moment and look at what you need to accomplish today in your learning.
b) Break it down into sections and make a rough estimate of how much time is need for each part.
c) Figure out how much time is reasonable for you to prepare today, taking into account the best amount of time at one sitting for you to work and how much break time is reasonable.
d) Determine how you learn best. Are you visual (V), auditory (A) or kinesthetic (K). Figure out which is first, which is second and which is third. Adjust your learning so that you incorporate at least your two major learning styles in your work. For example if you are VAK, you might read the material, then repeat it aloud. If you are VKA, you might read it then write it in your own words (probably hand written would be best).
e) When you are engaged in learning something, be aware of where your attention is and when it drifts, gently return it to the subject at hand.
Being mindful in work: There are constant opportunities at work to give more than what is requested of you. Each time you give a little more than what is asked of you from a caring, humble place, you set the forces of the laws of return in motion. The law of return states that: for every action, there is an equal or greater reaction. When you plant a seed and tend to it, you receive not just one seed back but a whole crop of whatever it was that you planted. If you are not rewarded when you have proven yourself, ask for that reward, if it is still not forthcoming, find some other employer who will appreciate your extra effort. Always give more than what is asked of you. You will get noticed for this and rewarded over time.
Being mindful in play. There are so many aspects to being mindful at play. Not just in the details of the game but also in relating to the other players in the game. How do they present themselves? Will they be assets or liabilities? How are they when they win? How are they when they lose? How are they when something unexpected throws them off? More importantly, how are you in all those circumstances? This tells you so much more than just skill level can. Mindfulness in play is about being aware of the game, the people and a sense of proportion while seeing the metaphors for how to be in life in the act of play.
Being mindful in relationships: There are those who are always in some sort of a "relationship" and those who have never been in a relationship. If you are in a relationship, the two most important tools are: 1) learning to listen and 2) knowing how to argue well. Learning to listen requires putting aside what you think is right and understanding things from your partner's perspective. Knowing how to argue well means focusing on what is annoying you at the time, without bringing in the past, judging the person or blaming the person.
If you have not been in a relationship, one thing is for sure, nothing will get you to grow more than a serious relationship. It challenges all your comfort zones, takes away time from serious vegging yet has so much to offer. Think of the type of partner you would want in your life. Their qualities, their demeanour and then imagine the type of person you want to be to attract that person. This is still about being you but also growing in relationship maturity.
All of these different parts of being mindful make for a full life.
When you are mindful of these parts of your daily life, your life is one of being present. Of really living and not just killing time to go virtual. Learning to care and to matter may be one of the greatest commodities in the coming age of ideas because then your work, play, study and relationship times become chances to experience, feel, think and grow.
Live each day like it was the only one you have. Care about people and learn from everything. Most importantly, write, blog, tell stories, share stories and listen to stories because all we have after we're gone are the stories we leave behind. Leave a good one. Leave stories of a life lived on purpose that was well-lived and touched others in a meaningful way. That is a full life.
When parents embrace the idea that by living a full life we can have a greater impact than all the words, all the images and all the sounds running through a young person's life today, we can truly change the world for the better.