January 2, 2015

Five New Year Resolutions for (Driven) Teenagers

Brady Norvall, M.A.

Founder and C.E.O. at FindaBetterU®




Keep this in-mind: the BEST USE OF TIME for any teenager is to read, do homework, exercise, and sleep. Granted, there are other elements I am not mentioning here because they are implied, such as eating, being social, and actually showing up for school. The 4 elements mentioned, above, however, are where high-achieving kids often fall short. As study-after-study continues to show, and increasing adolescent anxiety across America offers seemingly infinite examples, adolescents are not healthy people. Teens are not learning good self-care and, for whatever reason, many parents of high-achievers seem to be okay with this, so long as their kids bring home report cards with A's and AP classes. So while this list is for the kids, themselves, perhaps it's for the parents, as well. Let's use it as a good reminder for both, actually, because adolescence, just like success in any form of life, is a team sport. No one gets through tough times alone, and being a teenager is certainly a very difficult time.

1)      Read more. And by this I mean books. Read books other than just those which have been assigned by your school. Please don't read only (auto)biographies about successful people. Read classics, adventure, sci-fi, contemporary literature. You're not going to become successful by osmosis at 16 by reading Steve Jobs' biography. But reading sci-fi, adventure, or contemporary fiction can get your creative juices flowing and make you a better writer and thinker. If you don't know where to begin, poll some of your favorite teachers and see if they have recommendations. Then pick a few up and start to read them. (Vocabulary booster; writing aide; concentration and focus enhancer)

2)      Vow to make a connection with an older mentor. Is there a relative or a friend of your parents who always seems to ask you the right questions? Who tells great stories? Who has had an interesting life and you'd like to learn more about it? Ask! One of my students, who was just admitted to Stanford in the early action round, has made a point to stay in touch with mentors and older friends over the past four years. Unlike many who promote the false-notion of "networking" this student has a true network of mentors. These are allies who would do almost anything for this young man, likely because he has been consistent and humble, vulnerable and kind. Every successful person throughout history has had a mentor. It's time to find that person to whom you can talk just for fun and learn how to have really organic, interesting conversations. (vocabulary booster; articulation skills; story-telling and interpersonal communication skill enhancer).

3)      Learn how to say "no". Don't overburden yourself with tens of extracurricular activities. Focus on a couple or a few and really direct your time efficiently by setting up a master calendar that will show your availability and won't let you get caught in a bunch of unplanned moments when others just want to look busy. If you love something, dive in. If you're doing something for the way it looks on a resume, just say "no" and move on. Everyone in life has to learn to cut losses. For successful people, this starts early. (empowerment opportunity; time management; assertiveness; interpersonal communication skill enhancer).

4)      Give yourself a timeframe for college preparation because it all doesn't have to happen in 11th grade! I have one student who is in the middle of 10th grade and has already finished her SAT testing. We figured she had already seen all levels of math that are on the exam (and she's a great reader), so why not sit for the test now? She decided to do this rather than wait until next year when the material won't be as fresh and her time will be much more limited because, well, that's what happens in 11th grade. (time management; self-confidence boost; perspective-building; concentration and focus enhancer).

5)      Don't be foolish about your opportunities or try to take short cuts. If you did not study for a test once and did poorly, learn from that and don't let it happen again. If you need help, ask your teacher (or someone you trust). Don't cheat on easy stuff just because it is easy. No matter what anybody says, school is not about getting somewhere so that you can tell people you've arrived. On the contrary, getting IN to university might seem like the hard part but staying in and becoming a successful, self-aware person is really a greater challenge, and reward! In high school, learning is what matters. Even if you seemingly won't ever use chemistry again in your life, you learn it because it's good for your brain, it will help you with other classes, it will be relevant to future discussions and because all knowledge is connected. If you try to cut corners you will get caught … or it will catch up with you. I assure you that the consequence will never be worth the corner cut. (time management skills; resilience and follow-through strength; cognitive function; self-awareness).

Remember, school and growing up are about time management, becoming your own advocate, having a strong network of positive influences, and being honest with yourself. If you can begin to work on any (or all) of these elements as a teenager, you're going to find yourself far ahead of most adults in this world. Happy 2015 and best of luck to all. No matter what this year may bring you, please remember that there is always someone who would be happy and ready to listen and help.