Within the next few weeks my daughter is going to start college. I remember when she was two or three and people would tease me with warnings of the hell I would experience during her teenage years. Though we’ve had our battles, I’m happy to report that either people didn’t know what they were talking about or I lucked out. Thankfully she’s been a pretty good kid.
I’d like to think it’s been the values I tried to instill in her while trying to live by a set of values as her father. At some point I established the following hierarchy of or values or house rules to help guide her.
- Respect for others
- Commitments outside of school
- Friends / Social
I made it clear that her ability to live within rules 1 – 5 would dictate her freedom and ability to enjoy # 6. When she kept her priorities in line, she had all the freedom in the world. When she didn’t have her priorities in line and she wasn’t living by her values, I had to step in.
At some point in her early teenage years I realized I had to stop telling her what to do and what not to do because of me. I had to talk to her about the benefits she would enjoy with good decision making and the problems she would encounter with poor decision making.
It was about that time I started talking to her about the concept of “Rewards, Punishments, and Being Ignored.” I would tell her that the world rewards certain thoughts, emotions, and actions. It punishes certain thoughts, emotions, and actions, and it ignores certain thoughts, emotions, and actions. I would repeat that it is up to her to figure out what all that stuff means in relation to what kind of life she wants to live.
You must figure out what that stuff means in relation to living the life you want to live.
Thirteen years ago, I was 23 years old and I decided that I wanted to spend my life teaching, training, coaching, counseling, and/or speaking. With only an associates degree in graphic design, I knew I had some work to do if I was going to reach my goals and more importantly, have the kind of life I wanted to have.
- Attitude: In order to reach my goals I needed to maintain a positive, optimistic, and forward thinking attitude. I needed to be patient, but focused.
- Emotions: I needed to be confident that the choices I was making contributed to me reaching my goals. I needed to feel secure with the idea that I had a lot to learn. I needed to not take personally that some of my friends and family didn’t understand what I was trying to do and weren’t supportive at first.
- Actions: I needed to learn all I could about leadership and this included formal education, working with mentors, and tons and tons of self study. I needed to consult with mentors who could advise me throughout my journey. I needed to make the time and financial investment to go back to school and finish my undergraduate degree in a major that aligned with my goals.
- Attitude: I knew if I wanted to reach my goals I could not have a bad attitude. I couldn’t piss and moan that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I couldn’t allow my expectations be unrealistic. I knew if I wanted to help people change their lives I could not complacent with attitude.
- Emotions: I knew if I wanted to reach my goals I could not allow myself to become frustrated with myself or the process. I could not consume my mind with worry and self-destructive thoughts. I could not allow people around me who were not supportive to make me feel like what I was doing was wrong, because they didn’t get it.
- Actions: If I were going to reach my goals, I could not become stagnant or lazy. I could not allow my actions to conflict with my words. I could not appear unfocused or confused with what I was doing.
If you spend too much time with attitudes, emotions, and actions that get punished or that don’t align with your goals or the life you say you wish to have, eventually you will be ignored by the world around you. You will be another person who talks a big game, but doesn’t take action. You will become the person that when you open your mouth, the world around you will give a big ol’ eye roll and shake their heads because they have heard it all before. You will become insignificant.
If you want to achieve all that is possible, you must maintain the right attitude and emotions, and you must continue to take the right actions. Your ability to do so will be the difference between success and failure or meaning and regret.
You have what it takes. Go get it!
Featured photo credit: Joris Louwes via flickr.com