It’s the classic question that teens get from every adult that crosses his or her path: So, what are you going to do when you grow up?
And somehow a teen is expected to be prepared with an answer. And some teens are: “I’m going to go to college and get my degree in law and then I’ll go to law school and then open up my own private practice.” They have it all down, knowing what to do and when.
At the same time, most teens simply don’t know. And in truth, it’s too early to know. Teens are still growing, still developing, and still reaching for adulthood. Sure, they might have a sense of what they might do, but the precise way to go about achieving their dreams might remain foggy.
Furthermore, there are the emotional and social challenges of being a teen, such as peer pressure, parental expectations, and school demands. Yet, underneath, teens might also feel an excitement about life, a strong pull to succeed, and high levels of energy to achieve their goals. Many teens are aimed to live out their dreams.
One very simple obstacle to success, however, is the tendency to never take the time to uncover what you really want. This is true for individuals regardless of their age.
It’s perfectly okay for teens not to know about their life direction. It’s quite normal in fact to not know. In fact, for many, it’s easy to follow the standard goals that society expects of adults, such as going to college, finding a well-paying job, getting married, having children, and buying a house with a white-picket fence. These are common life milestones for middle to upper class families.
However, the truth is there is room for so much more. Providing teens with the opportunity to answer questions about their life and to uncover what they really want can be an invaluable experience for them. For instance, in a self-discovery exercise, they might answer the following questions:
- Do you want to travel?
- Would you like to start a business?
- Do you want to marry in your 40’s versus your 20s?
- Would you like to become an artist and avoid working for a corporation?
- Would you like to pursue a career in dance instead of settling down with a 9-5 job?
If you’re a parent or caregiver of an adolescent, encourage them to answer these questions, by going deep to find what is most true for them. Encourage them to reach into their heart to uncover what’s there? Help them put all the pressures of life aside for a while and go within to a quiet place to answer these questions for themselves.
Another significant question for them to answer, which could be a question to applied to every area of life, is:
What do you want? What do you really, really, really want?
In other words, teens can ask this question regarding education, family, career, money, travel, and personal relationships. It’s important that they know that the choice is theirs! The pressures of family and the expectations of society can hinder a teen’s ability for self-expression.
Let them know that the first and most important step to uncovering what they want is to begin to ask themselves questions. Although it can be difficult, it’s essential for crafting a life that they will thoroughly enjoy! Furthermore, this is a perfect time for a teen to do this! Adolescence is a time for forming a sense of self, forming your social, political, and spiritual beliefs, and getting to know the values and morals that are uniquely important to them.
Let them know that their life can become precisely what they want; but they’ll need to uncover their wants and desires first. Let them know too that along every step of the way, you’ll be there to support them.