If you’re done with schoolwork, all your friends are busy, and you’re parents are not home, perhaps you’ve got nothing to do. Perhaps you’re feeling bored or restless or eager to do something new.
One of the great gifts of adolescence is the incredible growth that it brings. There are growth spurts happening in the body, heart, and mind. For instance, your body is physically changing. You’re getting taller and changing in ways that are making you look more like an adult. You’re also growing emotionally and psychologically too. You might notice that you’re impulsive, emotional, and passionate about things you weren’t before. And you’re even experiencing growth in the brain. There are a number of new neural connections that your brain is making every day. Growth is a significant part of adolescence.
In fact, the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson said that adolescence is the most pivotal stage in life. During this life phase, you are working through discovering your unique identity, and by doing so, you’ll be more equipped to find success in the major life phases that are to come. And so, discovery is an important part of being a teenager that you can actually facilitate. Instead of staying stuck at any stage of your growth, you can ease the process of discovery along, especially in those moments when everyone else is gone. When your friends aren’t around, when you’ve completed all your chores and schoolwork, and when your parents aren’t home, it’s time to focus on discovering who you are.
Discovery is one of the most powerful tools for growth and development. In fact, it’s also a powerful tool for recovery. For instance, if you found yourself struggling with a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or addiction, using tools of discovery can help you overcome mental illness.
Discovery means finding out about yourself. It means learning from your own experiences and adapting so that your life works for you. It means being curious, open, and finding ways to move forward. Discovery is what most children and teens do naturally. They explore, find out more, and have fun in trying new things. But you don’t have to be a child to enjoy the thrill of discovery; you can take that into your adulthood. The nature of being an explorer, artist, scientist, or detective is precisely being one who discovers.
So, how can discovery work for you specifically? If you’re curious about the way that an aspect of life works, or about relationships, or perhaps about where your life is going, you can begin to discover the answers you’re looking for by doing the following:
Ask other people.
Test your beliefs by asking others what they think. The more people you ask, the more information you’ll have to compare and assess what you think is true. It’s easy to believe that everyone else has it figured out. But the truth is, we as human beings have a long way to go. There is so much that you can contribute to a chosen field, especially if you continue to be curious and explorative.
Try it out for yourself.
Once you get some answers, try doing something and see what happens. You can almost become a scientist and set up an experiment by designing a test and seeing what happens as a result. You can test out social situations to find out what works for you. For instance, there was one 14 year old boy who wasn’t making very many friends. He expressed that he was always feeling shut down and quiet in social situations. Then, he decided to experiment with being open and talkative. And as a result, he made two friends that day.
Act as if.
Once you’ve gathered information, you can act as if you have the new belief or behavior down. For example, if you’re not feeling so good one day, you can act as if things are working for you. Sometimes, simply changing our attitude can make all the difference in the world. Or you can act as if you’re going to be a great scientist and it will happen. Or you can act as if you have the courage to ask a girl out on a date. Sometimes, acting as if transforms an inability to do something into the courage to do it.
Playing with life and discovering what it has to offer can transform a difficult or boring adolescence into an exciting one!
Najavits, L. (2002). Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse. New York: Guilford Press.