You may have noticed that changing your life can feel like reversing a runaway train. This is because it isn’t as simple as moving to a different city or changing a job. The process is really about transforming your inner world. The first time we experience this type of metamorphosis is adolescence but it doesn’t stop there. Adults do it over and over again seeking, learning and growing. So what are the secrets to this mysterious process?
Teens Are the Masters of Change
What I am about to say may seem unlikely but I believe teens have a lot to teach us about the process of transformation. Their growth is no less deep because of how young they are. In fact, their honesty and in-your-face bravado makes their stories compelling. And if you scratch the surface, an adolescent will tell you, “I just want to know who I am.” Every thoughtful adult can relate to this because who we are is something we discover over and over again throughout our lifetime.
Although a teen’s change process looks chaotic that does not mean it is flawed. It is rich with struggle, courage and learning. In fact, teens are models for how to live with vulnerability. Every day of their lives is an opportunity for them to show up again and again doing what feels hard as they learn to grow into their potential.
Adults avoid what feels hard too. We don’t want to feel the vulnerability that goes with change. So, we distract ourselves by overworking or over-playing. We numb with Facebook or TV. We tell stories to ourselves that keep us in neutral. “I can’t succeed at this so better to do something else.” “If I just hire the right person, everything will fall into place.” We over-focus on the external part of our lives forgetting that the source of the change we want begins inside ourselves.
So what do teens do that we can learn from? Here are some valuable lessons:
1. Know who to trust with your stories
Teens are very discriminating about the adults they will share with. You can also choose to surround yourself with people who are genuinely supportive. Look for people who know how to listen to you. These are the people who sit with you without judgment or advice while you thrash about finding your way. As Brené Brown would ask, “Who has earned the right to hear your story?”
2. Trust your inner compass
For better or worse, teens are brilliant at this. They do what their gut tells them to do – even when that runs against everything their parents tell them. Adults may know they want to transform their lives and yet tell themselves “later….” or “I am too busy” or “There are too many responsibilities in my life to do this now.” Trust your inner compass. It can be as simple as slowing down during the day to inquire, “Am I actually putting my energy where I want it to go?”
3. Be deeply courageous
Transforming is about showing up over and over again to do the thing you that find hard to do. Teens do this every day in a suboptimal high school experience. In your case, it may be learning how to build a new business, deal with a chronic illness or parent a child with special needs. Learn how to love yourself, self-soothe and be your own best friend as you practice new skills. Showing up is an act of courage.
4. Be who you are
While teens will mimic others in the search for who they are, ultimately, they march to their own drummer. What is your drummer telling you? Do what matters to you, not somebody else. Behave in a way that is authentically you. No apologies. No defending required. Who you are is just fine – at every moment.
Adults can learn a thing or two to learn from teens. Are you ready?