The last two years of high school are typically when students begin focusing on their future, though this process seems to begin earlier and earlier. Teenagers begin to dream of their ultimate college and start buckling down with standardized test prep while balancing extracurricular activities, volunteering, sports, jobs, and whatever else they deem important to getting into Dream School U.
Having worked closely with teenagers over the last seven years, I hear more often than not: “I am SO stressed!” Teenage Millennials put more pressure on themselves than any other generation, and most of their stress is self-induced. They have their eyes on the future and the future holds no room for failure.
But, we all know that success is often achieved because of the lessons learned during failed attempts. It becomes important, then, to have a conversation about what success means and how successful people deal with failure:
Separate Facts from Feelings
Here’s a situation that may sound familiar: Teenager rushes to the mailbox only to be greeted by a thin envelope from Dream School U. Since the letter is thin, he doesn’t even open it. Teen sits down to dinner and says “If they don’t want me, no one will. Guess I’m not as good as I thought I was.” This is an excellent time to discern facts from feelings.
Thought: I’m not good enough. I give up. There go my dreams.
Fact: I did not get into Dream School U.
That’s all! This fact is the only true statement. The thoughts that follow should look like this: I’m still the same person I was before I got rejected. My dreams can still happen; the picture just looks different now. Pretty simple, and a great relief for anxiety and depression.
Successful People are Flexible People
When things don’t go as planned, the most successful people become the most resilient by finding the good in the situation. Didn’t get into Dream School U.? Perhaps Better Fit U. provides more opportunities to support the envisioned goal.
Everything is Temporary and Things Change
Disappointment only lasts for so long. Staying open to limitless possibilities creates space for things to change. Failing at one step along the road to success doesn’t lock a person in forever, and neither does success. Even those students that got into Dream School U. may decide transfer as their interests and goals change.
The Dalai Lama once said “Not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” Disappointment is a part of life and failure does not determine fate. All of the hard work, organization, and effort put into attaining success carries over, even through failure. Detaching from the expectation of how things should look often eases our way into accepting what is.