College was a time when I savored the independence that came from leaving my parent’s home. It was also a time when I realized how woefully unprepared I was for making wise decisions and establishing new patterns of behavior that would support my future endeavors. I spent most of my 20s figuring out what it means to be an adult, a person of faith, along with learning what I was good at and energized by. It was a time that I could have benefited greatly from the wisdom of my elders and the knowledge of my parents. Listed below are some words of wisdom that I hope to discuss with my two sons before they graduate from high school:
- Quit trying to please everyone, including your parents. Someone will always dislike or disagree with you. Be guided by your purpose, passions, and priorities, attending to what God is up to in your life.
- Don’t give up when things get tough. You’ll have setbacks in life like everyone else ranging from the loss of a job, the ending of significant relationships, and perhaps health issues. No one said life would be easy. View setbacks as learning opportunities. Avoid seeking out scapegoats for your struggles and use these situations to build resiliency. The sooner you realize that failure isn’t the end of the world the easier it will be to move on.
- Realize that you’re not the only one who is struggling. Everyone struggles. It’s just a matter if which issues need attention in one’s life at a certain period in time. These include faith, finances, physical fitness, friends and family, and discerning one’s future. Avoid comparing your life to others. A pastor shared with me, “I’m never as good as people say I am, nor as bad as others would have me to be.” When we compare our lives to others, we do so by viewing only a tiny slice of their life that observable to others.
- Prepare for life rather setting your plans in concrete. John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” Set goals and mile markers in life but hold on to them loosely. Ask yourself “What’s working?” and “What’s not working?” and make course corrections as needed. Wherever you are, be there! Be fully present to others, to what’s going on in your life, to God’s presence in your life, and to emerging opportunities that pass your way.
- Pursue joy rather than happiness. Joy is a constant wellspring in life grounded in faith, gratitude and a sense of calling. Pursue your passions rather than a paycheck. Recognize the abundance in your life.
- Deal with challenges as they arise. Avoid putting off difficult conversations with friends and loved ones. Putting your head in the sand will not make problems go away nor will moving somewhere else. Like a rafting guide, we need to anticipate the challenges we’ll be facing downstream and plan accordingly.
- Develop habits that help ensure a brighter future. Start your retirement account now. Save 10 percent of your income. Share 10 percent. Start a rainy day fund. Learn something new everyday. Exercise and create habits that sustain your health. It’s easier to avoid gaining weight than it is to try losing it later.
- Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you – people that challenge you, inspire you and have your best interests in mind. Who you hang around with matters. Friendships, like food, should be nutritious and life-giving and should be chosen carefully. Realize that most friendships will only be temporary. Most of your high school and college friends will go by the wayside. When your friends aren’t all living in the same town or campus, you’ll realize which ones mean the most to you, and which ones are worth investing in.
- Realize that your spouse or “soul mate” won’t meet all of your needs. Avoid placing unrealistic expectation on others that you’d have a hard time living up to yourself. All meaningful long-term relationships require work and dedication along with large doses of grace and gratitude.
- Be a blessing to everyone, everywhere, at all times. See life and people through the eyes of Jesus. Chose to make a difference every day. Make your ordinary life extraordinary by using your God-given gifts to be source of joy, hope and inspiration to others.
What do you wish you would have known before you ventured off to college or a new career? What do you wish to pass along to your children and the young people you regularly engage with? What’s the legacy you wish to leave behind for the next generation?