SUCCESS for Teens: Take a Second Look

Teens are often confronted with a lot of changes at once. And without the right attitude, these changes can derail them from reaching their goals. From changes in relationships to the pressure of grades, tests and transcripts to bigger life challenges in their home or work life, teens face a number of opportunities to practice a positive attitude.

But often this attitude doesn’t come naturally. A person has to work at it. So teaching teens to look on the bright side of things, to let life roll off their back a little, is a valuable skill. Here are some things you can talk to them about.

A great way to start looking at life in a more upbeat way is to count your blessings. Are you thankful for your family, friends, home or job? Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for and post it where you can see it every day. As you review your list daily, you’ll change your mindset from complaining about what you don’t have to feeling blessed for all you do have.

You’ll carry this positive approach into the rest of your day. When obstacles arise, you’ll be more prepared to see the solutions rather than focusing on the downsides. You’ll be less prone to worrying and more apt to hope for good outcomes.

Try using some new vocabulary to push this transition even further. Instead of telling yourself you’re bad at math, tell yourself that you’re practicing your math skills and will do better next time. Instead of beating yourself up for missing the goal, remind yourself of the great assist you made during the game. And rather than worry about what will happen with your college entrance applications, remind yourself of the great time you had in high school and of your ability to enjoy yourself no matter where you end up.

A report by Civic Enterprises published in 2010 shows that nearly one-third of all public-high-school students, and almost half of minority students, fail to graduate with their class. The report details the ever-increasing “downward spiral of failure, from boredom in the classroom and occasionally skipping class, to long absences from school, engaging in risky behaviors and becoming part of a subculture that thinks it is cool to drop out.”

Often, these behaviors are a result of a negative attitude, a philosophy about life that doesn’t leave room for growth. Failures are seen as permanent and teens are so hard on themselves and so sure that nothing will improve, they stop trying.

Does everything seem to go wrong for you? Do you feel like everyone is against you? Or do you just wonder why no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to reach your goals?

Maybe it’s time for an attitude check.

The right attitude can help teens handle failure. Shift your perspective to see that lessons are only learned by falling down. If you’d never fallen, you never would’ve learned to walk. If you’d never failed, you never would’ve tossed a ball into a basket. Failure is a way to earn feedback on your performance and improve it.

The teens that persevere, graduate high school and go on to pursue their dreams are the ones who understand that winners learn the lessons from failure and get up again. They take the risk of looking foolish now and then so they can learn something; they see themselves as capable of change.

All of this is about attitude. Everyone experiences failure and disappointment. But your positive attitude can pull you through, help you see the value in each experience and move you toward something better.

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Amy Anderson is the former senior editor of SUCCESS magazine, an Emmy Award-winning writer and founder of Anderson Content Consulting. She helps experts, coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs to discover their truth, write with confidence, and share their stories so they can transform their past into hope for others. Learn more at and on Facebook.

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