It’s not easy to let go of the past or to not worry about its effect on your future. This is especially true in the ever-changing life of a teenager. But focusing on the present and taking action to improve your circumstances right now can often be what determines success or failure.
So, while it’s easy to dwell on the past, doing so takes your attention away from today and lets your current problems fester. But focusing on the moment and taking care of things in the present will enhance your life. The past is gone, and the future is waiting to be made by the decisions you make today.
Let your teens know that their circumstances, past or present, do not determine who they are. Instead, how they handle their circumstances and the little decisions they make every day will shape their futures.
Bad and unfair things are going to happen, and sometimes you just can’t control that. But what you can control is what you do about those negative experiences. Make sure your teen knows the difference between acting and reacting. When something bad happens, you can either simply react to it or you can choose to take action. Taking action means not letting negative circumstances control you. Teenager Tonya Groover learned this and shared her experience in SUCCESS for Teens.
“It’s better to be the person acting, because when you’re acting and creating action, you’re creating opportunities,” Tonya says. “You’re creating outcomes and possibilities. But when you’re always reacting to situations, circumstances and consequences, then you’re not going to get very far in life.”
Blaming other people or past events for your current circumstances is an attitude that can keep you from positively changing your life. When you blame others for your problems, it takes the power to change those problems away from you. Only when you take action to improve your circumstances do you empower yourself to change your life.
That’s exactly what teenager Pauline Gordon did. She made a decision to not let her past or the circumstances beyond her control determine her future. Pauline grew up in one of the poorest, most dangerous neighborhoods in New York City. Instead of using her circumstances as an excuse for failure, she used them as a reason to succeed.
“I chose to do well in school because I always felt I had something to prove,” Pauline says. “I felt I was looked down on because I was the youngest child in my family. Both my parents are mentally ill. So I really felt like an outcast because of that. I always felt like I had to prove something to my family and friends. The strongest kids I know are not hindered by the experiences they’ve gone through. They’re making the best of a bad situation, and I would call that success.”
Pauline knew she wanted a better future, so she took action to change her life. After high school, she started saving all the money she could to create a retirement account. Her small, positive steps have set her up for success down the road. She didn’t let her unfortunate situation dictate the direction of her future.
Once teens understand that current or past circumstances don’t necessarily dictate their future, they have the power to make changes in the present.
And that can make all the difference in improving their lives.
Sponsored by the SUCCESS Foundation and adapted from the book SUCCESS for Teens™. For more information and to order the book, go to www.SUCCESSFoundation.org.