(Dr. Clayton Lawrence, founder and CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on community wellness and inspiring others.)
We believe that life is a collective culmination of all that we, as individuals, have seen and experienced in our lives. Although some are fortunate to have the opportunity to say that a positive past has contributed to current successes, some are not so lucky. What if a shattered past or simply one that wasn’t ideal has left us beaten down, without a voice and without the knowledge (or confidence) to set goals for ourselves?
Our mission is to provide all that it takes to afford budding youth the opportunities to succeed in life and encouragement to not be afraid to go after dreams and desires. This begins with helping the young person take a look at the whole of their being. Keep reading to see what we mean:
We have all made decisions and choices in our lives that look completely different in hindsight. It’s part of living and learning. But some of our pasts were not by choice. Some youth have simply become a product of their environment. They may look back on their past with shame, embarrassment or discouragement. It’s easy for us, as adults, to know that this type of thinking gets us nowhere – in fact, it leads us in the opposite direction of our goals. Encourage a youth today to name the parts of his or her past that are undesirable. Then, list a few ways that those situations can become opportunities for strength and growth.
It’s true! There’s no better time than the present. If the youth in your life is feeling discouraged – maybe grades are not ideal, the situation at home isn’t great or the future just doesn’t look promising – the present is a great time to make lasting changes. Using the past as a starting point, explore how doing just a few things right now can alter the direction of life’s path. Again, encourage the young person to make a list of the things that he or she wishes could be different. Then suggest a few things that can be done right now, like taking advantage of school resources or spending more time at the gym. While the past cannot be changed, your mentee may be surprised to learn how easy it can be to change the course of the future.
Future perfect self
“If I continue to take advantage of tutoring opportunities, in four years I will have successfully completed high school.”
“In a few years, my attendance at college will have paved the way for a successful professional career.”
“If I continue to train regularly, I will have equipped my body with the endurance necessary to complete the marathon.”
It’s all about positive self-talk. The future perfect self. It means that someday, the goal will have been reached or the task will have been perfected. This is goal setting at its finest. Take the time to discuss hopes and dreams with a young person and really invite them to open up without restrictions. Then, teach them how to begin their personal statement that will lead to a perfected goal.
Future self (success)
Remind your mentee to never stop dreaming about who this person is. Visualize, daydream and pretend, but never stop believing that success is possible. This tense – the final result – is something that we can’t be sure of, but if we are properly armed with acceptance of the past, the tools of the present and goals for the future, the story that unfolds is sure to be one of success.