Students are fed the consistent message that they can achieve anything in life if only they just work hard at it. They are in control of their future. But students are also aware of the fact that much of their future is out of their control and that no matter how hard they try, they will never achieve certain things. These two forces– the internal force of their own desires and the external force of the world acting upon them– conspire to shape their life experiences.
Students must make decisions in life about how to treat themselves and others. There is a tension here in deciding whose needs should assume greater importance. Sometimes the selfish instinct takes over, other people are shut out and there is a laser-like focus on individual needs. Other times the selfless attitude leads the way. Making wise and balanced decisions about when to serve the self and other people is an important component to living a good life.
Self-motivation is an important skill for students of all ages to master. It’s important for students to reflect upon what motivates them to do their best. The challenge with self-motivation is to find exactly what triggers a person to become invested and interested in something enough to see it to completion. For some, motivation is more feeling-based; for others, more thinking-based. Whatever the trigger, when that trigger is found, there are few limits to what a person can achieve.
Students are in the midst of making so many ethical choices about the types of people they should be hanging out with. There is peer pressure to spend time with people who may make questionable life choices but whose approval is important for a student’s self-esteem. And then there are parents whose messages often conflict with what students believe inside. Decisions on which company to keep are not easy but they are integral to moral development.
Goal-setting is thought to be a skill of highly successful people. Some students are really good at it. They map out their life events with certain outcomes in mind. Other students just want to ‘go with the flow’ and goal-setting makes them nervous and unfulfilled. The value of goal-setting is in dispute and, therefore, students must decide for themselves how they want to integrate it into their life activities.
Respect is something all students want. The question is how to get it. Students are told that if they hold themselves in high regard, people will want to be around them. They are also told that respect comes from doing things for others. Though the path towards respect is different for people, all agree that it is a worthwhile pursuit and leads to greater self-awareness and self-efficacy.
Success, students are told, comes from doing well in school, building friendships and finding the right career. The only problem is they aren’t told exactly how to find this success and whether actually loving what they do should even be a consideration. As a result, it’s important for students to develop a self-awareness around what success means to them and how they plan to get it.
An ambitious person is confident and self-motivated, both of which are qualities we want to see in our students. But ambition sometimes gets us into trouble. We have to compete with others over scarce resources and that causes us to be selfish and uncompromising. There are other people in the world and we have an ethical obligation to think about their needs as well.
Happiness is one those concepts that students talk and think about a lot, but rarely define. They are encouraged to motivate themselves to set goals to achieve happiness but the path is never laid out with any clarity. Reflecting on what happiness actually is can help students become more self-aware of what they value in life.
Ask the students what they dream about and you are sure to get a wild variety of interesting answers. Students dream all of the time and some use them to set lofty goals for their life pursuits. Others see dreams as fake pictures of reality. However they are viewed, thinking about dreams is a chance for students to become more self-aware about what they value and what they really want out of life.
Everybody experiences struggle. Sometimes the struggle ends up making the person more self-confident, stronger and better able to move forward to the next challenge. But other times adversity breeds fear and inaction. Every struggle is an opportunity for students to make an ethical choice on how to respond in a way that helps them cope with the challenges they will face.
We experience life with other people. This is true in our families, schools and workplaces. We are taught the importance of being individuals and being responsible for our own actions, yet many of our life experiences involve others and our successes and failures are determined by how well we are able to work with other people.