on Teen Life

Friday, October 14, 2011

Advice for Teens: Living Your Dreams

After participating in the Wisdom 2.0 Youth conference, blogger Gina Biegel reflects on the power of perseverance.

There are times when fear can prevent us from following our dreams and goals.  Fear or other such feelings are like monsters under our beds or in our closets and might lead to so many opportunities if we pay attention to and believe them.  What would have happened without the Einsteins or Martin Luther Kings of the world if they were too scared to persevere and follow their passion and their hearts?

When you feel like you can’t, you shouldn’t or that others are pushing you down, don’t listen to yourself or them. Don’t give up! I say this because if I had listened to the judgmental voice inside my head and comments from others that supported these negative judgments I wouldn’t be writing this right now. Let me tell you a little more to give you some perspective. 

I am the first person in my family to go to college. Getting in was a bit challenging –I didn’t have a lot of guidance as to how the application process works, where to apply, etcetera.  Luckily, I had the opportunity to go to a very good high school that did assist in some of these areas. I also had the will and determination to get somewhere.  Where, I wasn’t sure where yet. But I knew I wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world. 

And I’ve done pretty well. I published my first book, The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness Skills to Help You Deal With Stress, a little over a year ago and have published journal articles in some of the most prestigious peer-reviewed journals in the world. But when I first went to take my entrance exam for writing in the University of California school system, I didn’t pass. I had to take the course early on in college. 

Nevertheless, I didn’t let it stop me, even if it was easy to talk myself into believing I wasn’t a good writer or that I was stupid. Now, I look back and grin ear to ear because it was that perseverance that encouraged me to follow my path even more. (By the way, I ended up graduating from my undergraduate education in three years. Just saying!)

I won’t forget my junior year high school English teacher. No need to name names here, but suffice it to say that instead of being encouraged, I would read returned papers that were often torn down with lots of red ink with  no feedback on how to succeed and fix the mistakes I was making in my writing. It caused me much sadness and I felt like giving up.

I reflect on all this now having just attended the inaugural Wisdom 2.0 Youth conference in Silicon Valley. Wisdom 2.0 Youth was about bringing people together: thought leaders in the fields of technology and mindfulness and discussed the ways the two, are shaping the lives of our youth today. I had the privilege of speaking at it. For me speaking at this conference it was kind of like feeling like I got invited to speak on the Oprah show. I have been speaking for quite a few years now at a myriad of different conferences, but this felt like the big one.

Given my concerns about my own abilities and what I really have to offer in what I teach, the need to come across in an articulate, clear, concise, and intelligent manner was weighing on me. Plus, this was the first time I would be filmed for YouTube.

There is a catchphrase I often teach to teens in my Stressed Teens Program, which is compiled of mindfulness skills to help teens deal with stress. “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.” You’ve surely heard it before, but it really has made a big difference in many of the lives for both teens and parents that I have worked with, who sometimes respond that the sentiment had never occurred to them.

And I know its value first-hand. Had I listened to the things I believed about myself and the words and actions of others in my life, I wouldn’t have gone in the path I have and would be living a life of missed opportunities.

I feel grateful because I believe that when I presented at Wisdom 2.0 I did so with the following: passion, enthusiasm, authenticity, humility, empathy and honesty. This might sound egocentric, but my point is that I’m doing what I’ve always believed I should be doing, in the way I believe it should be done. (I can’t say I am perfect at being humble or empathic everyday, but noticing when I am and when I am not and shifting in such a way to get on the right track, that in itself too is being mindful.) 

I’m living my dream, despite what my English teacher said or didn’t say or despite my own judgments.

What makes you think you can’t do the same?

posted by Gina Biegel, 9:28 am