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Who sees you as you are?

How might I take steps to better myself? Too many projects ongoing? What about you? I suppose my desire to learn what I can about myself and the world prompts me to act in the time I've been given.

Today, I was thinking about the book, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom. Now, this isn't because I hope I die soon.  Though I admit the concept of heaven is uplifting for me. Some people think death and dying is a rather morbid subject, but this book is actually quite surprising. The writing style and concepts raised expanded on my view of the after-life.  I open my eyes to new possibilities about the significance of the 'here and now' and what events have yet to be. 

In the book, on Eddie's 83rd birthday, he dies unexpectedly in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart in an amusement park. With his final breath, he feels two small hands in his, and then nothing. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns heaven is no lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained by five people who were in it. These people may have been loved ones or strangers. Each of them changed your path forever.

What did I learn from Eddy's story? Don't give up. Whatever happens to you right now, it prepares you for a future. This is the way of the earthly world. People you know and don't know are helping you along all the time with their choices.  Everything is linked. You're loved.  You're being heard.  Your sense of time doesn't run the show.  Life unfolds whether or not we think we're ready.

I remember a story of a old monk who was mentoring a younger monk. The owise monk's peers repeatedly asked him why he was wasting time on his charge. After all, the young monk was openly obnoxious, negative, lazy and demonstrated the exact opposite of desirable monk traits.  The old monk replied "I could never turn him away. He is God's greatest gift to me.  As the result of his presence, I'm developing deeper patience, understanding and resourcefulness than I've ever had." 

The older monk reminds me every problem I encounter introduces me to another side of myself.  People who enter our lives mirror some part of us that we may not initially see or understand.  How we react teaches about our desires, needs and ego.  How I perceive my own difficulties is itself enlightening.  Issues don't just go away.  I learn to think differently to better understand and work through . Each one is an opportunity to develop my insight and ingenuity.  As the result, I raise awareness of the power within myself and encourage people to know benefits in the following:

1) seek experience dealing with problems rather than avoiding them

2) spend time to discover the real underlying issue;

3) actively explore several possible solutions;

4) consult individuals with relevant experience. 


Teenage risk-taking trends

Teenagers take risks.  This is a key part of learning and personal growth. Personal choices allow individuals to assert independence and explore limits.  Developmental psychologists believe that unless individuals explore risk-taking, there is no growth.

Although risk-taking is experimental, some adolescents will be motivated by poor self esteem and lack of confidence.  Impulsive behavoiur and recklessness are strategies used by some adolescents to gain peer approval. The main problem for young people is their seeming inability to evaluate the potential risks and consequences of everyday behaviour . 60% of adolescent deaths are caused by accidents – many of these are the result of risk-taking.

Thrill-seeking, the desire to impress one’s friends, feelings of invincibility and the search for new experiences are all motivating forces that drive teens to act without concern for consequences or without even being able to fully evaluate the potential risks. For example, if a teenager engages in risky behaviour and doesn’t suffer the expected consequences, they are likely to deduce that the behaviour is not risky at all and that adult evaluations cannot be trusted.

This is often the case with drug and alcohol use. Teenagers don’t see drinking, drug use and driving as potentially risky in the same way as adults. For them, the risk is in social rejection – not being seen as cool - if they don’t do what their friends are doing.  Sometimes one risky choice can lead to others. For example, drinking alcohol to intoxication will impair judgement and may result in unwanted sexual activity or violence that would otherwise have been avoided.


Live & learn

No matter what our age, we have opportunities to learn both in and outside of traditional school. We can also reflect back on childhood. Our early experiences influence the ways we live and learn later and also how we treat people.  Some of us learn more in the 'real-world 'than we did back in school.  Not everyone applies all the facts and details they studied.  Learning what is useful to retain from books differs from learning about emotions and developing relationships.

Think back to your childhood.  Maybe your parents desired for you to try many varied activities.   When children have things scheduled each day of the week, you may wonder whether a growing child's happiness is sacrificed to the egos of the parents.  As a child grows, the tables can turn.  A child grown may sacrifice pleasing parents in favor of appeasing his or her own ego.  Consider how much time you spend with your parents and how this relates to your childhood relationship. 

In one example, a grown son decided not to have children.  He said,

"Just think of how much money you can keep for yourself.  My dad says, 'we spend so much money on you three kids--just one of you costs about $250,000, just raising you...If you didn't have kids you could keep it all to yourself.  Just be rich.' "



Society going nowhere fast?

Young people in Western societies are told they will likely have at least 6 careers, yet school and university curricula are not keeping up with changes in the outside world.  As the result, students learn less about themselves, social skills and how to adapt in societies around them.  What would you think if educational institutions evolved to focus more on empowering young people to develop physical, emotional and moral well-being rather than emphasize competitive test results? What kinds of changes would you propose in order to help people reverse the epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness that is perpetuated by current addiction to economic growth? 


Accelerate or hinder your progress

Awareness of what you like or dislike about yourself is the first step to developing a clearer sense of who you are.  How you see yourself contributes to your attitude and whether you accelerate or hinder your own life learning.  As you grow to feel grateful for all your experiences,  you will also see open-ended benefits in the following:

  • Concern yourself more with making others feel good about themselves than making them feel good about you 
  • If you're unable to clarify your vision in ways that motivate yourself and others,  then  its time to revise it         
  • Raise your awareness about issues you need to know, not necessarily about what you wish to hear