The Life Lessons They Don’t Teach You in School

Last month, I spoke to 175 worried first-year high school students about life lessons I wish I had learned in school.

One of their biggest worries was knowing what they wanted to do for their career. This is what I shared with them.

When I graduated high school, I was living in in my car and, occasionally, a friend’s living room. I had absolutely no idea what the next day was going to bring much less my future career. Then I ran away with my girlfriend and life became even more difficult to predict. Looking back 17,400 days later, I have lived a surprisingly rich, productive life filled with many obstacles and victories and, most important, no regret.

My brother, on the other hand, knew from a young age that he wanted to be a dentist. He pursued and achieved his goal. Now he is providing free care to children all over the world. Both of us ended up satisfied with our lives even though we followed completely different paths. Or, to be more honest, he moved in a straight line while I bounced from wall to wall.

High school is a wonderful place to gather the knowledge and life skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond. Uncertainty about your future signifies limitless opportunities. And your sincere efforts to do your best in the tasks before you will be the cause for future success. You may have peers who know what they want to do but there is absolutely no need for you to worry.

Anxiety happens when you think you have to figure out everything now. It is better to give yourself time to explore than to force yourself to make a decision. Both my daughters (a journalism professor and a litigation attorney) ended up in careers that were completely different from their interests in high school. So, take your time!

Of course, efforts I made to build financial security and take care of my health were important. However, I tried to place the most value on wisdom, inner resolve, self-respect & compassion for others. Without these, the physical and material results would lack meaning.

While all three are important, treasures of the heart give meaning to the other two.

Psychologists are finding that people whose primary focus in life is the attainment of extrinsic goals, such a wealth, property, fame and status, tend to be less happy. In general, they experience higher levels of anxiety, suffer more from illness, and have less sense of fulfillment.

So, it is also important for you to seek out sources of inspiration and mentors while you are in high school. Take the time to strengthen your respect for yourself and others. Learn how to deal with sadness or anxiety. These habits will pay huge dividends in terms of your future happiness.

I write, speak, create art & play music to inspire and give hope to myself and others.

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