Helping Teens Find Their Niche in Life

Carol James Copyright 1999-2012

If a career is an extension of doing what you love, then you will love your career. Sounds simple enough, but is it? Does our culture really support and encourage teenagers to choose a career based on what they love? While moving through the educational system, how many opportunities are they given to uncover and to explore their natural talents, abilities, intelligences and knowing and to learn how to apply them to their true calling? Do schools teach them how to find and pursue their niche in life and to follow their passions?

Most teenagers grow up in an environment where parents, teachers, school counselors or friends all seem to know what is best for them. They are quick to tell teenagers which career they are best suited for and what skills and education they should acquire to pursue that career, all without taking the time to find out who they really are or what is in their hearts. Teenagers are encouraged to prepare for the jobs that pay the highest, that have the most security, that follow their parents profession or that are in most abundant supply. Forget about doing what they love, forget about following the urges of their heart, forget about pursuing that which extends from their natural talents and abilities, because it is more important to have a job, any job, that pays well, that offers security, that is recognized as appropriate by others and for which there are plenty of openings. And because teenagers can be easily influenced by what others suggest, they empower others to decide how they will spend the largest portion of their life.

Then there is the other side of the coin in which teenagers are given no guidance whatsoever. They are not encouraged to develop potentials that poke their heads above the surface, and often those potentials drift aimlessly away, getting lost in the shuffle of everyday life.

The biggest problem with doing what is expected or what is popular is that teenagers usually end up sticking with a job that is only marginally satisfying, then live a life filled with complaints and regrets. Why does anyone stay in a job that they hate or that is a dead end or that is unfulfilling? Because the job pays the rent, because it supports a lifestyle that one is afraid to give up, because it offers security, because it is expected. Many people hate their job, or at best, find it unrewarding, unfulfilling or unchallenging, yet do nothing to change their circumstances. Is it any wonder why people are so stressed out and plagued by disease and chronic illness?

For teenagers the first problem to overcome in choosing to do what they love is "Will my parents approve?" It is childrens nature to want to please their parents and to seek approval, however, choosing to follow their own purpose and passion in life often goes against what their parents think they should do. In their well-meaning way, parents try to convince teenagers of the "foolishness" of following their heart. Have parents forgotten about the need for professional fulfillment? Or are they automatically assuming that their children will fail unless they follow the "norm," choose what is "practical" or do what they are told? Or could it be that what is really going on with parents is that they couldnt imagine succeeding if they had followed their heart and chosen to do what they loved, and so they are projecting their own fears onto their teenagers?

Pause & Ponder

Is this happening to you? Are you pressuring your teenagers to do what you want them to do and to choose a career that you feel is best for them? Do you have doubt in their ability to succeed? Have you told them that they would fail if they chose to follow their heart? Are you projecting your own fears about failure or feelings of inadequacies onto them in your well-meaning way of protecting them? Or are you encouraging your teenagers to:

  • take the time to explore who they are (their talents, abilities, skills, desires, preferences, etc.)
  • think about who they want to be or who they could be
  • spend time exploring in what ways they may want to express their talents
  • trust themselves and their own knowing of what is right for them
  • have confidence in their own abilities and talents
  • follow their heart
  • choose the career that they want to pursue

Are you teaching your teenagers how to:

  • be successful no matter what they pursue
  • make good decisions
  • be responsible for their own lives
  • depend on themselves for their happiness
  • be their own person

Are you teaching your children that their own confidence in their ability to succeed holds more power to predict their success than any other factor? You can influence them to be more successful by encouraging them to make their own decisions and to take responsibility for their own life, instead of telling them what to do and who to be, which are important factors in grooming responsible, successful adults.

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