Teenagers make many momentous choices that they do not even realize they are making. Compare two different teenagers.
Teenager number one spends time diligently and even voluntarily completing tasks either required or encouraged by others. This teen reads a wide array of books on many topics and will discard those who are below standards. This teen also spends some time socializing with a large group of friends without technology. This teen does not complain about being bored or spend all possible time being entertained. This teen has thoughts and opinions and feels confident enough to tactfully and intelligently share them.
Teenager number two is constantly bored and seeking entertainment. This teen reads only one specific genre of books, recycling the same plot in the same setting over and over again. This teen socializes with a small number of friends, maybe only one, and prefers using technology to communicate when necessary. This teen is so absorbed in being entertained that they cannot be bothered to do voluntary tasks not will they be diligent in doing assignments. This teen makes those they live with feel like they are always asking too much of them. This teen may also share opinions freely but misses tact and intelligence and instead uses boasting and joking.
Both teens are making many decisions that will affect their future. When these two teens get their first job they will both make minimum wage but one will move up from there, while the other may be stagnant until learning the skills that the other learned early on. This process is called maturing. Maturing is often thought of as being involuntary. But when looked at by examining behaviors we can see that there is much that is under our own control. Before a teen will stretch to the tasks that need to be done to properly mature, the teen must first find someone to trust. Normally this is parents, but in our topsy-turvy world many parents are giving up on the job of counseling teenagers. It’s so much easier to drug them with entertainment. But this stunts their growth. Teenagers with inflated egos will find it hard to trust their parents, preferring to trust themselves and their limited circle of friends. Ironically, that friend circle usually reinforces what the teen already thinks. They think they are being independent and unique when they are only caught in a self reinforcing cycle. Courageous teens leave their comfort zone and try new things by volunteering or joining clubs that stretch their skills. Their courage will be validated and they will be much better at getting along with others who think differently, thus continually widening their knowledge of the world and their ability to interact with a wide variety of people. This pattern is a triangle with a constantly widening base.
The most important thing for a teenager is that they do not get stuck in a comfort zone, or more likely, an entertainment zone. Constant entertainment leads to a spiral of boredom. The point of entertainment is to like what you are experiencing. Pleasurable experience leads to more of the same kind of entertainment, narrowing experience until reaching the point of most pleasure and excitement. In this pattern, they reach the narrow point at the tip of the triangle and get stuck. Any change is viewed as moving backward and called “boring”. Anything not at the pinnacle of exciting entertainment is considered beneath them and will be resisted. No stretching will take place. No maturing can happen here.
So teens the next time you feel like you are powerless in your life, think again. There are many small but significant things you can do to improve your life, as long as you don’t think improvement is a long skinny triangle. What is the shape of your triangle? Is your base wide and stable or is it sharp and pointed? Is your spiral getting smaller or larger? Where are your behaviors leading you? Look beyond your nose and see the world. We all started at minimum wage, even Bill Gates.