It’s kind of like the More You Know public service announcement, but for teens.
1. Don’t flirt with the world.
Smoking, pills, drugs, and drinking till you throw up is not “fun.” They are not rites-of-passage that all kids have to partake in to qualify their teenage years. They are life-long habits that follow you well into your twenties and thirties. Almost everyone I know that started smoking or doing drugs in high school, STILL DOES in one form or the other. I heard Steve Harvey say it best when he said, “Sin will keep you longer than you wanted to stay and cost you more than you wanted to pay.” Use this time to develop your interests and talents. Life will be a lot more fun in the long run, trust me.
2. Take a stand and be your own brand.
Be you. Don’t know who you are? Well, you’re in good company because neither do most of your friends. But a good first step in finding out who you are is to not be what others are as a default. You are an original, act like it. Originality is found in authenticity. Don’t ever try to bend your values or your personality to match someone else’s or to fit in. There is little value in being a copy, but an original is priceless. You are priceless. Don’t devalue yourself by being a copy.
3. You don’t have to have it all figured out.
You might look around and think that everyone else has it figured out, but they don’t. They are good at blending in and pretending. Some people are just trying on their confidence while on the inside they’re shaking in their boots! Don’t measure yourself by others. Remember, you aren’t on the same time table as someone else. You are not expected to live life in the same order as them either.
4. Your choices should have far more to do with your values than your friends.
It may look like others are moving ahead into adulthood and you’re being left behind. But this is not true. You don’t need to worry about not having had a boyfriend/girlfriend and thinking you’re the only one not having sex and all the other things that can preoccupy a teens mind. You are not in competition with others. Remember, you are an original so your choices should have far more to do with your values than your friends.
5. Character is everything.
Strive for personal integrity. Be a person of your word. We live in a world that puts a lot of emphasis on success and money and fame and popularity, but none of that can lay a finger on a person who has deep character. Deep character will get you further than all of the above. So, go deep and then go deeper. Go deep in kindness. Go deep in courage to do the right thing. Go deep in humility. Go deep in grace. Be upright in what you say and do.
6. You are not weird.
ALL people are quirky and complex. Whatever you are thinking or experiencing in a certain time in life is not specific to you. Other people have been there, too. We are all normal in that we are all unique.
7. If you have to choose between being respected or liked, choose respected.
They are not the same thing. You can be liked by everyone and not like yourself. Liking yourself comes from respecting yourself. Respecting yourself comes from not compromising your values and beliefs in order to be liked.
8. You will outgrow people.
They will outgrow you. It’s okay. Some people are meant to stay for a lifetime and most aren’t. You will be betrayed by people you hold dear. But don’t let bitterness take root in your heart. Give it to God and forgive them. Learn from it and move on. But don’t be surprised by it. We are all broken, flawed people susceptible to acting in inexcusable ways.
9. Be thankful and you will be happy.
If you ever find yourself feeling down about something, start counting your blessings. It’s all about perspective.
10. Take personal responsibility for yourself.
If a relationship ends badly, were there red flags? Were you compromising yourself at your own expense? If you can’t afford your bills, are you living above your means. You can’t live in victory if you’re stuck playing the victim. Choose to see the unlovely about yourself and your actions. You can’t change others, but you have to own your actions before you can change yourself.
11. Be humble.
Don’t ever think that you couldn’t be in someone else’s shoes. It only takes a few bad decisions or unexpected life circumstances to wipe you off your feet. Don’t ever think yourself more highly than others.
12. Say I’m sorry.
When you hurt someone (and you will) say you’re sorry. Be quick about it.
13. Learn from other’s mistakes.
Don’t learn the hard way. It’s hard. It includes embarrassment, set-backs, long-term consequences, etc. But when you do make mistakes, and you will, learn from those, too.
14. Be confident.
Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know something or when you make a mistake. None of that defines you as a person, your character does. Confidence comes from knowing your worth. Remember, you are a priceless original.
15. Be smart not just educated.
Being educated is not the same as being smart. My father was always the smartest person in the room and he barely graduated high school. You will meet lots of educated, non-smart people. Don’t ever think someone’s degrees are more valuable than someone’s knowledge of how to hunt and skin a deer. There’s more than one way to be smart.
16. Live like God is right beside you because He is.
This thought should comfort you, guide you, and scare you, at times. Seek him and you will find him. After all, you were created by him and for relationship with him. It only makes sense that you should know him.
Every house needs a foundation and every life needs one, too. Jesus is mine. Make Jesus yours and your foundation will be strong. When the big, bad wolf comes to blow your house down, and he will…your foundation will matter.
18. Cultivate a good work ethic.
It will get you further than good looks or natural talent. Theodore Roosevelt said Far and away the best thing life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. He is right. It is one of the biggest gifts life offers.
19. Never just settle in and give up.
Put in the work, but know when to walk away. Like the Hall & Oates song says the strong give up and move on, the weak give up and stay.
20. Laugh and Love.
Laughter and love really are the best medicines. It really does lighten a load. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at others, but not to their face. LOL. Laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more. Life is funny and we take ourselves too serious sometimes. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh and marry someone who laughs (it will make all the difference) and laugh at your feeble attempts and then love yourself for trying and try again. Set your life cycle to laugh and love and repeat and your load will be lighter.