Looking back on my teenage years as an adult, there are so many things I wish I could tell my younger self in order for him to avoid unnecessary pain and hardship. There are twelve main points I think the teens of today can benefit from learning and understanding, both as a means to avoid hardship and to achieve success in life. You all have been asking me to do a lesson on teens in this day and age, and your persistence has paid off, so here we go!
First, it is so important for teens to learn to love delayed gratification as opposed to instant gratification. Today’s technology and media driven society is all about instant gratification, with tweets, status updates, and instagram posts constantly flooding us with stimulation. Living your life in instant gratification mode will cause you to suffer tremendously - you get used to getting what you want right away, and inevitably that expectation is not met and you are disappointed.
Psychologists did a study with children which presented interesting results. They offered each child one marshmallow right away, or two if they were willing to wait 20 minutes. They followed these kids through adulthood, and the ones who were able to wait for two marshmallows were, on average, more successful than those who could not wait.
In kabbalah, waiting is the process by which you build the vessel for the blessings to inhabit. Therefore, anything acquired quickly will leave you quickly as you do not have the capacity to hold on to it. You need to learn to love the process! The more patient I’ve been with things in life, the more successful they have turned out.
Next point: religion without faith is meaningless. If you put all your energy into learning religion without building your faith, you are focused entirely on the mind and are neglecting the heart. Without faith, you are more likely to fall into the mindset that life is happening to you, not for you. Remember, your creator does all things for your benefit, so any trial you are experiencing is a wake up call from Hashem. He has high expectations for you, but at the same time he is warm to you and will always be there to pick you up when you fall. It is said: you may go to sleep crying, but you will wake up singing. Keep practicing and building faith and remember, you are not a victim of life but a co-creator in life!
Third, I see young people all the time get into relationships, the relationship does not work out, and they are left bitter by the experience and get hung up on the failed relationship. This gets in the way of their moving on in the process of finding their soulmate. Remember, sometimes God has to break your heart to save your soul! You assign meaning to everything in your life, so choose to see the lesson in this failed relationship and grow from it as God wants you to. He is preparing you for your soulmate, so trust the process and move forward.
Number four: resilience is key. Resilience is what allows us to get up after a fall, and teenage years are the perfect time to start building your resilience. Humility is important for this process as well, as a humble man will recover while the arrogant man will be ashamed of his failure and discouraged from trying again. Keep a “what’s next” mindset rather than a “why me” mindset and you will always be looking to the next challenge in life. Never take failure personally, it is a natural part of life.
The fifth point is all about building a solid mindset during the teenage years. The best way to do this is to rise early in the morning and pray, approaching life and your creator rather than avoiding them. Successful people master their mornings and are invariably early risers. Waking up late demonstrates laziness and a lack of faith, and as a teen you should not be lazy but full of energy! Your pillow and your bed can be your biggest enemy in life, robbing you of so many opportunities. It may be difficult to wake up early at first, but once the habit is formed it will be second nature for you for the rest of your life.
Next, do not spend time comparing your life to others. Social media is a notorious comparison tool, and you should avoid FaceBook and its ilk as much as possible. Stay in your own lane! Everyone has their own challenges and purpose in life, your job is to figure out what yours are, not to peer at your neighbor and see what they have going on. Keep to your business and let others tend to theirs.
Seven: All happy people are successful, but not all successful people are happy. What can we take away from this? When you are happy, Hashem opens your mind and you are content with the blessings in your life. When you are sad, your mind is closed as you are blocking Hashem from your life. You should proceed in all things with simcha, otherwise what is the point? Go into things with light and light will flow into your life!
Point number eight: Do not chase happiness, but rather practice it. So often in society you hear people saying “I’ll be happy once I have x, y, and z”, yet if and when these things come to them they are already focused on what it is they want next! When you show Hashem you are pleased with what you have in life he will bestow more upon you. In other words, gratitude begets abundance, so practice happiness and gratitude in your daily life.
Next up is pain management, a critical skill to develop as a teenager. Pain should be used as a tool to get closer to your creator, and should never be numbed or suppressed. So many teens today turn to marijuana to numb their pain, which leads to other drugs as well as pornography. These activities flood your brain with far too much dopamine, and suddenly the little things in life give you no joy as your brain is used to these extreme dopamine levels. This leads to depression, substance abuse, and most importantly takes you away from your creator. Use pain as a motivator, do not run from it.
The tenth point is the importance of detoxing from social media as a teenager. I’ve already mentioned how social media is involved with the instant gratification mindset as well as our comparing our lives to others, so it is best to stay off of social media as much as possible. FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr - they provide nothing of substance, and the inevitable comparisons you draw between your life and what you see on these apps will only lead to depression. Remember: starve your distractions and feed your focus!
Eleven: get rid of any limiting beliefs you have formed. Things like “I’m not smart enough to do this” or “I’m not good enough for that” are nothing more than you limiting your potential in life. Our beliefs define us, and limiting your potential as a person is not what your creator wants for you. Get rid of any of these limiting beliefs, for they are garbage and serve no good purpose in your life.
Finally, you should be careful not to hold things in, such as traumatic events or emotions you experience. Talk to a therapist, talk to a friend, talk to a parent, just talk to someone and let it out! When we hold things in, they accumulate and fill our heart, invading the space which our creator would occupy. Traumatic events happen to everyone, so talk about them, give them a meaning, and learn from them. If you hold things in rather than let them out, you will only bring yourself suffering.
Looking back on my teenage years as an adult, I wish I had a better grasp on these twelve points as I would have avoided a lot of heartache and tribulations in life. Learn from my mistakes and take these lessons to heart so that you can achieve success in life much earlier that I did, and without having to fall as many times as I fell!