My daughter asked me how old I was last week. Eek! - I couldn’t remember and so had to stop and do the math!! At 43, I’ve hit that age where I’ve lost count. Or maybe I’ve reached that tipping point where a busy life has left little, if no room for non-essential information, like my age.
I took a step back and remembered my life before it became hectic, when I could easily retract my age without a second thought. It was a period when I spent a lot of time exploring who I was, what made me tick, sought out like-minded people and used my daily activities to mark my place in the world.
While doing some research for a previous blog post I came across three ‘enduring human truths about being young’ and filed it away, knowing I’d use it at some point. In anticipation of the Love What We Do’s, Find Your Glow on March 17th at the Hoebridge Centre in Woking, it seems fitting to focus this blog on these three enduring truths.
1. Find Yourself
The notion of finding oneself has transcended generations, but when is the right time to start ‘finding yourself’? I’ll admit the idea of a young person finding her or himself when they haven’t yet formed an identity could be an oxymoron. BUT, this is the exact reason why it is so important to start young.
Except maybe you are reading this, and like me, you aren’t considered ‘young’ anymore. So, here’s the good news: the journey isn’t age restrictive. It can start at any age. Findings from a recent study conducted from the University of Edinburgh revealed that people change quite a bit throughout their lives. It is highly unlikely that you are the same person that you were 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago. How we define ourselves does changes as we age. Although the earlier the better, it is feasible to start at any time during your life. It is also important to revisit and reconnect with ourselves throughout our lives.
2. Create Your Network
Have you ever heard the quote, “The best mirror is an old friend”? In the case of creating your network, this quote is spot on! The most motivating atmosphere you can surround yourself with includes people who share your values and interests.
For kids, school is an obvious place to establish and maintain friendships, but over the holidays and weekends this support network can weaken. Although many kids keep in touch via electronic devices and social apps, a social network that maintains personal interaction is important. Face-to-face communication does something that social media’s likes, loves and emoji’s can’t – it raises serotonin and oxytocin chemicals in the brain that are responsible for feelings of happiness and optimism. In fact, a study from Kent State University found that university students with high mobile usage “tended to have lower GPA, higher anxiety and lower satisfaction with life (happiness) relative to their peers who used the cell phone less often.”
One of the main reasons people seek out social networks involves increasing levels of happiness. Want to help your kids develop meaningful and lasting relationships that support their wellbeing? Limit electronic devices and encourage face-to-face interactions…and psst…children learn best through example, so don’t forget to ditch your mobile or tablet once and a while!
3. Finding Your Place in the World
Everyone is motivated by something or many things; it an essential part of human behaviour. Motivation is the force that initiates, guides and maintains goal-orientated actions from getting out of bed in the morning to making the Forbes 100 list. There are a handful of theories to explain what motivates humans, and depending on the theory, motivation can stem from biological, social, emotional or cognitive drivers.
If you’ve taken time to find yourself and taken steps to surround yourself with like-minded people, you’re surely motivated to take the final step, finding your place in the world.
At 43, I’m a Generation Xer. In comparing my journey with those of Generation Z (born between 1996 - 2010) and Millenials (born 1980 – 1995), there is a constant – motivation towards a specific goal. What is different between the generations, or the variables, are external influences. These can come from a variety of sources, but I personally think pop-culture is one of the biggest influencers. I also think it propels Gen Z and Millenials to grow up faster, forcing them to deal with more complex, more adult issues at younger ages.
As an adult it can be difficult to stay true to yourself and rebuff pop culture’s constant influx of what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. If difficult for an adult (who has had the time to define a sense of self) it is probably much tougher for younger generations to take a stand and circumvent the mainstream in order to travel her or his own path. So, how can we help younger generations? I believe equipping them with the structure and support to facilitate self-exploration is key. In doing so they will unequivocally and confidently learn about who they are, create their network of positive like-minded people and ultimately feel secure in their place within the world.
The road to learning and identifying who you are, what makes you tick and what makes you glow is a road we all take, whether we realize it or not. If we realize it, then we have the power – no matter our age or circumstance – to determine our journey and fulfill our potential. Sure, life throws some curve balls, but having a solid foundation – knowing yourself and having a supportive network – allows us to recover and continue our journey in order to find our place in the world.
Upon graduation from high school, my long-time friend read her valedictorian speech to our graduating class . As we were young, inquisitive minds verging into the unknown, she quoted Robert Frosts’ poem, The Road Not Taken. It was so appropriate on that day, and 24 years later, it still rings true.
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Blog by, Tess Ackland
Tess is the founder and Director of ON! Juniper, a lifestyle brand that supports girl empowerment through building self-awareness, health and happiness. ON! Juniper hand-makes organic + natural lip balms and bath bombs for girls.
 Quote by George Herbert