When I started planning out this post, I had a plan involved for starting to discover that “first step” that I spoke about yesterday. After taking some notes and racking thoughts around my brain, I began to realize that David Allen of Getting Things Done had already shown me a grand place to start, just in an entirely different concept. In his books, talks, articles, etc. David mentions the Horizons of Focus. Without getting into immense detail, it is basically a breakdown of how you view everything from the big picture of your all-encompassing goal in life and existence all the way down to what it is a person should be doing in the next twenty-four hours. In between those two extremes, David asks his users to look into what sort of hats they wear on a daily basis (parent, student, spouse, employee), what your vision is for the next five years of your life (good employee interview type stuff), and how what you are doing today is helping to reach those goals and is correlated to a hat you wear.
So when I look at an entire generation of high school students, especially those that fall under that apparently smart umbrella, it really comes down to dialoguing your future. Focus is a great tool for getting things done, and David knows this just as well as anyone with half a brain knows it once they are aware of how the two correlate. The choices a person makes on where to place their focus are based almost entirely on their current situations and thought processes. This is important: these are variables and it is absolutely alright if they change over time, as new information and new experiences can affect those thought processes and create new situations that might be way more important to focus on than what you were focused on a week ago. It might be related to flip-flopping or indecisiveness, but who cares? This is not all about locking down at a decision at the age of fifteen that you are going to be forced to live with for all eternity. Get that out of your head right now.
There are three keys:
- Asking the “right” questions.
- Asking all the questions.
- Accepting all positives and all negatives.
There is a problem among imaginative thinkers where he or she will decide to focus on every possible outcome of a given situation and, almost always, will focus on the negatives far more than the positives. It is a harbinger of procrastination and hides creative work behind fear. I know it exists and I still allow it to effect me. It is a battle that is tough to fight and nearly impossible to win for any longer than it takes to actually get something done. Thankfully that is all that is truly necessary, especially when it comes to simple productivity (which broken down to its core is nothing more than just creating something, period). In this exercise, though, it is important to accept all of those outcomes, but also to accept that only one of them, or perhaps none of them, can happen.
But before all of that, you ask questions. You ask yourself questions. You sit down and break down your life and your potential and you ask every possible question that could affect the rest of your life. It can be as focused as what kind of car you want to drive and as open-ended as your eventual retirement or even, scarily enough, the type of person you want to marry. Of course, like previously stated, these things are going to change. If you always think about driving the same car and marrying the same woman that is fine. If it works, fantastic. But remember that from fifteen to twenty to thirty, whatever, those ideas will change. On the negative side, these changes could come after you are already driving a car or are already married to someone that might have fit what the eighteen year old you wanted but the twenty two year old you is beating their head off the wall because you are stuck living with a decision you thought was correct four years prior. This may or may not explain the divorce rate spike, I’m not trying to make that correlation at all, but I am sure there is some percentage it could apply to.
Ask all the questions. Try to ask the right ones first, but then allow yourself to float to the outliers of interrogation and force yourself to mentally live out your life from the place you are in now, knowing that it is almost meant to change, but does not absolutely have to. What is a right question for one person may be an outlier for someone else, but they are still needing to be asked. By living out your life mentally first, it can allow you to design a “physical” road map to get to the places you want to go. By creating flexible, flowing goals that are achievable from where you are now but can be modified to fit your desires.
I originally hoped that this sort of experience could be good for any level of student, but I soon decided that the middle teens years are much better suited for this particular exercise, mainly because I have yet to discover a good, clean, actually usable method to help a child design their future from that young of an age. I think the elementary school age group has numerous other problems with the systems they live with, and by changing those systems it may in fact make implementing this system much easier when the time comes, but that is a rant for another time. All you have to know for this is to follow those three keys above, look for any pursue-able answer even if it is not the so-called ‘right’ answer, allow your mind to wander mentally through your future, and accept changes when they come. Hopefully, and I say that with a hint of prayer, this will begin to help people that are stuck in that position of having the world expecting great things from them and having absolutely no idea what to do next.
If I could say my writing is about anything, or if I could focus it down into what I want it to be about, it is this. I was never given this pertinent piece of information. I am not sure if someone was supposed to tell me or if I was being left to my own devices to discover it. If it was the former, someone really dropped the ball. If it was the latter, then those in charge underestimated the ability of the apparently smart to figure out a puzzle that a large chunk of adults haven’t themselves solved.
Maybe that is the point. Maybe they do not have any answers to give. Maybe they feel we should not be given information as teenagers that they were either not given themselves or did not get until much later in life. It is as though they would be committing some sort of heinous crime against humanity if those secrets were let out – if they even are out there in the first place. That is quite the conundrum. One I hope to eventually unravel.
Nobody knows what information is good, bad, helpful, destructive, or anything else. There is a fear of making things worse for our next generation by providing them with faulty intelligence. The problem this creates is that by withholding everything, they are in effect making things worse by not even providing options. No one is willing to take chances on a level that could promote real change. Honestly, I’m not trying for grand social change here. I am only looking for that first step – something I can share with everyone who is like I was, knowing nothing about what to do when knowing what to do is almost impossible.
There exists a framework, an infrastructure, a skeleton of some kind for building anything and everything. Yet, even with all of that, it seems no one has sat down at developed a skeleton for building a future. Sure, there are all kinds of hopeful game-plans that are all about what to do once a student, an adult, anyone is passed that first step. They know where they want to be but not how to get there. What about all the people who can not even put one and one together to know where they even wish to be in five years? in a year? in a month, even!? Your parachute can be any color it wants and you can glide it all throughout the blue sky, but you have to know where to land to best take use of the environment. Where is that map? I have never seen it, never even sniffed it. However, I feel like I am getting closer.
It’s not luck. It’s not family. It isn’t even skill exactly, not at this level. Not on the entry-level. Skills help you move from one rung of the ladder to the next. They do nothing for you when you are digging around in the basement for the ladder to climb. I feel like I am coming off in a similar vein to all of the various productivity gurus and speakers, but I am not worried about what is being produced (except for producing great starting points in people). This is why I talk about education, and why I long for as unique experience as possible in the classroom. If we are all unique and special flowers, and I agree that we are, then as many unique situations would be created, and when it comes to the educational system, that breaks down quick. This is really going to become my dead horse, especially since I have yet to design any sort of reasonable replacement. There has to be one out there though, as if what we have currently is the best we can do then we are in serious trouble. Oddly enough, it is those so-called apparently smart folks that are in the most trouble, because they are expected to know. They have more expectations hoisted on them than people who have already proven themselves because they are supposed to be on that level and for whatever reason just are not there yet. It’s numbing.
This creates a mental debt that may never be paid back, all because of expectations that the student was almost completely unaware they were contracted to reach. So what to do when you don’t know what to do? Let’s find out, together.