It’s that time of year again, strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” filling the air. Graduation invitations arrive, caps and gowns are donned, and family and friends gather for the big event, and the celebration that follows.
At the local high school, I see the fresh young faces…they’re babies, all of them. (Did I look that confident at that age? I was so young and naive. Are they? How could they be anything else?) The parents and grandparents are proud, and just a bit puzzled. How did their children get to be seniors so quickly? (It’s the almost-universal lament of parents…where did the time go? It goes so fast!)
I remember that feeling, when it was my turn to be in the parent’s seat, and watch my kids cross the stage.
We’re friends of several families with a graduate this year, so we go to the ceremony to add our support, and deliver gifts.
Listening to the list of accomplishments and plans for these seniors, I wonder what their futures really hold. Who will surprise themselves, and everyone else, by surpassing expectations? And who will disappoint?
Life is so full of the unexpected. Just when you have it all lined up, something changes. And twenty years later, you’re in a place you never expected to be. Maybe that’s a good thing. Or not. You can almost always count on the future to be different than you think.
For the seniors…in high school, college…I hope your future is rosy and bright. I hope your dreams (mostly) come true. (Trust me when I say that it will be a good thing that not all your dreams are fulfilled. There may be better things in store than what you dream of now.) I hope you have room in your plans for dreams to change, because they surely will.
To get to the future, successfully, and with the least damage, you’ll need a few tools. These are my suggestions:
- Be kind. There is no better platform to stand on that being a genuinely kind and thoughtful human being. If you nurture this trait, you will occasionally be taken advantage of, but ultimately, you’ll be a happier person. And no one can take that away from you.
In a world where you can be anything, be kind.
- Be honest. But don’t use truth as a weapon. Honesty may not always be easy, but it shouldn’t be brutal either.
Honesty is wisdom, distilled through integrity, truth, and loyalty. Find a way to speak your truth, but speak it for the right reasons, in the right way…never from bad motives, or to hurt.
- Choose your battles wisely. It’s one thing to confront when necessary. It’s another to go through life looking for conflict. Don’t be that person. It’s just not worth it.
You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.
- Be consistent, whatever your goals. Consistency is more important than talent. Like the fabled tortoise and hare, sure and steady will do as much or more than raw ability.
Success is not about what you do once in a while, even it you do it well. It’s about what you do day in and day out. Consistency leads to mastery.
- Be a giver.
There are two kinds of people, the givers and the takers. The takers eat well, the givers sleep well.
- Be a forgiver.
Never wish them pain. That’s not who you are. If they caused you pain, they must have pain inside. Wish them healing.
- Be aware of the good things in life. People are often blind to the ordinary, everyday stuff of life, which is usually what brings true happiness. Yet most of us take it for granted: health, stability, family.
Satisfied life is better than successful life, because our success is measured by others, but our satisfaction is measured by our own soul, mind, and heart.
- Be grateful, and make it a habit to use gratitude as your filter. The more you practice gratitude, the easier it is to see the good.
It is not happy people who are grateful, but grateful people who are happy.
- Watch your self-talk. Your mind will believe everything you tell it. Feed it faith. Feed it truth. Feed it love.
You live most of your life inside your head. Make sure it’s a nice place to be.
- Learn to stand without needing approval from others. This is hard to do, but if you’re living with integrity and making choices you believe are wise, you’ll be ok.
If outside validation is your only source of nourishment, you will hunger for the rest of your life.
And last, as you move through life, look for opportunities to be the person you needed when you were younger. When I see someone who seems to be struggling with an issue I’ve also battled, I have insight into what might help…what they might need to make progress. You don’t have to be perfect to have wisdom to offer. Be a mentor, when you can, and always share with humility and grace. Pay it forward.
If it’s your turn in the spotlight…or you’re the friend or parent of someone there…I wish you all well. And next time you hear the familiar chords of “Pomp and Circumstance,” I hope you’ll reflect on your journey, look back to see how far you’ve come, and know you’re on a good path.
It goes so quickly. Make it count!