4 Tips to Help Young People Develop Confidence and Purpose

By

Roshan Thiran

12-08-2020

4 min read

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Teenagers might be getting smarter, but they’re also finding it tougher to deal with the challenges of life. UC Berkeley – a public university in California – has come up with a solution: ‘adulting’ classes for students trying to navigate life’s trickier avenues.

An article in the LA Times described how the classes are organised by fellow students who run discussion sessions and invite guest speakers to share their insights on budgeting, relationships, conflict resolution, time management, and other important areas of life that come with far less training than they should.

One reason cited for the need for ‘adulting’ classes is the drop in life skills classes (or, at least, the quality of them), which has left young students unsure of how to manage the basics of independent life.

Before we adults start offering our admonishments in skewed hindsight, it’s worth remembering that we struggled too: every ‘basic’ skill we know started off as something complicated to master. We might also argue that ‘our parents left us to get on with it’, which is likely to have proved more helpful than we realised at the time.

The article goes on to talk about how the drop in life skills classes “combined with armies of hovering parents who emphasise academic achievement to the exclusion of almost everything else, has resulted in university classrooms filled with students who scored a 5 on their AP Physics test, but struggle to plan for a week’s worth of groceries and meals.”

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In the age of social media, there will, no doubt, be a predictable wave of derision by those who scoff smugly at young people who are taking part in the kinds of classes most adults would have taken in a heartbeat over lessons in algebra or woodwork.

However, ‘adulting’ classes are clearly needed in a time when employers throughout the world are lamenting the lack of life skills in fresh graduates despite their possessing high levels of technical ability.

If young people need support in areas where a significant number of them could use the guidance (thousands of students are said to have enrolled in Berkeley’s class), then it’s surely a positive thing that support is being offered. Perhaps it’s something we could use more of here in Malaysia, where the focus is usually centred on academic achievement to the expense of all else during college years.

In the meantime, if you’re a young person who’s struggling to figure out where you fit and what to do with your life, these four steps can help you gain a solid footing in feeling more sure about yourself and what you’d like to do in life. (They can also be helpful to anyone, regardless of age, who finds themselves in a period of adjustment.)

1. Get a mentor

At school – and even through college – we’re mostly taught what to think rather than how to think. We are, essentially, taught how to function; however, there’s little focus on how we can apply what we learn to life in meaningful ways.

Having a mentor – someone who’s been through similar experiences to you – can help you understand yourself and the world around you in ways that make you more confident and competent as you navigate through different aspects of life.

A mentor doesn’t have to be a successful business person – it can be someone a few years older than you who is a few steps ahead of where you are right now. Ultimately, your mentor should be someone who is understanding and willing to help you in your personal or professional development.

This might interest you: Are You The Mentee That Will Attract The Right Mentor?

2. Read books

Depending on what you’re looking to improve on, reading books can be a great start to help you untangle any confusion or doubts that hold you back from growing in the way you feel you need to.

If you want to develop a productive routine and be more focused, try The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. If you struggle with communication skills, How To Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes is a handy guide.

Sometimes, just getting a better handle on how to be ourselves can be tricky. Where do we even begin when there’s so much information out there telling us how we should be? As a starting point, I’d recommend Braving The Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown.

3. Join a club

Whether it’s Toastmasters, a martial arts gym, a salsa class, or a photography club, getting out there and socialising with new people is a great way to build your confidence and a range of life skills. Often, we get stuck because we become comfortable with the same people, the same places, and the same interactions.

If you’re feeling lost or unsure about yourself, it might be down to an inner conflict that needs to be resolved: on the one hand, familiarity is comfortable; on the other hand, you feel parts of life are stagnating due to the lack of challenge. Having a skill to develop, something to aim towards – interacting with new people – leads to being more confident in real-time as new experiences unfold before us.

4. Know that none of us has it all figured out

It’s easy to compare your life to others who seem to have everything under control. In reality, the vast majority of us are learning as we go. Life is continually unfolding and we’re met daily with challenges that stretch us and provide new insights and skills along the way. No-one has everything figured out.

There are people in their 50s and 60s who are thinking about what to do with their lives – and that’s not a bad thing. Some of the more interesting and insightful people you’ll meet are those who are still asking searching questions about life and possibilities to explore. Remember, life is more like an adventure to be explored rather than a puzzle to be solved.

Read: How to Steady the Stormy Seas of Self-Esteem by Building Self-Worth

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