There is a simple formula to achieve a productive, meaningful, joyful life. Unfortunately, it has been largely overlooked in the mainstream, despite the overwhelming research that clearly identifies this formula. It’s never too late to support teens in creating a joy filled life.
Though this formula is simple, it does take some focus and personal contemplation to follow them.
- Know yourself – Your identity, which consists of your values, beliefs, virtues, strengths, weaknesses, personality, interests, and natural talents. When we know who we are we can find where we fit! Finding where we fit as a member of society within the vocational, social, and spiritual settings as well as our gender role, is critical to our mental and emotional well-being. Human’s must develop a sense of purpose and belonging to find meaning and joy in life.
- Be true to yourself – Your internal values, beliefs, virtues are used in daily life to think, decide, and behave in ways that align your internal self with your external behaviors. We must display a commitment to who we choose to be; and
- Like yourself – to like yourself you must know who you are and stand for who you are. We can fool others but we can never fool ourselves. For example, I can pretend that I am okay harming others, but if my internal belief is that it is wrong to harm others, I will not like myself.
What Happens When We Don’t Know Who We Are
Adolescence is the period of life between childhood and adulthood, ages 11 – 21 years. According to psychologist Erik Erikson, adolescents go through the psychosocial crisis of identity versus role confusion. Adolescents who successfully answer the question “who am I?” avoid the crisis of remaining in role confusion. To successfully answer the question one must explore, discover, and commit to a set of values, beliefs, and virtues that are evident in their vocation, relationships, and social settings. Therefore, exploring, identifying, and practice implementing one’s values, beliefs, and virtues are paramount to moving youth into identity achievement. Those who do not achieve identity are in the crisis of role confusion.
The Value Of Knowing Who We Are
Who we are, dictates our thinking, decisions, and behaviors. So knowing who we are is critical to living a life that is satisfying. Knowing who we are gives us direction in our life journey. Knowing who we are means others can’t tell us who we should or shouldn’t be. Knowing who we are and what we stand for allows us to be true to ourselves. When we are true to ourselves, we like ourselves. There is nothing in the world more valuable than liking ourselves and feeling worthy and deserving of a joyful life. People who do not have a strong sense of self-worth, often sabotage themselves even when good things happen to them, or they achieve something they dreamed of.
No matter where we go, no matter how much money we have, no matter how famous we are, no matter how many people adore us, if we do not like ourselves happiness, joy, and meaningfulness will always be fleeting. This is to say we will always need another fix (e.g., external thing — whether material goods, adoration from others, etc.) to feel joy that will inevitably melt away as time passes.
How To Figure Out “Who am I?”
Oddly, when I ask young people and adults to tell me who they are, during a workshop, I am given the following types of responses:
- I am a parent;
- I am a teacher;
- I am an athlete;
- I am a high school student;
- I am a poet;
- I am a scholar;
They are telling me what they do, not who they are. Forming an identity means we have the same virtues, values, and beliefs in all situations — we are the same person regardless of our age, vocation, hobbies, and interests. Who we are is NOT fluid (changeable), while our age, what we do, and our interests are. If we value kindness and we are kind, we are kind at 21, 31, 41, and 51 years of age. If we value honesty, we are honest whether we are an athlete in college, a teacher after college, and a poet in the evening hours. Throughout our lives we engage in many different roles, and these roles change as we age — Parent, grandparent, sister, brother, friend, coworker, athlete, poet, teacher, nurse, physician, police officer, semi-retired, retired, business owner etc. Once we get to the place in our lives where we choose and use our values, beliefs, and virtues to guide our thinking, decisions, and behaviors, we have achieved our identity. We know who we are, we stand for who we are, and we like who we are. This is one of the most precious gifts we give to ourselves.
Do you want to live a joyful, happy, productive, meaningful life? If the answer is yes, spend time getting to know yourself. Decide on the values, beliefs, and virtues that will guide you through your life. No matter who likes you, make certain you like yourself.