As part of my Lenses of Leadership program, I often use a vehicle as a metaphor for life. Furthermore, I make it very clear to all of the students I work with that while they may not possess a license to drive a car, they will always have a license to drive their lives.
Below is a letter I wrote to reinforce this concept. I encourage you to share it with your child.
Please start your engines. Your vehicle is about to embark on a brand new journey; a journey of personal development. As cars often do, you are bound to veer off course at some point during your trip. For some of you, this will happen immediately. For others, it may not happen for quite some time. Regardless, there are some important tools that I’d like you to place in your tool box before you depart. I promise that if you use these tools, you are sure to experience a much less turbulent ride.
Stay in the driver’s seat.
Will everything go exactly the way you’d like it to on your journey? Absolutely not! The road conditions will often be out of your control; life is unpredictable. However, despite the rough terrain, you can always choose to remain in the driver’s seat. Each time you blame the road, you are essentially moving over to the passenger seat. You are in control, not the road.
Check your fuel levels.
Your fuel tank is a symbol for your self-esteem. Simply put, you are either filling or emptying your tank by the things you say or do. Try to fill your tank as much as possible. Be honest, keep your promises, express gratitude often, nurture your strengths, and keep the backseat bully out of your vehicle. All of these are examples of filling your tank. The choice is yours.
Be aware of your internal radio.
The fact of the matter is you are never going to stop talking to yourself. Your internal radio is always on. Practice being aware of your thoughts and simply change the station when you don’t like what you are hearing. Whatever you do, don’t try to turn the radio off. The Law of Resistance says that the more you try to ignore a thought, the more that thought persists.
Success = School Smarts + Self Smarts
Don’t ever underestimate the importance of your personal development (self smarts). Constantly reflect on your patterns (or habits) and decide what you need to do in order to replace the negative ones. Your school smarts will get you through school, but your self smarts will get you through life.
Maintain a Me AND You mindset toward others.
There will always be other vehicles on the road. It’s not necessary for you to compete with them. In fact, the more you compete or compare yourself to others, the more you lose track of what’s most important in life; relationships. Sure there are going to be people at school who will always want to compete or compare, but always remember that it’s better to be a first-rate version of yourself than a second-rate version of someone else.
Roll down your windows and listen.
Before you speak, listen. There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. By rolling down your windows to listen, you are essentially telling the other person that you value what they have to say. This ultimately leads to trusting relationships. If you pretend to listen or select only what you want to hear, the other person will take note of this and the relationship will suffer.
Collaborate with other drivers.
It’s inevitable that you will be a part of many different groups in the classroom and in life. Rather than always trying to do it your way, take the carpool lane and see what ALL of you can come up with. This will require both a team mentality and a desire to listen. The outcome of collaboration (or teamwork) is greater than anything you could ever do on your own.
You are now ready to begin your journey. Take comfort in the fact that you possess valuable tools that will help you successfully navigate this trip. Remember, you are going to veer off course at times, it happens to everyone. Use your tools to guide you back to where it is you want to be.
I believe in you.