I hate downtown! I hate it! Hate it! Hate it!

I have a pretty good sense of direction and a pretty good sense of spatial relationships, but almost every “downtown” I ever tried to drive in messes with my “spider senses!”

From Dallas to Erie to Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Cleveland, Buffalo, Columbus, LA, and Manhattan- fogetaboutit!

One way streets, tall buildings, no east-west roads, no north-south streets and all these impatient drivers with someplace better to be who know every shortcut… It’s maddening.

Just when you think you have it figured out BOOM construction! Your lane ends and merges you on to a freeway going somewhere else. I get so frustrated the sailor tries to come out in me (ok sometimes he does and it’s not pretty).

Do you feel me?

Imagine what life is like in the mind of a young person who is trying to navigate school, a first job, family relationships and hormones all at once.

We wonder why they get an attitude. Here are three things you can do as a parent, friend or mentor to help them keep their head on straight.

1. PERSPECTIVE: Help them to see the big picture.
Even downtown Dallas can be beautiful rather than terrifyingly frustrating when you look at it from the right angle. When you can see the Big Ball and know its relationship to the freeways, the American Airlines Center and Gilley’s navigation becomes a little easier.

What details are they stuck in now? What will it look like when this crisis is over? What would that wrong turn they are considering now lead to? What exits and on ramps of opportunity lie ahead beyond their view?

2. PERCEPTION: Help them to see and navigate each small turn and lane change.

Selecting the right classes in school, choosing the friends to hang out with, picking the right first job, all of these seem unimportant to many teens. All of these tiny decisions will be like that lane that forces you onto the freeway or into the parking garage. As a leader in their lives, it is your job to show how these choices could become a dead end road.

Are their friends challenging them to be better people or leading them to trouble? Will the classes they chose advance them in their college degree? Will that job lead them in the right course of training for their future career aspirations?

3. ATTITUDE: Help them to construct positive attitudes that will prevail even in trying circumstances.

One of the most destructive social habits I have ever seen is that of casting blame. From traffic and driving habits to failed efforts at communication, the most common response is the blame the other party. “Look what you made me do!” “Look how you made me feel!”

These statements reveal an attitude that says “whatever goes wrong in my life is not my fault.” “I can’t be held responsible if it all goes wrong.”

That attitude tends to hand over not only responsibility for failure but also credit for success and authority over outcome.

Do they possess an attitude of victory even when life sucks? Will they allow others to determine their circumstances and results? Do their attitudes reflect responsibility, power and authority in their own lives?

If you are a leader who influences the lives of young people, helping them with perspective, perception and attitude could truly save their lives.

Engage!

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