Do you think there is HOPE for the future? That’s a challenging question to ask a young person, though you’ll probably be surprised when most answer in the affirmative.
“What if _____?”
I wonder how many times I have asked this question over the years? I have been an idealist chasing dreams throughout my life. Some of these dreams have been attained. Others – I HOPE I am still on that journey to achieve them, as most involve reaching out in some way to those less fortunate than I am. Hope! I remembered Jason’s story.Jason (not his real name) contacted me over 20 years after I had coached and taught him. All he wanted to say was thank you for believing in him during a challenging time of his life. His parents had separated and he was struggling with the implications of that as a 14 or 15-year old. I had given him responsibility for opening and locking a meeting room. I had no idea at the time that this incredibly small task – in my eyes – had proved a life-changing moment for him. Someone had trusted him, given him a responsible task to undertake and he had been truly appreciative of the impact that had had on his self-belief. A message of HOPE!
Retirement encourages a time for reflection and many of those “What if ___?” questions.
While I have a few regrets, that’s for sure, I remain eternally grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way, most especially those involved in working with young people as a teacher, coach and mentor.
Behind all this thinking lies the Spirit of Mentoring which has driven my work with teenagers for much of my working life. It is interesting that many commentators, looking at the years ahead, believe that mentoring is going to become more and more important in the development of people of all ages. So, it is probably in this area that I can make my greatest contributions in the future.
Ideally, though, I’d like to offer teenagers free encouragement, help and encourage them on their journey through the confusing years of adolescence, during which time the brain is still developing, give them a place or person to approach, where they will feel safe and secure, as well as having a non-judgmental Cheerleader in their lives for a future.
How do I do this? Well, that’s one of the tasks I am working on at the moment.
As we journey through 2018, teenagers need a message of HOPE in this bitterly divided world in which we currently live, where so many leaders seem more concerned about their own egos than collaborating to bring about an end to global poverty and global peace; a world in which many business leaders, as well as others, are caught up too often in greed, earning totally unnecessary salaries, while the world of technology brings many positive inventions and just as many inventions that are more about making money – read greed – and invading our privacy at the expense of people building meaningful relationships with one another.
So this message of HOPE needs to be honest and must encourage, inspire and motivate teenagers to understand that nothing of value comes without honest, hard work, a strong work ethic and striving to be themselves at all times. It’s a positive self-empowering and self-learning journey in the hope that they will become positive people of influence in their local and global communities.
As mentors, teachers, coaches and parents there are four characteristics or personal qualities – obviously there are more – we need in order to encourage youth to be positive, innovative, creative entrepreneurial spirits able to deal with some of the 21st Century global challenges – people of HOPE!
- Humility: we need more selfless young people, more tolerant of one another, of other ideas, opinions and who are better team players with less of a focus on having their ego stroked. The “What’s in it for me?” attitude, linked to a feeling of entitlement approach, is something effective mentoring should be challenging. We can promote the message, “How can I help you?” with the strengths we possess as an alternative, more positive role modelling approach.
- Optimism: we need to keep promoting that feeling of optimism which most young people appear to possess, yet which can easily be squashed by controlling parents and teachers as they are travelling through a confusing time of their lives. We can shape and refine this thinking as we encourage them to head out into the global environment to make a positive difference, using their God-given talents.
- Perseverance: we need to encourage youth not to quit when the going gets tough. Far too many teenagers under heavy influence of the ‘quick-fix’ Digital Age, seem to believe that the world owes them a living and this is their entitlement. These thoughts are nurtured by idealistic/fearful ‘helicopter’ or ‘drone’ parents who do not understand or have forgotten how important it is to move out of one’s comfort zone and risk failure. Maybe some of these are the parents who have also grown up during the Digital Age? After all, one of the key ways the brain develops and learns is through making mistakes and how we process the experience and lessons learnt. Keep on keeping on, turn those obstacles into opportunities – this is the message of HOPE for the future which we need not only to educate our youth about, but also equip them with the skills to enable them to play a positive role whatever their career choices might be.
- Empathy: the missing characteristic or quality, according to more and more researchers, in too many young lives hooked into the digital footprint at the expense of developing face to face meaningful relationships – the power of mentoring! Without empathy, how will our youth develop meaningful relationships with peers, those of the opposite sex or become the best parents, employers or employees they can be?
The global community needs this message of HOPE and, if we are to encourage youth to become the best they can be, the Spirit of Mentoring must keep focusing on the development and characteristics like:
as we seek to raise a generation of selfless and positive potential change-agents.
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.