This week I coached two high-school-aged clients and although both came to me with different problems, I was struck by the details that surfaced in our coaching conversation. Resonating with me today are the issues they had in common… one being that they don’t know who to talk to about their concerns and challenges.
Picture this: High school age, learning disability, about to graduate, no idea what’s next, and no one to lean on for support.
In the case of both clients the fear of the unknown (life after high school) is being amplified by the fact that they are unable to identify people to be resources that they can use to explore what their next steps might be. This fear of the unknown, which showed up in our coaching, surprised me because both of these young people are jovial and seemingly carefree. I was startled by how candidly they articulated their concerns to me.
Tonight my double shot is about judgement and assumption, and how we should never judge a book by its cover. We never know the depth and complexity of someone’s personal struggles until we ask, and even then we may not completely understand all that they are dealing with.
My experience coaching these young people highlighted an important theme about how we deal with the unknown. Inevitably, when we approach change fear arises simply because we just don’t know what is possible and what to expect. Because young people are still concrete thinkers this fear can be paralyzing. They lack the ability to think openly and abstractly about the impending change. This allows fear to take over and often leads to the development of a mental narrative that prevents a person from finding solutions. Fear causes us to search for safety and consequently drives our minds to believe that we are better off where we are, rather than stepping into the unknown.
One solution to dispelling the fears that arise during the change process is conversation. We have to talk about what scares us. We have to look fear in the face and decide what to do about it… Do we believe it? Do we challenge it? Do we let our fear inspire us?
And now I’m gonna preach…
To the caretaker of young people… never assume that you know until you ask. Always remember that when young people face change their feelings of fears are amplified in ways that might make no sense to the adult mind. This is because of the concrete way they think about their lives. The job of caretakers of struggling young people is to be curious and to facilitate conversation. The act of asking questions and showing interest in a young persons struggle can be the simple (and powerful) catalyst that will allow them to move from a place of fear to a place of possibility.
Peace and love,