Anxiety, depression, and distress continue to climb in Western cultures which makes dreaming and life crafting challenging. This impacts all ages, but youth are especially vulnerable to these stressors due to less lifetime perspective and a greater need for perfection. I spent a training with Ryan Grady, director of student support services at UW Madison to discover a coach approach to the pressures youth face today. I credit the content of the blog to his great work and development of support for youth in our community. Thank you, Ryan!
The simple act of being seen as a whole person designing a life authentic to you is a rare gift. It’s rare because we are programmed to judge and process what we see. This limits our ability to be with a loved one just as they are. Expectations of the future cloud open-ended spaces to dream. We can offer a dreaming support to any young person by offering the relationship space to explore.
Exploring is challenging because my life is on the line! 18–24-year-olds feel like one false move and there goes the future! This stage of life is filled with major life decisions and perfectionism can derail dreaming into the muck. It can feel paralyzing to change. The fear of a wrong choice or misstep can squash the dreamer.
Seeing, listening, and supporting someone working through these hard decisions starts with caring. Grady describes the comfort of having a parachute of love that will catch you. I feel like I can take a brave leap if I know I have the support and championing of another…friend, coach, partner. A way to be a loving parachute is to have regular check in’s and leave your expectations at home. This time is an open ended investment into who they are and curiosity of what it looks like today. I think the challenging part is not comprehending what is possible now in 2022-2023 when I compare my beginning life in the 1990’s. I cannot use comparisons or expectations. They are not helpful in fostering ideas or creativity. The world is changing faster than I can keep up, so I find trusting the process of discovery to be easier to navigate as I listen rather than believing I have answers.
Crafting a vision for next steps takes honest self-awareness. I liked the phrase, relentless curiosity. Vision crafting takes time, space, and tools for growth. If you can be curious, seek ideas, are open to discovery, dream, design next steps, deliver on those steps, and don’t settle for being stuck…you can achieve your dreams. Let’s break it down:
Stuck: Life is happening to us without hope or excitement. We have all spent time being stuck. Expectations that others put on us can feel limiting and without hope. Sometimes relationships expect us not to change and grow. When we do, this resistance can push us back to a too small space. Insecurity or feeling alone are present in the space of stuck. This often prevents us from asking for help or being open with our feelings. Isolation can promote avoidance with using drugs, not getting the needed sleep or proper nutrition, or escape in excessive screen time.
Insight: Wiggling out of stuck towards change requires insight. We need ideas for a brighter future and to try new things. This can be to begin to listen to your own story and imagine what you want. Meeting what you believe about yourself can make room for what you want to believe about yourself and future. It is courageous work to meet your thoughts and actions. Insight is the first stage beyond stuck.
Dream: Dreaming space can allow for a more vivid vision for life, career, and relationships. Hope begins to return as your insights meet a more vivid version of ideas which are dreams.
Plan: Plans develop out of dreams. Here is where it is crucial to engage with others. Meet the experts and ask questions, explore, and learn more about your dreams.
Action: The final step is to take action to try new things and risk. This requires the ability to fail, make mistakes, and try again. Action can be put on hold with perfectionism. How do we lower the threshold of this barrier? Sometimes talking about the process via metaphor can create a comfort in the discomfort. There is a depth around failure, trial and error, exploration and taking risks. Another way of creating ease in this process is to have small goals, celebrate rites of passage and accomplishments, and offering to be part of the parachute of loving safety net.
Faith in ourselves and faith in our futures is a multi-layered process. Diving into a dream takes many people to make it a reality. We don’t teach this in schools or trainings which is why it feels like a mystery sometimes. Life throws curve balls and it must be possible to change the plans and honor new rules that come into play. It’s a dance to recognize the rules, decide on a path, honor the process, and also make up things as it comes together. Having a mentor and community can help you navigate this process with accountability, learning time management and organization skills, and reflecting on your growth and awareness building.
In the Q&A following the talk, a community member shared what her grade school promotes to all community members, “All kids are capable of success. No exception. Kids belong. They can be seen here. They can be heard here.” When we act as community members who deeply see youth and their gift of mattering exactly as they are today, we develop depth to explore future possibilities and space to peel back the layers of that process.
How do you want to show up for a youth in your life? What do you do to move past being stuck? Is there a dream waking up within you to give space to and explore? Book a session! Let’s gain insight, grow dreams, and make plans. Don’t settle…Let’s design!