Sunday, February 27, 2011

8 Simple Steps to Good Decision-Making for Teens

No one is born with awesome decision-making skills. It is a skill that needs to be learned and strengthened (but may not ever be perfected). This means the more often you make decisions the better you’ll get at it. It’s a difficult skill to perfect however, since the better you get at decision making the more challenging problems you’ll face.

Some people get nervous when it comes to making decisions because they’re afraid they’ll make wrong choices. This is the basics of decision-making. Whenever you have more than one option, there’s always a chance you’ll make a ‘better’ or a ‘worse’ decision. Although you can imagine where each decision will take you, you often won’t know how good your decision is until a period of time passes by.

While easier decisions (e.g., which shoes to wear with which top) don’t require a detailed planning process (or maybe it does?), decisions such as picking a university or college, moving out on your own, getting a job or just focusing on school, figuring out if your friends are true friends, or whether or not to report bullying or a crime you witnessed usually require more contemplation.

Keep in mind there is no right or wrong answer to many of the dilemma’s you’ll face. As a result, you’ll have to make a choice depending on what you know about yourself, your situation in life, your needs and wants, and what you think will work best for you. To help you with difficult decisions, here are 8 steps you can follow.

8 important steps...

1. What is the problem you are facing? What is the problem to be solved (e.g., to have a part-time job or to focus on school)? Write it down so you are clear on what you are trying to resolve. Write down why you should solve this issue (e.g., what are your priorities). This step gives you an idea of how important this decision is.

2. Gather information. Ask for advice. Write down what you need to learn. Interview people (e.g., other students who worked and didn’t work while in school). What do others who have already been through this say? Gather information from valid sources (e.g., speak to your school counsellor about how many hours per week does school require and how many hours per week does a part-time job require). What are the facts? What is holding you back (e.g., fear you can’t handle both, bad habits, fear of responsibility, etc.). This step gives you objective (non-biased) and subjective (biased) information.

3. What is important to you? List your values (e.g., honesty, good grades, money, independence, etc.). What conditions do you want your choice to reflect (e.g., your family’s opinion)?

4. Brainstorm and write down your possible options. Come up with ideas and choices you can choose form (e.g., work 5 or 10 or 20 hours per week, do not work, work in summer time only, etc.).

5. What are the consequences (good and bad) of each choice? Use steps 2 and 3 to determine the pros and cons of each possible choice listed in step 4. Write these down in a table so you have all the data right in front of you.

6. Decide on the best choice for you. This is much easier after you go through the above steps. Rate your options if you have to. Rank order based on your research. Take a few days to think about it if you need to and then come back to your dilemma.

7. Create a plan and carry it out. When you have made your choice, create a plan of specific steps you will take. Carry out your plan.

8. Measure the results. This can only be done once you made your decision, carried out your plan, and received feedback (e.g., your report card, regular pay). How would you rate your decision? What about the steps you took? Are you still meeting the things important to you. What lessons did you learn? This is an important step for strengthening your decision-making skills. If you find your decision didn’t work out well the first time around, use what you learned when you go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate your choice. If the first choice didn’t turn out right, it doesn’t mean game over. Retrace your steps and start from the best place possible.

Have more questions about the decisions in your life? Contact Teen Coach in Toronto, Ivana Pejakovic, and find out how you can strengthen your decision-making skills.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Advice on Teen Decision-making: What Did I Learn?

By: Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Being a teen is confusing enough. Not only are you uncertain of who you are, what you like, what your strengths are, where you should be heading in life, you also need to make decisions about very important parts of your life: Who should I be friends with? What classes interest me in school? What should I be when I grow up? Am I really good at anything important? etc.,

With so many options available to choose from, it can seem difficult to make the best decisions for yourself.

Decision making, however, isn’t necessarily about making the PERFECT choice, as it is about getting to know yourself, picking what you think is in your best interest, and learning from the process. Decision-making is also not about deliberately choosing wrong to spite your parents, to experiment, or to choose something you know can hurt you or others. It’s about choosing the best option based on your values and existing knowledge on the topic. There will be times when it seems like you’re completely off track... as if you couldn’t have picked worse if you tried. This isn’t the point!

The point is to learn important lessons about what you did, who you are, what you can do to avoid similar situations in the future, etc. All of our experiences, the bad and the good, are to be used to get us to the next stepping stone. If you use your lessons learned, you’ll step onto the next higher stepping stone (think of stairs). If you don’t learn from past situations, it’s the same as walking on the same stepping stone all over again or moving backwards.

Although decision-making can be hard, it can also be extremely empowering. It means you get to decide what you want as part of life. In the beginning, your parents may wish to see evidence that you can make good choices before they give you more freedom in the amount of choices you can make on your own. As you grow up and as you demonstrate you’re responsible, your parents will pass the decision-making baton onto you.

I recommend you practice making decisions every day. Bear in mind you don’t have to get it just right the first time around (although that would be nice). You should, however, learn something from the process each time. If you get good at making decisions at this age, you’ll make it easier for yourself when it comes to adult stuff, such as what type of person do I want to marry? How should I invest my money? Am I willing to move abroad? etc.

Have more questions about the decisions in your life? Contact Life Coach in Toronto, Ivana Pejakovic, and find out how you can strengthen your decision-making skills.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Teen’s Guide to Leadership: 3 Steps to Make You a Great Leader

Leadership means using your knowledge and skills to gather a group of people with the aim of completing a common task. Great leadership means using your strengths and influence in a positive and worthwhile way to change a situation for the better.

One common misconception is that leaders are rich and important people with a great deal of power to control their followers into doing what needs to be done. Contrary to this belief, when leadership is used for a worthwhile cause, leaders do not need to use power to manipulate their followers. Their followers are inspired by their leader to do a good job. In addition, good leaders gain followers out of respect and their ability to lead people to work towards a particular goal. Only poor leaders need to force and manipulate people into being their followers.

Gandhi, for example, was one of the most influential leaders in modern social and political activism. Without any official power (he was an ordinary guy like you and I), he became one of the most respected spiritual and political leaders of the 20th century. Gandhi helped free the Indian people from British rule through nonviolent resistance (he didn’t force anyone to follow him; he only set a good example). Gandhi is still honoured by his people as the father of the Indian Nation.

The point here is that we can all be good leaders by setting the right example. Everyday your thoughts, feelings, attitude, and actions influence those around you. As such, it is important you influence your peers and other adults in a positive way.

What can you do today to put yourself in the position to lead others? Here are 3 POWERFUL steps you can include in your daily life to become a positive and effective leader.

1. Take responsibility for your actions: Not all of your actions are good ones. Not all of your choices and decisions are something to be proud of. That’s not the point. The real point is when you take responsibility for what you do, you gain control over your life and you learn about what went wrong. Accepting responsibility for your actions sets a good example to others and can leave you with great lessons learned.

2. Be proactive: Stop sitting and waiting around for your big break or for luck to come your way. Luck will never come your way unless you are willing to meet it half way. Make a commitment to try new things and see where that takes you. Be open-minded!

3. Engage in positive actions: Just do what’s right! If you see something wrong in your community, take steps to fix it (e.g., Too much garbage lying around? No problem! Form a group and start cleaning up. It’s as simple as that!). Sometimes, however, it can be hard to do the responsible thing when there are better activities awaiting you (e.g., your favourite TV show, hanging out with friends). Some decisions are harder than others, but do what will make you feel less guilty, less stressed, and less bad.

Taking these 3 steps will put you in a position to lead others. Commitment to these steps will also lead to a TON of other good changes in your life. I promise!

For more information on teen leadership, self-esteem, and confidence (yes, they all tie in together!), contact Teen and Youth Coach in Toronto, Ivana Pejakovic.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Identifying high and low self-esteem: Important for healthy teen socialization and happiness

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

One of the top priorities for many parents is to raise children with a healthy level of self-esteem. Most parents know self-esteem is important for just about every aspect of children’s lives, including how they function at school and how they will function in the workplace, how they deal with peers and how they will deal with colleagues, friends, and spouse, how much they can achieve as children and how much they are likely to achieve as adults, etc.

Unfortunately, many parents are not aware of what healthy self-esteem really entails. Self-esteem is not just about liking oneself and blowing kisses into the mirror. Self-esteem is also about how confident one is in his/her ability to think for him/ herself, to face life’s challenges, and to approach opportunities that are presented to him/her. It is one’s confidence in his/her right to be successful, happy, and worthy of all the good stuff in life.

In short, parents need to raise children to trust their ability to think and to have a firm belief in their worth and their right to happiness.

How to identify high and low self-esteem

Teens with a higher self-esteem have different behavioural patterns than teens with lower self-esteem. Below are a few clues to the level of your child’s self-esteem. Pay attention to behaviour and thinking patterns you see in the everyday life of your child.

Persistence: Teens with healthy self-esteem believe in themselves and are more likely to persist when challenges come along. Teens with a lower self-esteem are less likely to try challenging tasks, and if they do try, never really giving it their all. They have already made up their mind they will not succeed.

Respect: Teens with high self-esteem will demonstrate respect for themselves and others and will expect others to treat them with equal value. When others do not treat them as they expect, they are likely to go find people who will.

Opportunities: Teens with higher self-esteem are willing to be proactive, try new things and as a result, come across new opportunities that will help them succeed.

Able to manage change: Change is constant. Teens with lower self-esteem prefer familiarity. They have a harder time adjusting to new circumstances as they tend to lack self-trust. Teens with higher self-esteem believe they have the skills to tackle the new conditions of life.

Independence: Teens with healthy self-esteem prefer thinking for themselves, making their own choices, and have an easier time accepting responsibilities for their actions. They understand their mistake is not impinging on their self-worth.

Embrace Creativity: Teens with higher self-esteem have the courage to follow their internal signals and are less susceptible to others’ beliefs and ideas. While others will inspire them, they will follow their own thoughts and insights.

Need help improving your teen’s self-esteem? Contact Life Coach in Toronto, Ivana Pejakovic, and find out how you can help your child become happy, independent, and successful.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Valentine’s Day Family Celebration: Scheduling it, Planning it, and the Do’s and the Don’ts

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to show your family (children & partner) how much you love them, care for them, and appreciate them. Everyone wants to be remembered and treasured on this day and your family is the perfect place to start.

Schedule it! Plan it! Organize it!

Let each family member know you intend to celebrate a Family Valentine’s Day and that their participation and attendance is very important to you. So, pick a day that is convenient for everyone. This may be a bit harder with older teens who have personal schedules and priorities, but nonetheless, insist this is an important celebration and that it wouldn’t be the same without them. (They might be testing you to see if you are willing to hold a family party without them).

Scheduling the party is the first step to committing yourself to it. Planning the party is the second step. Without planning it, the party may become ‘just another great idea’ that never materialized. Organizing the party is the third step. Get the family members involved in organizing their own party and making some of the decisions. Scheduling the party but not following up with it, may lead your teens to say “Well...I guess I’m just not that important. Mom/dad preferred to work [or do something else] to spending time with me.” Also, keep in mind what you hope to teach your teens about commitment.

If you are planning the entire day (or just an evening), here are a few activities to plan. Remember, no one is ever too old to have fun.

1. Plan out menus for breakfast, lunch, and/ or dinner
2. Go out for a meal to a place you haven’t tried before
3. Prepare meals together
4. Have a fun family discussion
5. Bake a favourite cake in the shape of a heart
6. Book a ski trip
7. Go on a road trip
8. Go out for a trail walk (include family pets if possible)
9. Play the family’s favourite board game (e.g., BINGO, Life, Monopoly)
10. Watch a movie

Do’s and Don’ts

Remember this is a family mini-party, not a good opportunity to bring up regular family disputes or an opportunity to lecture your kids/ teens on the usual topics. This is a party. Loosen up. Have fun. Enjoy your family.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts on how to celebrate a FUN and CARING family Valentine’s Day.

DO
...keep the atmosphere friendly and light
...bring up the good memories
...have a positive attitude and use positive language
...consider this to be worth your time
...laugh
...tell the family how much you appreciate them
...treat new experiences with an optimistic outlook
...enjoy yourself and keep the conversation positive and upbeat
...include everyone in the family

DON’T
...bring up the same old points of dispute
...use this time to bring up bad decisions from the past
...answer business calls or do office work during this time
...put anyone down
...use negative language or have a negative attitude
...have the TV on in the background (unless you are watching a movie)
...steer conversations toward controversial subjects
...overreact if someone spills food or drink or breaks something
...answer the phone during your time together. You’re showing your kids they are more important than anyone else.

Interested in more information about planning your family time? Visit www.lifecoachintoronto.com and learn how Life Coach in Toronto, Ivana Pejakovic, can help your family succeed.