How to take charge of your life

Taking+charge+of+your+life+is+not+only+encouraged+at+Athens+Drive%2C+but+expected.

Photos by Jenna Ali

Taking charge of your life is not only encouraged at Athens Drive, but expected.

Four years, eight semesters, 32 periods. High school is such a prevalent point in our lives. It is the time dedicated to discovering your identity. It is so much more than getting to class and getting good grades, yet students tend to get lost in the motion of academic validation. If you’re anything like me, you feel like your future is out of your reach. There is so much to figure out and four whole years to take advantage of, but where do we start? How do we take charge of our lives?

For two weeks I took all the necessary steps to take charge of my own life. With the input of Jessica Crooks, Athens Drive’s AP Psychology teacher, I present to The Big Five: Five key principles to take charge of your life from a teenager’s perspective.

Routine

An alarmingly large number of teenagers struggle with their mental health regularly. Studies show that one in five people ages twelve through eighteen face the struggle of an unstable state of mental health. Stabilizing your mental health is a key

factor in taking charge of your life. Your state of mind is your state of life. 

Creating a personal routine and regulating your everyday life can help decrease anxiety and stress, and increase your sense of security and control. 

Start with primary priorities. Meals and sleep may seem like an obvious part of anyone’s routine, but many teenagers, including myself, tend to overlook the importance of physical health. Make sure your schedule provides enough time to eat, sleep and exercise. 

Secondary priorities come next. Maybe you have sports practice after school, but need to make sure you get your homework done. Set a time slot for each one. 

Tertiary priorities, like hobbies and “you-time,” don’t need to be met on a daily basis. Set aside some time during the week to catch up on shows or meet up with friends.

Routine allows people to know what to expect in daily situations. When people believe that their life is predictable, it allows them to feel safe and secure. This is essential for students to become their best selves,” said Crooks.

Routine allows people to know what to expect in daily situations. When people believe that their life is predictable, it allows them to feel safe and secure. This is essential for students to become their best selves,”

— Crooks

You may resent the idea of being predictable or “boring,” but, even in a time of exploration, a couple of factors should be left to routine for the sake of your mental health.

I, for one, have always had problems with my routine. I would start my homework well into the day, which kept me from having healthy eating and sleep patterns. I would end every day stressed beyond measure. I quickly learned that I would not be able to build a healthy lifestyle without self-discipline.

The routine I crafted for this experiment has space for my primary, secondary and tertiary priorities. I eat three meals a day, take a daily walk around my neighborhood, get my homework done after school, get eight hours of sleep and see my friends on the weekends. After living through my routine for two weeks, I already feel a major difference in my mental and physical health state. My stress levels have gone down and I feel more in control of my life.

Be your own brand

It can be difficult to find comfort in your individuality when there is a school full of people and a whole online community telling you who you should be or how you should act. You may find yourself putting up a front to mask your true personality, all to please the people around you. 

Right now is time to get used to being content with existing as yourself. Discover emotional depth and values that lead to this self-contentment. High school is our chance to explore our own personalities through expression and trying new things while alongside peers who are also in similar stages of growth.

So, why should you care what the people around you think?

You can make choices every day to help you embrace yourself. Dress in clothes that make you feel the most confident. Surround yourself with people who make you feel the most comfortable. Set your own boundaries, and make sure that every time you catch yourself comparing yourself to others, you put a stop to it.

There is a whole world out there filled with people trying to be just like each other, you should be confident in your originality. You are unlike anyone else, own it. 

Visualization 

High school seems like a lifetime, but these four years will pass by faster than expected. Soon, you’ll be expected to draft up some impressive “5-year plan.” All these crushing expectations may make you feel like you are the only person in the world who doesn’t have everything figured out. Trust me, that is not the case. We are all trying to decipher what we want to do with our lives. It’s a major decision to make at such a young age. It may be unnecessary to have your whole life planned out, or even the next five years, but it is time to start envisioning your short-term future. 

Close your eyes, and imagine graduation. Blue gowns, orange sashes, corny speeches and bright smiles. You throw your cap that you spent hours decorating into the air and, as it hits the floor, you suddenly become an adult. Where are you going? The choice is yours.

Close your eyes, and imagine graduation. Blue gowns, orange sashes, corny speeches and bright smiles. You throw your cap that you spent hours decorating into the air and, as it hits the floor, you suddenly become an adult. Where are you going? The choice is yours.”

Maybe overseas, searching for every tiny corner in the world.

Maybe starting a business that has only ever been an idea in the back of your mind.

Maybe pursuing the sports scholarship you got in high school, with the goal of making it to the NBA.

I see myself going off to college. A business major with a minor in political science, with dreams of heading off to law school.

It is all just a vision, though, right? 

Wrong. 

With enough planning and action, visions can come to life. It is just a matter of believing you have the ability to do what it takes, and then doing it. What do you want to do? Who do you want to be? Write it down and say it out loud. 

I took some time out of my week to say some affirmations.

“I have the power to reach my goals.”

Speak it into existence and watch your pessimism and doubt fade away.

Take Action

You have all these dreams, all these goals, that seem like they are a world away from accomplishing. They don’t have to be. In fact, they shouldn’t be. You should be planting the seeds for your future right now.

You want to travel the world? Start researching. Search the internet for any information you can find on the places you want to visit. Learn what the culture, weather and normalities are like there.

You want to start your own business? Draft up a plan. Identify your purpose and how your business will work towards it.

You want to make it to the NBA? Take that ambition to the court. Practice every single day until a 3-pointer is your natural reflex.

I’ve got my eyes on an acceptance letter from a 4-year university and a career in law.

This school year, I took the next step in building my resume. I began taking advanced placement classes, joining club after club and I’ve signed up to take the SAT. Not only that, but I began reaching out to several law firms for internship or shadowing opportunities. These steps, however small, made me feel more in control of my future.

Gratitude 

Life has countless blessings. There is a lesson in every bad day and a smile in every good day. Soak it all in– the good, the bad and the ugly.

Your perception of the world, which includes your attitude, is correlated with an improved feeling of life satisfaction and happiness. Optimism is a [huge] influencer of [overall] life satisfaction,” said Crooks. 

Every night, before I fall asleep, I take a couple of minutes to think about my day and appreciate all that I have.

Thank the world, thank whatever higher power you believe in, and most importantly thank yourself and fall asleep with a lighter heart.