When I was asked to deliver a motivational speech to several classes of high school seniors just weeks shy of graduation, I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t imagine a better group of people to super-charge with the understanding that they create the life they live and that whatever they desire, they can create!


Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

“Life is a journey, not a destination…”

It’s a great quote to share with high school seniors preparing for their graduation walk. In just a few weeks, these young people will step away from a major influence in their lives (aside from family) to begin the next phase of their lives. What an exciting time!

Three core messages for graduating high school seniors:

1. Perception is a powerful tool — know how to shift it to create happiness and joy

When you have the capacity to view life as a journey, it allows you to appreciate every moment along the way. It allows you to be flexible in selecting your destination as you experience life and clarify what brings you joy and what brings you down. It gives you permission to have fun along the way.

Life is a journey through which you will encounter many experiences — some will be wonderful, beyond your wildest dreams. Other experiences will bring out your most dreaded emotions: anger, rejection and sadness. There will be experiences you hardly notice. Be in each moment, experience it fully. Dig deep to understand the root of the emotion and learn to let go of what brings out the emotions that don’t feel good. Most importantly, look for the silver lining in every experience. When you choose to look at life through a lens of positivity, inspiration and hope, then your perspective will shift your reality and greater happiness and joy will follow.

2. You choose how you live and it all starts with how you feel

What better way to shift your perspective than to deliberately choose how you feel? Choose to feel grateful, happy, patient, caring, loving. When you choose to feel good about your life, it shifts the way you live. When you feel good and have positive thoughts, the words that come out of your mouth reflect that energy and impact the activities and interactions that follow.

You get one life and you choose the extent to which you live it. Start off with the best stuff you can muster! Everyday. And then carry it with you all day long. Need some inspiration about “choosing” how to live? Check out this documentary about 17-year-old Zach Sobiech and how he chose to live after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Live every moment with joy… because you can!

3. Mistakes are only mistakes when you don’t learn from them

Here’s the bottom line: The journey doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes you make choices that hurt the ones you love most. The truth is that you don’t evolve into your most fully productive and enlightened self without making some decisions that result in painful outcomes. What’s important is that you learn along the way and apply those learnings on the road ahead.

One of my favorite blogs is Marc and Angel Hack Life. In their article, 12 Truths to Tell Yourself After a Mistake or Failure they write, “Life didn’t come with instructions. Accept that mistakes will happen. You are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your tomorrow. No matter how chaotic the past has been, the future is a clean, fresh, wide open slate.  What you do with it is up to you.”

It takes courage to accept that you are where you are and that perfection is an illusion. But here’s the beauty in the journey of ups and downs:

When we make mistakes, it teaches us more about what we like and don’t like, what we want in our life and what we don’t want, what brings us joy and what takes joy away. It’s from this place of knowing what we don’t want, that we can more clearly define what we do want.

I call this “clarity through contrast.” Seeing a clearer picture of the life and dreams you want by paying attention to all that you know won’t make you happy.

And that’s what life is… a cycle of emotions. A range of experiences. A journey to multiple destinations. A series of experiences that create clarity in your life, help you define what direction you really want to travel. There’s no mistake in your experiences, only a great ride — if you choose it to be.

You Get One Life: Make it What You Want!

Sheila Callaham is an author, motivational speaker and certified success coach. Sign up to receive a complimentary 30-minute coaching session.

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