One of the exciting things about starting at a new school or beginning a new year is the opportunity to be a new you – a fresh start, a reset, an opportunity to reinvent yourself. The transition from middle school to high school can be one of those classic moments. One of the really cool things about being a teenager is getting to decide who and what you want to be. As you start high school next year, you have a marvelous opportunity now to reflect on who you’d like to be. You may be perfectly happy with how 8th grade went and who you were as a middle school student. Or you may have some things you wish you had done or maybe not done. Take some time to try to imagine yourself as a 9th grader and jot down a list of what the 9th-grade version of you would look like.
You don’t have to share this list with anyone unless you want to, but ask yourself what might make you happier. Might you be a little more outgoing? A little more organized? Try doing theater or debate? Is there a sport or club you didn’t quite have the nerve to explore? Do you wish you had found more time to play guitar, hang out with your friends, or use your phone to become a more skilled photographer?
Then make a list of three or four goals. Write them down – and try this cool twist: write them down like they are already true. Use the first person “I” voice and the present tense:
- “I make time to spend time with my friends face-to-face.”
- “I am organized and stay on top of my work so my parents don’t have to bug me about doing it.”
- “I enjoy being part of the school robotics team.”
Why first person? Why present tense, especially if those things aren’t (yet) true? Well, the idea is that as people, we tend to become what we think about. When our brain perceives a disconnect between what we are thinking and seeing, it wants to reconcile those. If we tell ourselves, “I enjoy time with my friends in person more than online,” when we go to pick up our phone, we are more likely to text a friend to ask about getting together than to scroll by habit through Instagram for an hour.
Additionally, as Aristotle observed, “We are what we repeatedly do.” What’s a brave person? Someone who does brave things routinely. If you wanted to become brave, don’t wait for a burning building or a cat in a tree to jump into rescuer mode. Aim to do little things every day that take some courage. Say good morning to someone you’ve never spoken to. Admit a mistake. Ask for a discount at a store. Chances are it may not work out perfectly every time. The point is to practice your “courage muscles,” which will, over time, make you a courageous person. You can apply this idea to anything. Want to be active and athletic? You guessed it: do athletic and active things.
All of us – especially teens – are perpetually in a state of becoming. If you can think of the who you are trying to become, use the summer to visualize, write down, and take small steps to make a habit of those things. Then when you start 9th grade, your fresh start will already be underway, since you’ll be – no…you are! – already practicing your best vision of the 9th-grade you.