February 24, 2007



It is reasonable to say that as adults, we have the right to choose our destiny and direction in life, based on the premise that life is about choices. There is a direct correlation between the choices we make and our motivation to set personal goals to help us realize our human potential. It is easier said than done because sometimes we make bad choices that can hurt us. When this happens, it is easier to think of the word, "failure," as opposed to using more mental effort to view a poor choice as a mistake with a lesson to be learned. What we become in life is the result of what we think, feel and do. If we want things to be different, to be better, we need to change what we think, feel and do. This might mean re-evaluating our self-perception and goals so they are more realistic. The alternative is to enroll in the school of hard knocks, a place for people who are overly self-critical and do not learn from their mistakes.

How do we know if we are a student at the school of hard knocks? One clue may be dissatisfaction with life. It's normal to feel dissatisfaction, anger and frustration as fleeting, subjective experiences. However, when the emotional pain is chronic, there may be a problem that needs immediate attention.

One way to increase a feeling of satisfaction with life is to set goals. Goals provide us with a sense of direction and focus. How frustrating must it be for the person whose goal is not to have any goals? How many parents can relate as they watch their kids flounder, despite their best efforts to provide them with rules, structure, guidance, discipline, boundaries and love? A person who has no goals is like a fish out of water: floundering.


What do I want to achieve?
What is my strategy?
Who else can help me achieve my goal?
How will I know when I have achieved my goal?

Sometimes in life we learn the hard way. How many of us become frustrated while working to achieve a goal? How many of us give up due to the frustration rather than re-evaluate the goal(s) and try again? Most of us can give testimony to this with one example or another. Who hasn't had a lapse in judgement or made a mistake that would qualify as a measure of our tenure at the school of hard knocks? Everyone makes mistakes, and then we pay the price. To the person who does not learn from their mistakes, the school of hard knocks offers the Valedictorian award.

A candidate for the Salutatorian award at the school of hard knocks is the person who feels invincible. ("I can do what I want, how I want, when I want, with whom I want, where I want.") A lot of adverbs to use (who, what, where, when, how) as an excuse for irresponsible behavior and to justify "invincibility." Sometimes a sense of invincibility comes with a high price tag.

For example, there is a price to pay by the student who drops-out of school for whatever reason. This person eventually learns that our society values education. Employers view students who graduate as "teachable" people, who are more likely to find a job than someone who doesn't graduate. (Drop-outs, who later become self-employed, are an exception).

Despite what the ego might think, nobody is invincible. An aura of invincibility needs to be tempered with a sense of responsibility to avoid going to the school of hard knocks. There's a difference between taking calculated vs. uncalculated risks in order to grow as a person. It is a miscalculation to believe we can do whatever we want, whenever we want. This miscalculation lends itself to irresponsible behavior when we negate the rights of others to please ourselves. Conversely, taking calculated risks (actively using the mind and behaving in a reasonable manner) is a sign of responsibleness.

The school of hard knocks figureatively does exist. It can be found in the minds, hearts and actions of any one of us. Residency can be temporary or permanent. It is good to know that we have a choice whether or not we attend for long or short periods of time. It does not need to be a place where we find ourselves most of the time. Nor does it need to be the school where we earn our diploma.

Learning from our mistakes, setting reasonable goals, taking calculated risks in our quest to realize our human potential and being responsible are ways to minimize our involvement at the school of hard knocks. It's an easier way to go through life, but it requires mindful, heartfelt, doable effort.

Thoughts, Feelings, Actions: STOOLTIME COUNSELING!

Written by,
Mark S. Rogers, LPC.
Licensed Professional Counselor

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