1) Go slow to go fast. Don't fast-forward this season of your life. Treat every breath, opportunity, moment, lesson, challenge and success as a gift. As you progress toward and into high school, many peers will be moving at speeds (socially, academically, relationally) that do not feel comfortable or compatible with your age and stage of life. That's okay. Let them go at their own pace, but be true to yours. Sit down in your season and learn as much as you can from it. Fearing being left out or isolated is normal, but as you stay true to your moral compass, you will find your people. If you skip seasons of life, you miss the valuable life-lessons they hold.
2) Process over product. Focus on small steps rather than big leaps. It's easy to become consumed by big-ticket items (think GPA, level of a sports team, social tier of friend group). However, focusing on the big picture only takes much-needed energy away from your daily efforts; efforts that when done with dedication and care, will ultimately take you to your final destination--earning the grades you want, the team you desire, and the friends you are seeking. Spend your mental energy working smarter not harder by creating a steady study structure, cultivating communication skills, forging positive and healthy relationships with teachers, peers, and parents. Score your victories not in the finality of the product, but by your daily commitment to giving your full effort.
3) Communication is key. Learn to communicate your needs, fears, aspirations, and gratitude. Turning to teachers, administrators, coaches and parents only in times of high stress or high need tends to foster alienation and creates a one-way relationship. Take time to learn about those in your life. Who are they beyond their title? We are all people, and connection is key to meaningful relationships. After all, the adults in your life are more likely to help you in those inevitable times of stress when they see you as a person, and not simply as the role you play (student, athlete, child etc.).
4) Be the friend you want to have. The older you get, the more you will realize that quality always trumps quantity in the friend department. Challenge yourself each day to limit the shade you throw, the flames of gossip you fan (intentional or otherwise) and focus on being the kind of person you are seeking as a friend yourself. That said, don't be afraid to walk away from routinely negative or toxic relationships that make you question your value or require you to fast-forward to the next season of life in order to be included.
5) Sacrifice optics for authenticity. Don't let social media define you. It's easy to fall into the trap of chasing the perfection you imagine is on the other side of a Snap-story or Instagram post. Similarly, think before you post. Social media is a dangerous game that can create significant mental health issues as you traverse your teenage years. Your social media transgressions, once posted, create a digital footprint that lives on for eternity in the form of screenshots, reposts, comments, and can come back to haunt you in the pursuit of future endeavors (think leadership groups, employment, internships and college admissions). Take time each night to unplug and give your brain and inner-child a chance to recalibrate with quality sleep and peace.
6) Stay coachable. Like it or not, the adults in your life have the advantage of time and life experience. While certainly we adults don't know it all and can get it wrong, remaining open to feedback and suggestion is important to your overall growth and progress. Constructive criticism and learning to agree to disagree is a life skill requisite to any successful career or adult relationship--mastering it in your teenage years will pay dividends in adulthood. If you feel unheard or marginalized by adults in your life, learning to advocate for yourself is extremely vital to the process of being heard. Learn to (re)open lines of communication with your parents and teachers. Soon, you will discover, as you become better at assertively and regularly articulating your needs, fears, aspirations, and gratitude, less coaching will occur.
7) When you get clear with life, life gets clear with you. Keeping a journal is (in my experience) one of the most powerful change agents in the game of life. Not the kind that includes a burn list, invite list or similar, but one where you write down your goals and small snapshots of your life. What is your vision? Where do you want to "be" in one week, one month, one year etc? A simple recipe: 3 successes from the day, 3 aspects of improvement from the day, and 3 elements of gratitude from the day. Write these under your goals. As you change, your goals change--and that’s okay. As you accomplish one, replace it. If a goal seems irrelevant, replace it. The funny thing about setting goals is, when you write them down and look at them every day, they have a funny way of coming true.
8) Pay attention to your whole health. Mind, body, soul. You are a whole person--so act accordingly. If you had a broken leg, you wouldn't keep it a secret, or walk around seeing if it gets better on its own. Similarly, if an element of your mind or soul is ailing, treat it with the same tenacity with which you would immediately go see a doctor for your broken leg. Speak up; seek help. Learn to embrace the resources that can and will help you heal from the inside out.