Why Does My Child/Spouse Get Stressed When We Talk About the Future?


[Blog entry from 2010-12-12] Daughter is in her senior year of high school, preparing for college. Stress level is pretty low. Stress level in the household of a classmate is through the roof. Interesting... Gender, upbringing, etc. is very similar, so why the difference in reaction? One big difference lies in vision; specifically, existence versus none. And, since an actionable vision depends on knowing where you are, the steps to achieve the vision, and the resources needed for those steps. So...

  1. Who are you? Where are you now? What can you do?
  2. What you trying to achieve? Where are you going? Where could you go?
  3. How are you going to get there?
  4. Do you have the resources you need (time, funds, talent, knowledge, skills, infrastructure)?
  5. etc.

Some time in (or prior to) 2009, daughter asked the question "Who am I? What are my talents (i.e., long-term behaviors)? What could I be good at?" [N/B Okay, to be honest, she was asked.] This led to questions about how we could find out. Her high school had results of the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®). Okay, but how was the assessment administered? As I recall, the students were given a form to fill out and the results reported as a result of applying a formula. And those results would reflect what the student was feeling at the time of the test and what they felt about themselves. Not an objective perspective and not valid over time.
Her description (and results) reminded me of a seminar I took many years ago when I was trying to decided whether or not to continue my career in the US Air Force. In the opinion of an US Army officer I trusted, the seminar was worth the price if only for three assessment tests. They were self-administered, but evaluated by clinical psychologists. The leader of the seminar told us the reason for multiple tests were that we, as military careerists, were out of touch with our emotions which made it possible for us to follow orders (regardless of personal feelings) and function in stressful situations. This meant, though, we wouldn't be able to keep from "gaming" the assessments. But only one at a time. The analysis would correlate results from all three, and use a form of psychometric triangulation to locate our "heads". The Army colonel was right. The assessment was good. The shrink was right, also. The post-assessment, one-on-one review felt like my head had been opened, my brain scrambled. Had I been more mature, I would have gotten more out of the result.
So, for this holiday season, I'm thinking assessments would be a good gift. Something based on psychological studies, not just observations. I will concede that many believe MBTI has helped them understand who they are. What I rarely hear, though, are objective comparisons of the results of applying MBTI and, for example, DISC. But if all you can afford (or understand) is one approach, it's better than being ignorant.
Try to imagine what it must be like to be a teenager about to graduate from high school who doesn't know their talents and being asked to decide what they will do next year, and know that the decision you make now will determine your future. Imagine how stressed you'd feel when you're asked "What do you want to do?" and you realize your entire experiences have resulted from selecting from the options you're offered; you've never had the opportunity of defining the choices. But now, you must. Imagine how hard it must be to envision a future without knowing what you could do well, only what you've done. Have all the hours spent in marching band, in sports, in theater arts allowed you to test your talents? Or has it been a case of repetition?
I suggest one of the jobs of Scouters is to enable our youth to discover who they are, help them learn to define goals and to plan, and then facilitate their executing those plans.