Ep 75: "Purpose" but Without the Eye-Rolling

Alexis Rockley, author of Find Your F*ckyeah, sat down with me this week to talk about how you can help your teen find their groove, their vibe, their f*ckyeah--the things that gets them popping out of bed in the morning, ready to take on the world. It’s sort of like “purpose” but will cause a lot less eyerolls…

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Full show notes

I’m sure you remember going to high school, but do you remember how it felt? The crushing pressure to define yourself, the need to fit in with your classmates, and the stress of meeting all the expectations of adults and teachers. “What do you want to do with your life?” they ask. But, at sixteen, no one really knows! Our lives pan out in unexpected ways, full of twists, turns, and mistakes that help pave our road to success. And that’s exactly what our teens should expect when ‘planning’ for the future.

It’s healthy for teenagers to recognize that they don’t need to know everything about themselves by age 18. But nowadays, with social media emphasizing the importance of personal branding and colleges putting pressure on teenagers to perform perfectly, teens can feel boxed in. They feel they need to know exactly who they are and what they want…ASAP! And they may get the message that their life must be one clean story with no zigs, zags, or misdirection. This limiting belief is detrimental in a world that is full of fast-paced change.

Paradoxically, change is the most consistent part of human experience. Every day, we learn more about ourselves and make adjustments accordingly. And experimenting, failing, and adjusting is how we figure out what makes us happy, what motivates us to get out of bed each morning with a clarity of “purpose,” or, for those who are rolling their eyes at “purpose,” our “f*ck yeah!” That’s what shapes the teenage identity.

Alexis Rockley, author of Find Your F*ckyeah: Stop Censoring Who You Are and Discover What You Really Want, sat down with me this week to talk about how you can help your teenager find their themselves and break out of restricting stereotypes. Rockley, who humbly describes herself as a “nerd who loves research,” is leading a movement to help young people find their “purpose” and “joy” in life…but in a cool way.

Alexis knows everything about what shapes the teenage identity. She has spent years studying and working with experts in the field of positive psychology and her book unpacks the science and psychology in an accessible way to help people find their “f*ckyeah.”

In this interview, Rockley walks me through her method of breaking down what shapes the teenage identity. She says that one of the most important aspects of raising well-adjusted, go-getter teens is to debunk the falsehood that “adults know everything.”

The Science of “Limiting Beliefs”

Drawing from her own twisting and turning journey Rockley delivers the science behind teens’ limiting beliefs. A limiting belief is something your brain decides is a fact based on our emotional relationship to it. It’s also a big factor in what shapes the teenage identity. Think of it like your emotions telling you what’s true or false. It’s like if your child grows up in a culture of body-shaming, they might have adverse feelings toward cake.

Limiting beliefs can be formed at a subliminal level, which is why it’s dangerous to place too much emphasis on setting teens up for a one-track career at a young age. For example, many parents ask their teens what they’re going to be, thinking that it will give their child goals to work towards early on. But there are limiting underlying psychological affects that children inherit when parents pose this question.

When you ask your teen, “What are you going to be?” there is an implication that their future job is what shapes the teenage identity. Teens feel the need to have a ready answer, one that they have to stick to no matter what, because they don’t know to distinguish between their professional and personal self. Statements like, “I will be a doctor,” then become a restrictive personality type.

Once teens pick a personality type, their family and peers might show surprise or even ridicule them if they veer from the standard behaviors. Athletic students can never dye their hair and aspiring lawyers can’t branch out into the sciences. Business students shouldn’t waste their time doing theatre. But Rockley provides parents with a strategy to help uncover what shapes the teenage identity without setting up restrictive boundaries.

Avoiding Restrictive Boundaries

According to Rockley, teens can break out of restrictive thinking by making their limiting beliefs conscious. If parents and kids are able to step back and observe what shapes the teenage identity, they can make more informed and passionate decisions about what makes them say, “f*ck yeah!” Rockley goes over several tactics in the podcast to help your teen find themselves.

One method that we talk about is adjusting how you ask your child about what they will do in the future. Helpful questions about what shapes the teenage identity should address the reality of change and the different personalities your teen might express over time.

Questions such as, “Who are you inspired by? Who do you look up to? What aspects of these influences excite you?” start to facilitate a conversation around a diverse set of interests and aspirations. Aspirations that live more closely to your teen’s multifaceted personality and have that “f*ck yeah” feeling.

Rockley’s method helps teenagers unlearn the idea that a definitive vocation exists. Since there’s no way to tell someone what their purpose is, teens should be open to the idea that their interests can change at any moment in their life. This better prepares teens for a more fluid future. A future that supports a chemistry undergraduate student who realizes their true calling is in the local bakery.

Building The “F*ckyeah” Environment

When you ask, what shapes the teenage identity, the environment is a sensible answer. Using Rockley’s “f*ckyeah” approach, parents can help their teens find themselves by creating an environment where problem-solving is the object of focus, not performing an identity. There will always be problems to solve -whether it’s managing customers or figuring out chemistry equations in a lab- so the question is, “Which problems does your teen want to solve?” This framing can help teens adjust and explore what activities they truly want to engage in.

Rockley also speaks to me about how parents can help teens navigate our “factory school system” and set themselves up for the modern workplace. In the podcast, she gives great tips on how to expose your teenager to environments that value creativity and problem-solving skills, instead of simply following rote instructions. To get the full details of Rockley’s scientific approach to discovering what shapes the teenage identity, you’ll have to tune in and listen.

In addition to what shapes the teenage identity, we cover:
  • How to get your teen excited about their future
  • The harmful effects of reprimands and negative reinforcement
  • The tricky science of ‘limiting beliefs’ in teens and young adults
  • The need for personal branding…
  • And how personal branding could be negatively influencing who your teen is
Alexis Rockley brings her enthusiasm and passion for helping others to this week’s episode, and her positive energy is contagious! I’m so thrilled I could learn so much about what shapes the teenage identity. I hope you find our conversation as fun and helpful as I did–and maybe you’ll be leaving a copy of her book lying around for your teen to ‘stumble’ upon.

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Alexis Rockley
Alexis Rockley
Understand your brain, like your life. 🙃 Positive psychology-certified Coach (not a therapist) + author #FindYourFYeah. Inquiries: [email protected]
Ep 75: "Purpose" but Without the Eye-Rolling
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