May 21st, 2007 07:37 EST
Graduation and the Real World
During the convocation speeches she gives, educator and bestselling author Susan V. Bosak likes to remind graduates that there's only one American Idol each year. Having dreams is important -- and so too is tempering those dreams with realistic expectations. As National Chair of the Legacy Project, a multigenerational education initiative that encourages lifelong learning, Bosak offers some practical advice to graduates and their families.
Research shows that of those who graduate from high school and college, more than half find themselves aimless. Many people in their twenties and thirties experience depression because expectations for their life haven't met reality. And too many young people find themselves under their parents' roof, unable to pay their own bills.
Bosak uses a simple tale as a framework to explore the realities of living a life. Her book "Dream" is a popular graduation gift for all ages. It brings together contemporary artwork by 15 top illustrators with quotations from historical sages and a poetic story about hopes and dreams across a lifetime. The book has won eleven national awards, including the Pinnacle Award as Best Gift Book and the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Book Celebrating the Human Spirit.
"Each stage of life in the book is associated with a different color," says Bosak. "The green pages are where dreams are being fulfilled and everything in your life is working. But hard things happen, sad things happen, unexpected things happen, and we get pulled into the gray. A key life skill is how to find your way from the gray to the green."
Bosak offers these tips to graduates heading out into the world with big dreams:
-- Having big dreams gives you energy and direction, but those dreams are sustained by realistic expectations and determination. People in Scandinavian countries are among the happiest in the world because, research shows, they temper their long-term goals with low expectations for the short term. Taking a longer-term point of view is an important mindset.
-- Research doesn't support the common belief that each of us has natural talents -- that you're born to be a Wall Street investor or a master golfer. Big dreams and greatness are achieved through a lot of hard work over many years.
-- Most people learn quickly at first, then more slowly, and then tend to stop developing and growing. They get too comfortable and don't push themselves. To achieve big things, you have to keep going.
-- Don't expect to have it all figured out in your twenties. Based on research, the general rule of thumb is that once you choose an area of interest, it takes at least 10 years of consistent work and practice to achieve a world-class ability in that area.
-- If you look at all the research into how human beings achieve their potential, how people achieve goals, it boils down to Believe, Do, Think. You have to have a measure of self-confidence and courage. You have to take action. And you have to think
-- constantly getting feedback and altering your course based on the realities around you.
We all have different strengths and achieve goals in different ways. The Dreamer Profile on the Legacy Project website allows you to explore whether you're a Creative, Dynamic, or Practical Dreamer. You can also check out the Millionaire Quiz to see if you have the characteristics to become a millionaire.
"Dream" by Susan V. Bosak (TCP Press) is featured on the graduation gift display in bookstores across the country. For more LifeDreams tips, visit www.legacyproject.org.