My philosophy can be summed up pretty simply. Which doesn’t make it any easier to hear, I realize, since it places responsibility for each of our lives squarely on our own shoulders. Still, it’s what I know to be true, and what’s proven to be the foundation for positive change for the many wonderful young adults who’ve crossed my path. 

1. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not inherently destined for a doomed life. You have problems, perhaps serious ones. You have made mistakes, perhaps big ones. You have fallen, perhaps far. But you have what it takes to start anew, to change your thoughts and behaviors, to live a life of purpose and joy. It’s not too late. And you’re not too damaged. Believe this: We are not the worst things we have done. Neither are we the best things. We are imperfect humans all, with many flaws but also great potential. Let’s forgive ourselves for the former and make the most of the latter.

2. You are not a victim. Did your parents split up? Are you adopted? Were you emotionally abused? Sexually abused? Physically abused? Were you abandoned by a loved one? Did you witness a violent act? Do you have learning disabilities, physical disabilities, financial worries? Were you bullied? Ignored? Blamed? If so, like most people on this planet, you’ve suffered emotional trauma. You have every right to be angry and hurt about this — but not forever. Identifying as a victim does nothing but hold you back. Make up your mind to look at the trauma, work through it, and let it go. When you stop giving so much power to your past, you’ll find the present is wide open.

3. You must find your own way. When it comes to your education, your career, your relationships, your very pursuit of happiness, only you can choose your path. No one else has the right or the responsibility to make these decisions for you. Which can be daunting, I know. There are so many options. What if the road you travel leads to a dead end? What if you take a wrong turn? What if you get stuck somewhere along the way? The answer is this: when you move in the direction of your dreams, you will find that opportunities arise at every step. Yes, you’ll have set backs. But you’ll learn from them, you’ll grow from them, and you’ll move on from them. And you’ll live an authentic, meaningful, fulfilling life in the process.