A few years ago, the Rachel’s Challenge organization visited our school. Students and staff felt hopeful as we listened to Rachel’s story and signed the big banner showing our committment to Rachels’s Challenge, though I’m not sure what ever became of that banner.
For students who are new to SHS in the last 4 years, Rachel Scott was the first casualty of the 1999 Columbine tragedy. But before that, she was a creative. She was a true believer who issued classmates these five challenges. I challenge our underclassmen to accept Rachel’s challenge and for sophomore, juniors and seniors to examine themselves and recommit. Now let’s dive deeper into the meaning of each challenge.
1. Look for the best in others.
This one’s pretty straight forward. Unfortunately, I see and hear too many students who look for the worst in others, embracing gloom, despair, and agony in every situation they encounter. Folks, if you woke up and put two feet on the ground, you’re blessed. It’s a hard habit to break, but consider adopting the “glass-half-full” mentality. An abundance mentality. The growth mindset. Whatever you choose to call it. Life deals unfair hands. Pain is inevitable, but misery is not. While you may not be able to control what happens to you, you can choose how to react.
2. Dream big.
James wrote “…ye have not, because ye ask not.” Too often, I see students content with the bare minimum, whether its a grade or a friendship. Don’t settle for less than you deserve, and you deserve what you work for. It the whole sewing-reaping dichotomy. That is, you may be forcing yourself to settle for less at the harvest, because you know you did not plant many seeds.
The founding fathers believed that you “are endowed by your Creator with certain inalienable Rights.” Remember, you live in America, and you truly can do anything you decide to set your mind to. So dream big, but more importantly, plan big. Dreams are great, but plans are what make them come true. The world needs kids who do epic $#!7!
3. Choose positive influences.
Proverbs states that if you walk with the wise, you will become wise. Jim Rohn said you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Hear is another assortment of gems you may have heard:
- You can’t fly like an eagle if you’re running with turkeys.
- If you lie with dogs, you’ll get their fleas.
- If you play with fire, you will get burnt.
- Birds of a feather flock together.
These aphorisms all mean the same thing. Human nature has shown that choosing negative influences almost always pulls down the good. Rarely are the bad influencers rescued and lifted up by the good. You will not save the downtrodden; they have to save themselves. They’ll only pull you down.
In economics, we have Gresham’s Law that explains how bad money chase good money out of circulation. Simply don’t associate with criminals, cheaters, and liars. Take a close look at the people in your circle of influence. It may be time to clean house? If you’re hanging with students who get into trouble and earn bad grades, then you’re probably getting into trouble and earning bad grades, too. Haven’t you ever noticed that when students are allowed to choose partners in class, the “smart kids” pick each other?
4. Speak with kindness.
This is sometimes in short supply some days for all of us. But just that little word of support may make all the difference in the world for that friend who may be having a bad day. Every one who has a different belief is not a jerk. So when a classmate does well, congratulate him or her, and see if big breaks don’t start coming your way. Never be envious. I couldn’t believe it when I overheard that students were starting “I hate [fill in the blank] clubs.” This does not make you a better person. It makes you a smaller person. With such a fixed mindset, don’t be surprised if not much else goes your way.
5. Start your own chain reaction.
This reminds me of the movie Bruce Almighty. The moral of the story for Bruce Nolan was becoming the change he wanted to see. Though he tried hard, he could not control his career. Through a near-death experience and close introspection (with a nudge from Almighty) was he able to see the big picture, not just the Bruce picture. I have read about the Universal Law of Reciprocity. Whatever you send out comes back a hundred fold.
Carpenters say to measure twice, and cut once. I say think twice, and speak once.
Failures and disappointments are going to happen. Pain is inevitable. Misery is not. We choose how to react to the hand that we are dealt.
Your level of success will never exceed your level of self-development.