Barbara Fish Counselling Services ... helping your life work

Getting Back on Track

Helping Your Life Work

Volume 8, Issue 9

September, 2012

Over the years, I have worked with numerous young men who share a similar description. They are bright, sensitive and creative, but have become stuck in their paths. Often identified with learning or attention problems, they do not fit the traditional model of education and as a result, become alienated from it. Ill- prepared to compete at the university or college level, they drop out of school within months of starting. Unable to find a job in a bruised economy, they fill their days playing guitar and video games and watching videos. Late night get-togethers with friends result in midnight meals and an inability to get to sleep before 3:00a.m. Waking up before noon is a rarity. Compounding the problem is a habit of smoking weed on a daily basis in order “to chill” and binge drinking on the weekend with friends. Some of these clients may have experienced rude awakenings, which prompted them to come to see me. Others may have been pushed by concerned parents who didn’t know how to motivate or help their sons anymore and were at their wit’s end.

I don’t have any statistics on why these young men end up where they do, but I have a few hunches. Most of the ones that I know are kind, quiet and polite. They are not troublemakers, so in an overpopulated classroom, they can be easily missed. If they are lucky enough to have been spotted and assessed, the recommendations given to the school may not be followed. For most classroom teachers, already struggling to meet the basic needs of a classroom packed with 46 students (some of whom don’t speak English), there is little time and fewer resources, particularly after cutbacks, to provide the kinds of learning experiences that are most conducive to assisting these students.

In addition, many of these young men may not have much opportunity to develop skills around the house either. Frustrated parents may give up on them being able to do what they are asked, at the time they are asked, in the manner in which it is expected. Parents often find that they can save much time and avoid confrontations by doing the task themselves or having the nanny do it for them.
Growing up in a technological era, where at every turn, gadgets provide instant stimulation and gratification, life lessons about delaying gratification, learning patience, persevering, trying after failing rarely happen. It is much easier to compete on an online game where winning is easier and losing can be done anonymously.

A large number of these young men have aspirations to become musicians or artists, but have been convinced by others that their chances of succeeding in the arts are slim. The usual default mode after that is to consider business, but those thoughts are usually squashed by the realization that most business courses require math skills, and many of these youngsters are mathematically challenged. Unsure of what to do or how to turn their lives around, these young men often give up on themselves at an early age.

My job is to help them recognize their many talents, tap into their creative abilities, create structure in their lives, develop confidence in themselves and a sense of optimism that they can succeed in the world. If they begin to recognize that smoking weed every day is preventing them from moving forward, then we both have a fighting chance of getting them to stop. If they are willing to see an addiction therapist, then I will refer them to one who can begin their treatment or in some cases, refer them on to a treatment facility. If not, then I suggest that they attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings to gain support and surround themselves with others who are on the same quest.

If they need to upgrade some of the subjects that they were not successful in in the past, I will refer them to adult training schools or private learning centers where they can receive the assistance and support that they may not have received in the past. If they are living at home, but not contributing to its maintenance, I encourage them to take on responsibilities around the house, beginning with organizing their bedrooms. This would include developing systems about where to leave keys, sunglasses, papers, etc., making space for work on their desks and removing excess electronics. Time is also spent learning time-management techniques: planning their days (including time for meals and exercise), developing and continuously updating agendas so that they know where they have to be and what they have to do, creating checklists so that they know what they have to bring with them when they leave the house, and developing new habits like planning to arrive fifteen minutes early to all appointments.

Working through a career assessment, they begin to focus on what will make them happy in the world of work, how many skills they actually do have, what their aptitudes suggest they would be most successful in and how to set goals so that their dreams can become realities.

If you are struggling to get your life on track or if you know someone who needs support and assistance, call me. I’d be happy to help.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”

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For more information, or to book an appointment at her Toronto office,
please contact Barbara by telephone at 416-498-1352 or by email at