Trading One Set of Good Things for Another

Trading One Set of Good Things for Another

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from one of my best friends regarding marriage. This one stuck in my memory for some reason I can’t explain. The advice was prompted by some of my anxieties revolving around leaving the “single life” – something at which I had become adept by virtue of the many years of practice. I was obviously excited about marrying the girl who had become my best friend in life, but I wasn’t really sure what it was going to be like sharing a life with someone else.

The thing is, when we do something new, old things have to pass away. This is a really hard truth as revealed by the millions of broken “resolutions” we find scattered amongst the first few months of the year. We all want to do things better and become better people, but in our efforts we forget my friend’s incredible advice:

“You have to trade one good set of things for another set of good things.” 

This advice was ringing in my ears when I read a recent blog post by Dr. Tim Elmore about some encouraging and discouraging statistics on teenagers. You can read it here. Dr. Elmore outlines some great news on teenagers balanced out with some bad news.

Smoking is down.

Junk food consumption is up.

Sexual activity is down.

So is condom use.

Drinking and driving is down.

Texting while driving is up.

Think if you were a charity or non-profit who worked diligently on the issue of drunk driving and seeing the stats fall, only to see traffic fatalities rise for essentially the same problem – impaired driving. Or if you worked tirelessly on educating youth that smoking kills only to see them eating potato chips for dinner?

Teenagers, like adults, tend to find things to help us cope with life. We all have them. Life is stressful and difficult, and we can’t always be on our “A” game. So, we justify certain behaviors so we can “get by”. After a while, we see the error in this thinking and try to change our unhealthy habits.

The problem is, changing an unhealthy behavior has to be followed with something good. We have to trade one set of things for another set of things. The only caveat is, what are we replacing it with?

I found this idea to be true in my own life recently. Since the beginning of the year I’ve tried to lose some weight (which I have) and clean up my eating (which I….kind of have), and found myself eating good during the day but eating unhealthy before bedtime. It’s like I undo all of the good I’ve done throughout the day with a poor eating choice at night.

And because of that, I struggle to meet my goals. I haven’t really traded anything.

As we walk alongside teenagers, we can’t just tell them to “stop doing things” and offer no real alternative or better path. Human beings tend to cope. And if we can’t find healthier ways to cope, we will only find other unhealthy ways.

We can’t get mad at teenagers or disparage an entire generation because they kind of act like us sometimes. Let’s help teenagers find ways to exchange an unhealthy set of behaviors for something good, sustainable, and life-bringing.

For more on this, I’d encourage you to read Dr. Elmore’s brief post about how we use these findings to bring about healthy change with our teenage friends. 

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s COO, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
Remember a Better Future

Remember a Better Future

When I was about 3 years old, our house was broken into. We weren’t home so it wasn’t traumatic, but I remember the mess around the room and that my piggy bank was broken.

I remember when I was about 6 years old and water-skied for the first time. I can almost still hear my grandfather coaching me lovingly on how to hold the rope and stand and let go if I fall.

In high school, I didn’t get in much trouble, but I did get sent to the Principal’s office because I was in a part of the building I wasn’t supposed to be…with my girlfriend.

I remember a time I went snow skiing (something I was not confident about), and a high school girl had to coax me down the mountain because I froze about 100 yards from the bottom. I made it down but was very embarrassed.

I remember my most embarrassing moment meeting my now in-laws (thankfully they don’t).

And I remember asking my wife to marry me and her saying, “No,” and it still being an amazing night thanks to some wise loving mentors. We’re in our 15th year of marriage and it’s the best yet!

I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember these times.

I have been thinking lately that how we remember things really shapes what our future looks like; it shapes who we are because of how we remember the past.

So here is what we can all work on together – choosing to remember the best parts of the past. And this can be a choice. Through conversations I have with students, we get to talk about how they can choose to see things through a negative viewpoint and keep focusing on how things aren’t going their way, or they can choose to remember the good times, the good qualities in people, the lesson they learned and use those positive memories to propel them toward an ever better life.


Here are some ideas for remembering better:

Work hard to find the positive. This is tough. I know because it is hard to see any positives in some family stuff I’m dealing with right now. And yet, I believe it’s there. I may not see it today, but I can choose to keep looking, and when I find it, I can only imagine how good that will feel!

Stop reliving the negative parts of the story. It’s often easy to want to tell others those negative parts. Either because we feel we handled it well or because it is what seems most interesting. The truth is, by focusing on these aspects, it reinforces the memory we have in a negative way.

Ask, “How can we get something good from this experience?” I had the kids in my car, and a guy cut me off, stopped in the middle of the road, got out and yelled at me about my driving. I couldn’t believe it. All I could think was, “How can I model for the kids in my car a positive way to handle a volatile situation?” Then, when it was over, I let them talk about it a little, andnsome of us shared it with mom who wasn’t there, and then we moved on. I said, “It was scary, but we are all safe and it’s over.” Getting obsessed with something like this can be very detrimental to our human ability to get back out on the road and go where we need to go, figuratively and literally.

Realize most things are out of your control. We love to think we control things, anything, everything. The reality is, we control very little and even what we do has outside influence and factors that can easily derail our control. Life is a constant learning process, and the more we can realize and accept that, the more benefit we will get from the experiences we go through.


As you can see, I’m right in the middle of figuring this out. Some of you are farther along then I am, and some could offer a fresh perspective or story to open my eyes to other possibilities. Take a minute and share this or reply back and let us know what insight you can offer so we can all keep living life better.



Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.