Why would a hard-working teenager lack motivation?

Max asks: At home, I do lots of work but when it comes going out, I feel like not going. I go to college, and if I have to go somewhere, I can go for sure, but when I am home, no matter how important the matter is, I don’t feel like going. Is this laziness, or is something wrong with me?!

Hi Max –


Yes, there’s something wrong with you.  It’s your age!  You’re a college-age boy, and although we usually have this image of guys that age being aggressive, driven, excited, and very social, the truth is that this is a time when males often need to retreat for a while.

Am I correct in guessing that you’re also having some trouble making decisions these days?  That the world is expecting you to pick your major, pick your top interests, find a spouse… and you’re not quite able to choose between eating a carrot and an orange, or what movie to see?!

There’s a very good reason for this.  You are nearing the end of your adolescence.  After years of struggling to be treated like an adult, you have mostly reached your goal – the world is saying “Cool, you’re ready, go for it!”  But you don’t really know how!  You’ve never had the power you’re suddenly handed, over others or even over your own life.  And your brain literally needs to reset itself, to adjust to this new life!  And while you’re being responsible and doing the things you’re supposed to do (which is of course great), once you get the chance to choose what to do, that brain is saying “Let’s stay home and chill!  I need time to do this resetting work!”

I want to recommend two really wonderful pieces of entertainment for you, which I’m guessing you’ll be able to relate to deeply.  Neither is new, and both have been – well, “popular” is too weak a word!  If you check them out, I think they’ll help you see how universal what you’re experiencing is.

The first is a movie from the 1960’s called “The Graduate.”  Though its lead character has just finished his university studies, he’s in that same state you are.  And while everyone is pushing him to be active, driven, motivated… he feels none of it.  The very opening of the movie kind of says it all – as the credits go by, you just watch the boy moving through an airport on his way home, but he’s not walking, he’s on a moving walkway, propelled with no say of his own at all.  The story then takes him on a wild journey as he struggles to find himself in his parents’ world.  (Note – this isn’t a movie for young kids, as it has very adult subject matter; but for someone your age, it’s just great).

The second is even older.  By about 400 years.  It’s William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet.”  There are lots of movies of it, or of course you can read it.  Its hero is in just the situation you’re in, but with an, um… conundrum let’s say.  Which is that his father’s ghost shows up and tells him that he was murdered by his brother (Hamlet’s uncle), who has now married his wife (Hamlet’s mom).  So what should this boy, who’s at that stage of life where it’s hard to make any decision, do?

I hope I’m not giving away too much to say that neither Benjamin (the “Graduate”) or Hamlet get through their journey without making some really lousy choices, which they would never have made if they had gotten to the next stage in their lives.

And what is that stage?  Well, you may have noticed (might even have been irritated) that I’ve referred to you (and the characters I’ve described) as “boys.”  I say that because this is the last stage of boyhood.  When you get past this, when you get to where you’re able to make your decisions, you’ll be a young man.  And when that happens, Max, I am about 99% sure, you’ll suddenly be very happy to leave the house whenever there’s a good reason to.  Because no longer will you be wanting to get off that “walkway” your life currently is.

But, speaking as someone who loves nothing more than lying on the floor in front of the fireplace while my best friend scratches my ears, I think you might find you like staying at home often even then.

And there is nothing wrong with that!




About the Author

Leave a Reply 0 comments

Leave a Reply: