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I recently wrote an email to my son with some life lessons that I hope he can comprehend by the time I hand him the password to his email account.

He’s 11 months old now, but I wanted a way to reach out to him with my thoughts and keep him posted on his life, so my wife and I made an email account for him as soon as he was born. No, you can’t have the address.

One of those “lessons” was about self-respect. How it’s such a difficult thing to really practice, how people do stupid, stupid things (especially as teenagers), and how to avoid those pitfalls.

Pitfalls like becoming a teenage parent, getting addicted to drugs, being the school slut or the asshole who sleeps with every woman he sees. These are all symptoms of a problem that is getting worse.

Time travel doesn’t exist.

I want my son to grow into a good person with minimal regrets, so I had to find what the problem was to pass my advice on to him in the most effective way possible. The problem…is a lack of foresight.

We can’t see the future, we can’t change the past, and that’s what makes us do insanely stupid things in the present. We want the chocolate now. Our sexual tension is unbearable. Escape from the circumstances in our lives seems like a good option.

And we don’t consider what it will cost us in the future. The extra 40 lbs that never goes away. The past that you hide from your spouse. The habit that will limit you for the rest of your life.

Finding self-respect.

Fortunately, there is a solution. We all know when we’re about to make a decision that could impact our futures. Whether it’s a 12-year-old about to take his first puff of a cigarette, or a 14-year-old girl going to a party with the guys who have a “reputation.”

You have to interrupt the activity and reframe it. It’s as simple as that. Stop justifying your actions based on what you want now, and think about your future. Think about the people in your life, or the people you want in your life.

So, to the teens out there – do you want to get married one day? Think about your ideal spouse and be the kind of person that would attract that spouse. Don’t do things that you would never want your dream guy/girl to know about.

What about being a parent? If you want kids one day, don’t do anything that you wouldn’t approve of your own children doing. If you would be ashamed of your own children doing what you’re about to do…maybe it’s a good idea to stop.

And the adults? Find a mentor, a real-life role model. You don’t have to personally know your mentor, but pick a person you look up to. Now imagine that person looking over your shoulder when you make decisions.

Would they approve of your private life? Are you respecting yourself and others? Are you becoming more like the person you respect, or distancing yourself from their approval? This method is like self-respect on tap!

Build a time machine.

Hindsight is 20/20, we’ve all heard that. But present decisions are potentially the same if we look at them as if they were in the past. That’s what I’d like to challenge everyone to do – to look at the choices we make and try to decide if they will be worth it to our future selves.

Just imagine yourself 5 years from now, where you’d like to be, and reminisce on the present. Make it crystal-clear. You’re sitting at your desk, writing your autobiography in 5 years. Now…is this the point where you made a great decision or a horrible one? Is it a risk that seems worth taking, or are you just trying to please an urge regardless of the cost?

It won’t work every time. We’ll still make bad calls. We might slip and do something without thinking. Maybe we’ll just make a mistake. Everyone has regrets, but we can at least minimize them.

All it takes is a bit of self-respect and we can create our future, or a bit of thoughtlessness and our future will happen to us. Just some food for thought.

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