The 7-step guide to becoming a better decision-maker

Hold up! Did you hesitate for a second (or five) before opening this link? Do the smallest of conundrums sometimes look like big problems? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to teenage decision making & problem solving for teens 101!

Your teenage years can be quite a jar full of pickles. There are just so many things that you have to juggle, all at once — studies, friendships, relationships, getting that perfect Instagram photo, et al. So much to do, so little time. And it doesn’t help when everyone is always reminding you that the decisions you make today will define the rest of your life. 

In times like these, all big-small choices look like daunting decisions. And that can be scary, sometimes. So here’s a handy guide to help polish your decision-making skills!

How to make a decision

It’s always good to have a handy framework of decision-making life skills. Here’s a comprehensive 7-step guide to help you with it:

Step 1: Ask yourself what the question is

Sometimes we get so tangled up in a problem that we forget what the question was in the first place. So the first part of making an important decision is to take a step back and ask yourself: what’s the question? Think about the situation, what’s being asked of you and even what tools you need to make a decision. Problem-solving for teens begins with understanding the problem.

Step 2: Analyse the impact of this decision

Whether you need to decide what to order for dinner or which subjects to specialize in at school, all decisions have consequences. Of course, some have more lasting results than others, which may not be evident to us at the moment. Evaluate the consequences that this particular decision will have in your life. Does this decision only impact day-to-day activities, or does it affect your life’s big picture too? Also, think about how this decision impacts the lives of those around you, especially your family and friends.

Step 3: List down all possible choices

What choices do you have on the plate? Is this decision a binary choice question or one with far too many possible answers? Is the question even objective, or like literature, are there no right or wrong answers? Take stock of all the possible choices that you have before choosing one of them. Feel free to be as creative as you want in this step. Just remember that there are no bad options/answers here, the more, the merrier. Fun fact: 90% of teenage decision-making is just about being open to various options.

Step 4: Analyse the short & long term effect of each choice

Before you make any decision, it’s essential to understand your choices. Research as much as you can about what each of those choices entails. Make Google your best friend (if it isn’t already), visit your nearest library if you like and basically try it all. You should also talk to people who have taken a similar path in life or made similar choices to get their perspective too. And hey, don’t forget to take LOTS of notes!

Step 5: Make a pros & cons list

This may be the oldest trick in the book, but there’s a reason this trick has survived the test of time! Navigating the risk and uncertainty that every choice entails is important, but so is recognizing the rewards that come with them. More often than not, we tend to focus on only one of them. Thus, making a balanced list of the benefits and drawbacks of each choice that you have becomes imperative!

Step 6: Crunch the data 

Here comes the most crucial step of all: making the actual decision. So far, you’ve rationalized the problem, analyzed your choices and contextualized it with data or lists. All that’s left to do is evaluate the pros & cons list — one last time — to settle on the best possible option. More often than not, your gut knows what the right choice is so just listen to it. Talk to your parents, teachers, friends, well-wishers and take their advice too but remember, the final choice is yours to make.

Step 7: Take a deeeeep breath and follow-through

What’s important to remember is that no decision is too big to be irreversible. So pause, take a couple of deep breaths, center yourself and most importantly, believe in the decision that you have made. You’ve got this!

We hope this step-by-step process answers your questions about how to make a decision. Teenage decision-making can be a tricky business. Just follow a framework and your decision-making life skills will get razor-sharp over time! Here, on the Uable app, teenagers can connect with like-minded peers and mentors who can help act as a sounding board for all your big-small decisions. Ready to make it happen?

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Teens, you need to learn these basic life skills 

News flash: Adulting is hard. Honestly, it should be illegal at this point. But there’s no stopping the roles and tasks we must prepare for as we grow older. Your teen years just happen to be a great time to pick on skills to learn in life, helping you get more independent and responsible as you near your 20s. 

The formal education system prepares you to be informed and educated, tackling life with theory, historic facts, and calculated solutions. On the other hand, life skills are about facing the unexpected, caring for yourself and being as prepared as you can be. 

Hold on — before you choose to scroll further or out of this article, ask yourself this question: How prepared am I for life during & after college? If you rated yourself poorly, here is a list of life skills every teenager must learn early on in their life, in no particular order:

Time Management

Learning to manage your time is a handy skill to learn, especially come university days. It’s only then that you’re suddenly expected to manage your own time and work around schedules you never thought were possible before. You also need time for your hobbies, spending time with friends & family and other extracurricular activities. 

Household Chores

Planning meals, doing your laundry, learning how to repair the smallest to largest of appliances (at least the basics), fixing light bulbs and cooking yourself a (simple) meal are basic life skills you should learn as a teen. Work with your parents or caretaker to create a schedule that makes you responsible for some of these chores.

Money Management & Budgeting

Here’s a tip: Download a wallet/budgeting apps or create a simple spreadsheet to track all your expenses, however minor they may be as a teen. Record small and big spends and work around a pre-set budget that works best for you and your family. While you’re at it, learn how to pay bills correctly and on time. Most importantly, stick to the budget you make. 

Tax Returns

It’s easily one of those skills that feels less like a skill and more like a punishment the more you wrap your head around it. But learning to file your own taxes as an adult will save you a lot of money and keep you more aligned with your finances too. For one, sit with your parent/caretaker and understand how much of your money is deducted as tax and then learn to file your returns correctly.

Banking

Another one in the same alley of money and finances is learning how to bank. Understanding how to open your very own bank account, using the ATM, transferring funds, writing a cheque, banking online, etc are extremely important life skills to have. Walking into a bank can be pretty overwhelming so get the help you need from an adult you trust and be ready with all the answers the banker might ask. 

Cleanliness & Personal Hygiene

Can you diagnose basic illnesses? What do you do when you’ve got a cut or scab? Many of these things are ingrained in us from a very young age. But once you’re off being an adult at a university, you won’t have someone to look after you every time you’re unwell. So learn the basics of first aid & personal hygiene, and ensure you stick to them for your own personal benefit. 

Handling Small Emergencies

Quick trivia: If someone asked you to check if the power has tripped, where do you go and what do you check for? How do you know if your electricity has, in fact, tripped? What if someone asked you to turn off the water main or use a fire extinguisher in an emergency? You may not find it important to know now, but someday you’ll need these essential life skills to survive. 

Social Skills

This skill comes in handy during your university years when networking and socializing have the power to define your future. You should know how to carry on a conversation with adults, and better converse with fellow students and potential employers. Even basic manners, such as saying “please” and “thank you” need to be ingrained into your mind as they help make a good first impression.

Now here’s a bonus life skill you didn’t think you needed: Learning to say no, often and with as little guilt as possible. Sometimes it’s okay to not do everything everyone expects you to. It’s okay. So learn to say no and do only what you can/want to/feel safe doing. 

Life skills cannot be learned in a textbook, sitting in a classroom, or through a one-time conversation. You’ve got to get into the nitty-gritty and learn through practice. With Uable, you get the opportunity to put your textbook knowledge to the practical test and learn those life skills through real-world challenges. It helps prepare you better and makes you more confident in the long run! 

Start connecting with teens on the Uable app today!

8 must-read books for teenagers 

Full disclosure: This article does not do justice to the umpteen number of novels that should have been included in this list about the best books for teenagers. Nevertheless, it still includes some of the most powerful stories of resilience, courage, evolution and so much more. 

As a young reader, it’s important to open our minds to a variety of genres, be it fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or sci-fi, historic or contemporary. And so, here’s a list of 8 books to read for teens that everyone must read once in their lifetime.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This 2017 Young Adult novel follows the life of 16-year old Starr Carter who switches between two different worlds. One is the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the other is the fancy suburban school she attends. Through this, the novel explores themes of race and identity as Starr is pulled between a primarily white world (her school) and a primarily black world (her neighbourhood).

I Am Malala by Malala Yusafzai

This 2013 autobiographical book, co-written by Christina Lamb and Malala herself is, as the cover reveals, “the story of a girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban”. It’s a remarkable tale of courage that’s gotten hauntingly more relevant these last few months. Malala has since co-received a Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of her efforts on behalf of children’s rights.

The Kite Runner by Khaleed Hosseini

Bring out the tissues because this book here is a tear-inducing masterpiece. Published in 2013, The Kite Runner is a heartbreaking story about an unlikely friendship between two boys. One, a wealthy boy named Amir and the other, Hassan, the son of his father’s servant. It’s a gripping and emotional tale of friendship, betrayal and just a tiny bit of hope. The Kite Runner is also Hosseini’s first book and fortunately, not the last of his heart-shattering novels. 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Set during the Great Depression, this novel takes you to the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama where the Finch family resides. This Pulitzer Prize-winning book is a story about many things: coming of age, racism, gender roles and prejudice among other themes. In 2015, Lee released a prequel (which she presumably wrote prior to Mockingbird), Go Set a Watchman that follows the protagonist 20 years after the events of the first book.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Because no book list is complete without at least one mention of the Potter series. Comprising a series of seven fantasy novels written by British author J. K. Rowling, the book chronicles the life of a young wizard and his battles against a dark wizard. It’s one of those rare reads that will completely transport you to an entirely new universe. It’s magical, it’s filled with surprise and quite honestly, it’s a personality-defining book for so many young readers.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A published essay of Adichie’s talk, We Should All Be Feminists is personal, eloquently argued and a modern-day definition of what it means to be a feminist in the 21st Century. This is not a book for just young women, it’s an essay that every teenager and adult, regardless of gender or age, should read once in their lifetime. It’s a foundational essay for any open-minded individual out there. 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is a book narrated by death about a young girl, set in Nazi Germany at the onset of World War II. A 2005 release, The Book Thief sold 16 million copies, became an international bestseller and was even translated into 63 languages. It’s a historical fiction that explores a young girl’s love for books and how it helps her build a friendship of a lifetime. It’s a rollercoaster of a novel that’ll haunt you for days to come, in the best way possible.

1984 by George Orwell

Talk about a dystopian fiction novel that’ll leave you checking for hidden cameras everywhere you go. Published in 1949, Orwell’s book explores several themes, from totalitarianism and mass surveillance to the repressive regimentation of people and behaviours within society. While it was written as a precautionary novel, it’s one of those books that’s known to have an enduring relevance as the years go by.

Bonus must-read books for teens

If you’ve still got room to read more, add these to your TBR for next month:

  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • The Hunger Games Series by
  • The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Which one of these books have you read already and which one are you going to read next? Tell us in the comment box below!

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Is digital art really easier than traditional art?

This is no new debate. The ongoing battle between traditional and digital art is a controversial one that has seen opinions from several personalities within and outside the industry.

Simply put, digital art is the production of art created on a digital platform while traditional art can be categorized as any piece of artwork that is not digitally generated. Digital art includes graphics made by computers using software. On the contrary, traditional art relies entirely on manual creations using pen, pencils, ink and paint. And even though the two art forms have several similarities and require similar skills, this frequently asked question still remains: is digital art really easier than traditional art?

Let’s settle the Digital Vs Traditional Art debate

To do that, we need to first deep dive into the pros & cons of both art forms.

Pros of Traditional Art

  1. It requires skill

Traditional art depends heavily on the skill of the individual. To succeed in any art form, you need to first know the basics and foundation. With traditional art forms, you get to hone those skills and thereby build a strong & steady foundation for your future. 

  1. It’s unique

Traditional art is all about finding perfection in imperfections. The strokes used are genuine and not altered by any digital intervention. It’s these little things that make traditional artworks more unique and true to the artist. 

  1. It’s unrestricted

With traditional art forms, you can play around with a variety of mediums, textures and tools. You have no limitations. It can activate your sense of sight and touch; things you simply can’t enjoy through other mediums of art.

  1. It’s practical

Traditional art is practical as it does not rely on the internet, data or software. All you need is paper, a pencil, maybe some colours and you’re ready to create!

Cons of Traditional Art

  1. It requires sufficient lighting

Much like photography, traditional art relies on access to good lighting. An artists’ interpretation of an object during the day will be significantly different from that of during the night. 

  1. It’s limited to specific mediums

With the use of physical materials (such a paper type, paint textures, etc) come limitations with the intermingling of one over the other. An artist should know how different colours react with the other or even how they do against certain types of paper.

  1. It’s permanent

With traditional art forms, you can’t go back in time to rectify a misjudged stroke or colour. You can’t undo your decisions and you’ll need to work around those adjustments.

  1. It’s messy

All that paint and ink is sure to make a mess which is why traditional art is considered to be more inconvenient and tiresome.

There’s a famous saying that goes, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”. The same applies to art. The preference and ease of use of one art form over the other lie entirely in the hands of the artists. That said, let’s see how digital art fares against traditional art.

Pros of digital art

  1. It’s flexible

Digital art can be everything and anything you want it to be. You choose your brush, you can work with the exact shade you want, you can add elements or layers — and you won’t have to go to a physical store to do any of it. 

  1. It’s cost-effective

Creating digital art involves a one-time investment in the device and software you want. Beyond that, you don’t need to reinvest in physical materials such as ink or paper time and again. This is why honing digital art skills seems to be a preference among young learners.

  1. It’s not prone to physical wear & tear

On paper, your creations are more subject to physical damages and external interventions such as fading ink, bad quality paper and more. With digital creations, your art stays just as you last left them for many years.

  1. It becomes timeliness

That brings us to this point: digital artworks are almost timeless. If you’ve got a backup system running smoothly, your creations get stored in the drive and you’d never lose them again. 

  1. It’s the industry standard

For creators looking to make digital art their profession, knowing and learning digital art software is crucial. Most agencies and design-led teams hire talent based on their knowledge and familiarity with software such as Illustrator, After Effects and the likes. 

Cons of digital art

  1. It’s not print proof

Many creators have raised the issue of the difference between viewing digital art on screens vs paper. While the artwork looks stunning on digital platforms, it lacks the vibrancy or experience desired when seen on print.

  1. It might lack originality

Original traditional works of art (as created on canvas and the likes) are valued at much higher prices than digital artworks or prints. This is because it’s assumed that digital creations are easier to replicate and recreate.

The verdict: which one is easier?

It’s true; easy is a subjective term. If we’re talking from the point of view of easy-of-use, then digital is better because of the multiple software and digital tools available to creators. If we’re talking about pure knowledge, both traditional and digital demand a similar understanding of art foundations. There’s no shortcut here. 

For teenagers, easy digital art software is not hard to find and many schools are now keen on integrating it into their curriculum. This in no way means traditional art is unimportant or dying. It just means that different creators find comfort in different mediums.  

Start connecting with teens on the Uable app today!

5 reasons why BTS is so popular among teens

Maybe you’re one of the OG stans or someone slowly being pulled into the BTS phenomenon. Either way, this is a band that truly needs little to no introduction. 

When BTS debuted in 2013, they did what no other boy band has achieved so far. Their fan following went beyond borders, age, language and communication barriers. They became the best-selling artists in South Korean history with the best-selling album in South Korea of all time. They’re also the first Korean group to top the Billboard 200 chart in the U.S. In fact, they’re the first K-pop group since The Beatles to have three albums reach the No. 1 spot in a single year. That’s why BTS is famous among teenagers and adults alike.

But, just in case you’ve been living in a BTS-free bubble this whole time, here’s a quick introduction to the band and their impact so far.

Who is BTS?

BTS (방탄소년단: Bangtan Sonyeondan), also known as Bangtan Boys, is a South Korean boy band which was formed in 2010. They debuted their first single album, 2 Cool 4 Skool, in 2013 followed by their first Korean-language studio album, Dark & Wild. The band comprises seven members — Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook —all of whom are now very well known within the K-pop universe.

Since its inception, the band has inspired so many with their art. They’ve sold out stadiums, earned millions in Spotify streams and even spoken at the United Nations as the Republic of Korea’s Special Presidential Envoys for Future Generations and Culture. It’s really no surprise then that this band has had such a meaningful global impact. If this hasn’t converted you into a true BTS fan already, these next 5 reasons will.

1) They can do it all

While the band did start out as a hip hop group, over time they’ve evolved and refined their art. They’ve experimented with music genres and are known to be intimately involved in the entire music & song creation process. They not only co-write their songs but co-produce them too. The band comprises talented dancers and their fans are often enchanted by their choreography. What’s even more interesting is that three of the band members — RM, Suga and J-Hope — are exceptional rappers too!

2) They do good & give back

As a band with such a massive reach, they’ve made sure to use their power responsibly. They have contributed to several charities and launched multiple philanthropic endeavors. Most notably, their Love Yourself campaign in which they joined hands with UNICEF Korea to #EndViolence against children and teenagers, with the hope of making the world a better place through their music. 

Besides group donations, each of the members has also donated to various charitable causes over the years. After the group’s partnership with UNICEF, Jin made secret donations monthly. Suga has donated $90,000 to the Korea Pediatric Cancer Association and 329 dolls he designed, under the name ARMY. On the other hand, J-Hope and Jimin’s donations often support education.

3) They inspire their ARMY to do good

Through their work, they’ve set a great example for today’s teens and youth, encouraging them to be socially responsible and active. For instance, when the band donated $1,000,000 USD to the Black Lives Matter movement, their loyal fanbase matched their total donation within 24 hours. 

Their fans have also donated a total of 30 million South Korean won (approximately $26,373) to the Hope Bridge Korea Disaster Relief Association in BTS’ name to help the victims of the Gangwon Province wildfire. The list goes on. 

4) They have a stellar ARMY

Talking about their fans, the band has an undoubtedly strong, loyal and dedicated fanbase, who are referred to as their ARMY. Interestingly, ‘ARMY’ is an acronym for ‘Adorable Representative M.C for Youth’ — a fitting title, given their actions. This is because the band has always taken the time to connect with their fans, whether it’s through their conversations, actions or lyrics. In return, the fans have been loyal because the band is relatable, original and always kind.  

5) They keep things real

Most of the songs that the band is known to write often focus on personal or social commentary which touches upon themes of mental health, standing out as individuals, coming of age and loving oneself. They’re all about making their fans feel stronger. A lyric from one of their songs, Light, reads as: “But it’s okay sometimes to show weakness, it’s okay to be you”. As a band, they know how to make their fans feel like they matter and that’s how they relate to a vast array of age groups. 

Looking for a playlist featuring the best of BTS?

Here are our top 10 BTS songs that are worthy of featuring in your go-to tracklist, in no particular order:

  • Blood, Sweat & Tears 
  • Pied Piper
  • Tomorrow 
  • Dope
  • Run
  • Mic Drop
  • Am I wrong
  • Attack on Bangtan
  • Silver Spoon
  • Boy with Luv

Summing it up

As a teenager dipping your toes into new experiences or discovering where your real taste in music lies, BTS is a great band to dive into. They’re a wonderful influence, their music is relatable and we’ve got a lot to learn from them.

Start connecting with teens on the Uable app today!

How Mindfulness Can Help Teenagers

It’s becoming increasingly common for teenagers to persistently worry about interacting with unfamiliar people or being put in unfamiliar situations. Even depression in teenagers is affecting their academic performance, social status, family life and sexual orientation. In fact, when mental health concerns are flagged, parents are often caught off guard wondering what ‘signs’ they missed. We’ve put together a list of a few red flags that you should be on the lookout for.

Signs that you are struggling with your mental health*

It’s quite normal for teenagers to have mood swings. But where do you draw the line between mood swings and health concerns? Here are some tell-tale signs to look for: 

  • Problems at school that are persistent and/or repetitive
  • Negative mood that sticks through the day 
  • Loss of interest in otherwise favoured activities
  • Low self-esteem and energy levels
  • Sudden changes in sleep & diet patterns
  • Struggling to concentrate in studies or activities
  • Becoming fatigued easily

*This is not, by any means an all-encompassing list. Please consult mental wellness experts for a more detailed understanding.

Now that you know some of the signs, what can you do next to encourage an overall healthy state of mind?

For starters, incorporating breathing exercises, finding a support group early on and expressing these conflicts to trusted friends and family is a good start. However, if you’re looking for a better coping mechanism, Mindfulness Meditation is known to have several benefits for teens with mental & physical concerns including social anxiety, depression and chronic pain.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness Meditation is a technique that teaches you to slow down your racing thoughts, let go of negativity and calm your body & mind. It encourages deep breathing and increases your internal awareness. This simple technique can be incorporated any time of day and even on-the-go.

Here’s how you can practice Mindfulness Meditation:

  1. Find a comfortable spot and situate your legs well. Keep your body or your legs in contact with the floor.
  2. Straighten, don’t stiffen, your upper body.
  3. Keep your upper arms parallel to your upper body.
  4. Drop your gaze and let your chin drop forward, gently. 
  5. Be present in the moment.
  6. Feel your breath and choose a focal point. If you find your mind wandering, indulge yourself for a few moments but try to steer your thoughts back to your breathing.
  7. Practice pausing before making any physical adjustments. This means shifting or even itching at a moment you choose.
  8. When you’re ready, lift your gaze and open your eyes.

And that’s it. A few moments of this routine can make a big difference.

Benefits of Meditation for Teens

Meditation for teenagers can prove to be highly beneficial. Here’s how:

  • Reduces stress: Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a standardized therapeutic approach that has shown to reduce stress levels and anxiety in healthy individuals. 
  • Lowers heart rate: Research on mindfulness meditation suggests that the practice may be beneficial for your heart. In the research, participants were allowed to choose between enrolling in an online mindfulness meditation program or being added to a waitlist for traditional treatment for heart disease. Those who participated in mindfulness meditation had significantly lower heart rates and performed better on a test of cardiovascular capacity.
  • Improves sleep cycle: Meditation can help teenagers put their minds at ease and relax, therefore allowing you to sleep better. It is also useful in treating sleep disturbances.
  • Enhances immunity: Meditation as a habitual practice can improve your body’s resistance to illnesses and enhance your immune functions in the long term.
  • Helps regulate emotions: Teenagers have to deal with an influx of hormones that cause mood swings. Practicing mindfulness meditation can help you connect with yourself on a deep level and control your emotions & behaviour better.

Don’t wait for the ‘right time’ to start

As a young adult, it’s always a good idea to check in on yourself and be mindful of how you’re coping. The great part about following a practice such as Mindfulness Meditation is that it doesn’t need one specific reason to incorporate it into your routine. It doesn’t need a problem or issue. It simply needs your time and dedication. So whether you are frantically googling how to deal with social anxiety or how to come out of depression or not, Mindfulness Meditation is still a great add-on to your daily routine.

Start connecting with teens on the Uable app today!