Refocusing for new year

Refocusing, This New Year Marks Another Switchback

As I’ve reflected on this past year, our students’ paths to progress have reminded me of the approach to the world famous hike, Angels Landing, in Zion National Park. It’s called Walter’s Wiggles.

Enjoying the view on top of Angel's Landing at Zion National Park
Enjoying the view on top of Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park

Going straight up the clifflike approach to Angels landing would be treacherous and intense. Personal safety equipment including ropes and harnesses would be required even for highly experienced hikers, and even then, ascension would be exhausting. So, in order to help all hikers safely reach the top on their own, the park service cut Walter’s Wiggles into the mountainside.

This series of 15 switchbacks corrects and re-corrects hikers’ lateral direction back and forth across the cliffside in order to maintain a manageable grade and ultimately bring them to their vertical destination. It’s a slow and steady way to hike, but it eliminates dangerous falls and helps hikers get to the top safely without mountaineering know-how.

This is what TFL has consistently offered our students over the last year: accommodation and direction.

We have broken down the intense climb of reaching independence, and multiplied it into many smaller, more manageable paths. Each time your students’ paths changed direction this year, they rose a little higher up the mountain. Kudos to them! Great work!

This new year marks another switchback, one of refocusing.

Letting life, emotions, and other external circumstances direct their choices and habits has been a common and painful pattern for our students. They often find themselves choosing the path of least resistance and having fewer opportunities as a result. Eventually they get stuck, and some sort of intervention is needed. For many of them, that process was a key factor in your decision to help them find independence at TechieForLife. For us, that’s why we make consistent adjustments to our individualized approaches. The big adjustment this year is living on purpose.

Consistently and purposefully choosing what they will accomplish in a day, how they will grow, and what habits they will form is a key part of success for our students and a requirement for independent living.

To help them reach that milestone, we’re introducing the following:

  • Morning Connections
  • Schedule Improvements
  • Monthly Themes
  • Enhanced Mentoring
  • Revised Electronics Policy

We are excited about 2019! We look forward to hiking up more switchbacks this year as our students press towards greater heights. The best part of Angels Landing is getting to the top. We’re confident that our students will discover the same thing about reaching independence.

-Cam Sherman, TFL Program Director

Car and Bike Maintenance

We went out and learned how to check the oil, tire pressure and how to jump a battery.

I knew how to do most of it but when you don’t do it often you kind of forget so it was a good review. -Nick, TFL student

Wood working

Trying Out Wood Working

“For Life skills today we did woodworking. It took a series of a few days. We put a lot time and effort into cutting the wood, gluing the box together,  sanding the box making sure it was all soft and even, and then I oiled the boxed to finish it up. It was a fun activity because it was something different then my usual schedule.”

                 -Brian A., TFL student

"Adulting" is hard

“Adulting” What Does It Mean? How Do We Do It?

Life Skills Class: Why has the term “adulting” become a thing?

The Urban dictionary says:

adulting (v); to carry out one or more of the duties and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals (paying off credit card debt, settling a beef without blasting social media, etc.) Exclusively used by those who adult less than 50% of the time.

An example of using it in a sentence is: “I was going to buy another video game, but I finally got my oil changed instead. Adulting!”

“Adulting” can be hard.

For someone working on “adulting,” it helps to understand our brains.

Lower Versus Higher

One way to look at brain function is to understand our lower brain and our higher brain.

Our lower brains like to:

  1. Seek for pleasure
  2. Avoid pain
  3. Be efficient and stay safe

Our higher brains:

  1. Seek for connections with others
  2. Desire to grow, develop and progress

Living from higher

“Adulting” is more about living from our higher brains.

Choosing to hold off on what is desirable or comfortable in the moment to work for our higher goals.

When we become adults we can choose to do whatever we want.

Some emerging adults seem to think becoming an adult is all about doing what they want and making their own choices.

Our jails are full of adults who chose to do what they felt like even though it was against the law.

Other emerging adults are discovering that “adulting” is actually more complicated than that.

It requires basic life skills, being responsible and thinking ahead- putting long term needs and goals ahead of our short-term impulses.

Higher brain kind of stuff.

Lower Brain Will Always Be There

When we are working on goals it can be helpful to remember that our lower brain is always with us.

For example, when we set a goal to get up at 7 am and get ready for our day, when the alarm clock goes off, our lower brain is going to kick in and not want to get up.

It’s uncomfortable.

It’s hard.

Can’t we just hit snooze and sleep a little longer?

If we anticipate our lower brain wanting to jump in, we can allow for that and still choose to honor our commitment to our self and get up even when we really don’t feel like it.

Creating New Pathways

“Adulting” success requires creating new pathways in our brains.

It’s uncomfortable to create new pathways.

Our lower brains don’t like to be uncomfortable.

And it feels hard.

The cool things is that as we work on new things like getting up when our alarm goes off in the morning,

our pathways get stronger

and it does get easier.

Many people find that they start to wake up before their alarm goes off.

They’ve trained their brain to wake up.

Self-care when “adulting”

Anyone attempting “adulting” or trying any new thing should keep in one important thing in mind…


Creating new brain pathways takes work.

We are much more successful when we take that into account.

Depending on how challenging a new thing we’re learning or doing is will determine how much self-care we may need.

For a student starting college classes for the first time, there are many new things the brain is learning all kinds of things like:

  • the location of classes
  • what new teachers expect
  • navigating the social environment
  • the new schedule
  • the new material to learn
  • all the new external stimulation like sounds, smells, sights, etc.

A student might be a little more tired than usual after the first week of school.

Probably not a good time to start a big new project or start a new job.

Self-care in the form of:

  • power naps
  • breaks
  • taking a walk
  • doing some meditation
  • exercising
  • doing something fun
  • talking with a friend

can all help the brain recharge and stay up for the day to day tasks.

Keep in mind some activities like browsing social media or playing intense video games are fun but do not recharge our brains.

Learning to be aware of our lower brains and live more from our higher brains, our higher selves, is what helps us create a wonderful and fulfilling life.

-Debbie, TFL Admissions and Marketing Director








Trip to River Raft near Moab, UT

Trip to Moab for River Rafting Adventure

TFL motto #3 “Out of our comfort zones but not overwhelmed.”

What a trip!!

Moab and the Colorado River are always a great mix.

We rafted on some pretty calm stretches for three days, with some fun rapids along the way.

It was hot and cool and beautiful.

It is so important for our students to do new and uncomfortable things, even if they never do that specific activity or trip again.

It comes down to brain activity and neuro-pathways.

If the brain can get used to building new pathways that are uncomfortable, different, and even a little anxiety causing, the brain can also learn to get out of comfort zones in other scary ways as well.

After doing some rapids and sleeping outdoors, it is a little easier to travel and interview for a job.


Don’t tell the students, but it was really nice to unplug for a few days and just enjoy each other and nature- it heals the soul and lifts the heart.

Doing hard things fits into what we all need to make it into successful adulthood and responsibility.

It builds confidence in ways no amount of talk therapy can do and gives tangible substance for our brains to believe that we are good enough.

Telling ourselves we are worthwhile just doesn’t carry the same weight as doing effective and functional things.

With confidence comes loss… doubt, fear, anxiety, depression and others.

Our students were pushed and they all did really well.

And I’m sure new neuro-pathways were formed:)

—Jason, TFL Executive Director

Confirmation bias

Life Skills Class: Confirmation Bias

How can understanding confirmation bias be useful?

Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as supportive of one’s existing beliefs or opinions.

Most of us do not go around trying to prove ourselves wrong.

It feels terrible to be proven wrong.

If feels great to be right.

We get to feel… smart, confirmed and in control.

Facts don’t necessarily change our brain’s confirmation bias.

The only thing that changes confirmation bias is something so glaring that we are willing to believe it and feel terrible about it, long enough to change our beliefs or opinions.

Most of the time our brains would rather be efficient and keep believing the same beliefs.

Even if those beliefs themselves feel terrible.

Confirmation bias is great when prior conclusions are terrific.

If we believe we’re awesome our brains find evidence for why we’re so awesome.

Confirmation bias is not great when prior conclusions are terrible.

If we believe we’re a failure, then our brains find evidence and even make-up stories about what we do or don’t do to prove why we’re a failure.

The process of changing our belief systems to support us in being more successful takes effort.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel good, but new focused thoughts over time can become our new belief systems.

Then confirmation bias works in our favor to confirm our new helpful beliefs.