The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Programme – How to Learn More About Yourself

In adolescence, our dreams begin to take shape and turn into reality. Everything we wanted in childhood, we can get and experience now, while following our own path to the future. With patience, enthusiasm and perseverance, we can now lay the first bricks for that future construction which is us , the ones I’ve been dreaming about for so many years.

horaOf course, our development path is not an easy and smooth one and this is the first time for us to learn that life itself is a war that we can win step by step, battle by battle. As long as we do not miss our goal and the desire to move forward, we will certainly identify the most appropriate ways to win.

But what does “our growth” mean exactly? Many of us can be a bit confused, misled by the grandeur of words, frightened by the thought that they must act beyond their powers.

For them, here’s a nice short story: a wise gardener sowed some vegetable seeds, as he would do every spring. This time, he was accompanied by his grandson, a smart boy who saw for the first time what gardening meant. When his grandfather finished his work, they went back home. The next day, the boy went to see vegetables already ripe in the garden. But what a disappointment … The place was as lifeless as it was on the previous day. No sign of vegetables whatsoever. The boy came back home confused, but did not ask anyone about it. On the third day he went there again… unfortunately he found the same sad, lifeless garden, without any trace of aromatic vegetables at all. This time he no more could hold back his tears and went to his grandfather to tell him that the seeds they had shown a few days before were not good at all, because they neither rose nor turned into vegetables. Listening to the little boy’s complain, the old and wise gardener laughed, took his nephew’s hand and went back in the garden: “Look, this is the place where we sowed the seeds, isn’t it? ” he asked his nephew . “Yes, but there’s no plant… it’s only dirt”, said the child in tears. “Though, there is something” the grandfather assured him. “Every seed needs time, good soil, light and our love in order to turn into plant and a vegetable later on. Just as you need time to grow up, so do our seeds. We don’t have to push anything, we don’t have to pull the leaves up to grow faster … we wouldn’t do anything else but kill them. Instead, with love and attention, we can help them become the plants that we love so much.” The child took a second look and he noticed indeed tiny green threads rising bravely out of the black and moist dirt. “They’re growing up, Grandpa… look, they really are,” he shouted happily. Then, in the next few days, he carefully watered the seedlings which were growing up more and more. Few months later, when the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants were perfect for picking, he accompanied his grandfather in the garden to enjoy the fruits of his hard work in the last several months. In this way, the child learned the lesson of patience, perseverance and love. Grandpa only helped him to understand the goal of their work while time and knowledge simply did the rest.

Just like those seeds, teenagers are tomorrow leaders’ foreshadowing. No matter how much adults ignore them, eventually they have to acknowledge their freshness, intelligence and beauty.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award

How can a teen grow? How can he get rid of all those harmful temptations of our time?

When they cannot do this by themselves, there is a wide range of programs to support and help them with their work of self-discovery. A simple search on the internet reveals a lot of alternatives, more or less helpful. Some programs, however, are true revelations. Upon graduation, teenagers do not only turn into new persons, but they also learn about themselves more than if they had stayed at home, with their family and close friends only.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is such a programme includinglogo 3 members and volunteers from all over the world. This programme proves us that before believing that we’re totally independent, we need to know that we’re all interconnected by our human nature itself. No one has succeeded in life by themselves, no matter how much they would claim it. There is always somebody to thank for our achievements: family, friends, colleagues, partners, bosses, teachers, etc. Every single person who goes in and out of our lives is a lesson. And The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award represents one of the most beautiful lessons about friendship, growth and success. Under the patronage of the Duke of Edinburgh, the programme is a warranty of quality by the energy it conveys and the lifetime friendships which are born here.

Organized on three levels thought as stages of evolution (Bronze, Silver, Gold), the program is a wonderful alternative to the national education system for young people between 14 and 24 years, it changes lives, showing the world persons with strong personalities and hearts open for love and understanding. With this program, young people with difficult backgrounds, fighting against social stigma, have benefited not just a simple guide to their evolution, but also the life they have always wanted.

Do not hesitate to search for such personal growth programs, as you are the ones who know the best what you need to become the adults you want.

Be open and  meet new people and experience different cultures: this is a part of your heritage and a great premise to build a successful career.

Apart of the advantages that the Award is offering to young people through the development of interaction, socialization, communication with different people, the programme represent the hard work of hundreds of adults involved in different levels in order to support young people who want to learn more about themselves.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is just one of the programs that we have discovered and deserved our attention. If you know and other similar programs, if you have collaborated as volunteers, leaders, coordinators or simply have learned about them from different sources, please list them here to help young people around the world to choose the most suitable way for their development.

Looking forward to your opinions!

Photos: courtesy of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Romania


5 Simple Steps to Enjoy a Happy Life

stonesWe live in an age of such advanced technology that compresses space and time with just a click of a button. We have the ability to get detailed information about the places and people that previously seemed inaccessible, a simple laptop brings the entire world to our home, communication seems to face no more obstacles and the new is already invading our lives from everywhere.

“That’s good” someone would be tended to eagerly say. “Just think about how long a simple letter used to need to reach its destination a few years ago. We need information and, therefore, the means to facilitate access to it. Mobile phone has almost become an extension of our hands; we cannot even imagine ourselves leaving home in the morning without it: we would have that strong and scary feeling of having lost the contact with the world. Our car has replaced our legs for a long time because it is much faster while the microwave has gently turned from a luxury into a “sine qua non” appliance of our kitchen that provides food ready to savor in few seconds “.

 Yes, at a first thought, these statements seem relevant. We even feel entitled to say that we need all these things due to such chaotic lives. But … hasn’t our life become agitated just because of them? The other side of our times, the dark one, starts to show us its long fangs, like a wild animal hiding in ambush and waiting for us. A wild animal called “impatience” … We have no more patience with people from our lives nor with ourselves, we want everything to be achieved in the speed of the same click used to open an internet page. Human relationships become more and more agitated, partners gather together in couples and break up with each other sooner than they imagine and happiness tends to be a mere goal, an ideal that we chase, blinded by the glamour, often superficial, of this century..

Can we learn again what simple happiness means? Yes … here are some ways to enjoy the beauty of each single moment:

1)  “Don’t take anything personally!”, Miguel Ramirez says. All the thingssmiling girls that others do have nothing to do with you. Everything they say and do is a reflection of their own reality, their own dream. If you become immune to the opinions and actions of others, you will not be the victim of unnecessary suffering.

2) Overcome a limit / fear – We are believed to be born with only two fears: the fear of height (fall) and the one of darkness. Other fears are  developed throughout our life, we “get used” to them and let them take over our lives, forgetting that “fear is a choice.” Therefore, whenever we learn to overcome a fear, we actually have a victory against ideas and thoughts that prevent us from living the life we want.

3) Laugh out loud – according to statistics, children laugh 300 times a day, while adults for about 40-50 times a day. Maybe it’s time to take the example of children and learn to enjoy each moment. Besides its therapeutic effects,  laughter create strong interpersonal connections as positive people who spread joy and fun are sought involuntary by everyone else, as optimism, just like pessimism, can be contagious. A positive person can find solutions where others see problems, may see the “silver line” of the dark clouds, attracting positive energy by their side.

4) Stop comparing yourself to others – analyzing the other’s achievements may be so frustrating sometimes. Looking at others’ achievements, sometimes, we have the strong feeling that we’re good of nothing, totally lost in our lack of visions, abilities, perspectives etc. We are envious and unhappy with what we have gained so far. Comparison to others brings us constant discontent because we consider only those material aspects of life, but sometimes we have not the slightest idea that their suffering may be greater than ours. If it were not so, there would no more be depressed, sad, sick or unhappy millionaires. Happiness comes from what we have deep in our heart, but not from inert objects unable to ever fill the void left by the loss of a loved one, loneliness, health or isolation. It’s never too late to say, “I know my life is not perfect but it is the best that I can ever have, so I’m going to do my outmost to make it wonderful and useful.”

5)  Be grateful – gratitude is the feature of great and successful people, whothank you have the power to enjoy everything they have in their lives, people around them, achievements, all the stages of their growth. A wise proverb says that happiness is not having everything you want, but wanting everything you already have. The gratitude exercise helps us to rediscover the beauty of life that we live, that’s why whenever we’re grateful we do nothing but amplify all those positive aspects of our living.

As you can see, happiness is closely related to ourselves, it is a personal choice that can change our lives irreparably.

Do you know any other ways to reach happiness? Do you have your own methods to find peace and reconciliation during hard times? We’re looking to reading your comments and offering them to the entire community.

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 Was It Meant to Be?





Who Are YOU Truly?

I’m watching a TV commercial … I’ve seen it so many times that I already know it by heart. It’s an advertisement for a soft drink that does not only quenches the thirst of billions of people on the planet, but it also brings families together, spreads good mood, is a link among people, setting up good friendship … In reality, though, it’s just a soft drink. What makes it so special? Is it its own quality or the way it is perceived by those who drink it? Are the ingredients or the “story” created around them? Both, marketers say. Quite often, in luxury stores, we find products that cost much more than similar products purchased elsewhere, and the explanation is simple: we pay the for brand, the product name, which is associated with high standards of quality, elegance, strength etc. At the same time, the expectations of those who buy these products are high because they know the brand that has no way to let them down. They trust it as, besides quality, a strong brand is built on some values, to inspire and gather people around it.

 brandA mark of modern times, the ​​branding is increasingly related to people. No matter if we like it or not, people have already put a “label” which we want it to be as favorable, pleasant as possible, able to go beyond our name’s name resonance and talk to the world about us. It’s a natural step, given the fact that our public image consists of how we see ourselves and what others see in us. The most important thing for these two approaches to our person, inner and outer, is to be as close as possible, without any obvious differences, in order to represent us naturally without causing frustration or discomfort.

Therefore, the question is: How can we create our personal brand? How can we convince others of our qualities? How can we make a card or a resume convey much more than just mere information about studies or positions within organizations?

How you see yourself

It is said, rightly, that the world sees you the same way you see yourself. The amount of trust you put in yourself is directly proportional to the trust that people around put in you. Anxiety, hesitation in making decisions, defensiveness are barriers, obstacles in creating your brand. To remove them, you need a good self-awareness, which help you maximize your strengths and identify your flaws so you can diminish them in due time. Self-discovery and creation of personal branding should be a continuous process, mature, focused on identifying your own limitations and assuming the responsibility for all your actions. Positive thinking has to be another milestone in the process of building a personal brand, as it is the path to contentment, happiness and satisfaction. Success is characteristic to positive visionaries, as they have the power to visualize the target they’re heading to in their development, as  they do not wait for an opportunity to come to them, but on the contrary, they look for it on their path and bring it in their lives through enthusiasm, motivation and persistence. Nobody has ever seen a successful man always frowning, sulky or misanthropic. Everyone who are inspiring the others now are open and positive people who know that in life “sometimes win, sometimes we learn.”

That is why, the way we relate to oneself is extremely important. The denial to abandon our projects just because they seem more difficult or allow someone to convince us that we cannot make something great, should become our second nature.

 How others see you

Man is a social being, he needs to establish relationships from which to draw the energy and strength to go on. There are very few people who can live in complete isolation, and they are the hermits living away from the world to devote themselves to prayer, meditation, relationship with the Divine. Unlike them, ordinary people set up their development on interpersonal relationships they build, and the brand, the positive image takes shape in the way they are perceived by others. No interpersonal relationship can be built without a solid foundation, and that is trust. We know that life offers many unpleasant surprises sometimes, that people often disappoint us, but we should not turn into misanthropes just because of that. Trust, openness towards the ones next to us represent the basis of our development, because every person who enters our life has a lesson to teach us, to  us stronger and wiser. If our social network consists of people who help us in our development, we can only say that our positive image that they perceive is nothing but the reflection of pleasure and joy to be with them.

 Human relationships are based on empathy and open and responsible communication. People need our attention and understandingfriends when communicating with us, they want to see on our faces an obvious intention to offer them exclusively a couple of minutes, hours or days that we can spend together. Our brand is built on the clear intention to be close to people, to help them with professionalism and by all means. As teachers, we must help our students to become brilliant adults, as physicians we must make use of our knowledge to heal people…. the important thing is that whatever we do, we’re supposed to do for people exclusively, unconditionally, joyfully. It is  said that we are happy only when we help as many people as possible to find theirs and we all know that a trained, open minded person becomes a model for others.

 A pleasant mixture of all the elements that define us at a certain moment, together with a proactive behavior which makes us needed and appreciated, lead to people’s gratitude and trust in the persons we really are.

So let us not be afraid to address ourselves a few simple questions every evening, just before going to bed: “Have I been MYSELF today?”, “How exactly have I contributed to my personal brands’ growth?”, “What should be improved on it?” Branding is a continuous process, just like an upward spiral, so bear in mind that the hardest task is keeping it at high standards and that any moment of relaxation may jeopardize your efforts you have put in it for several years. It does not mean that it’s an impossible task, but a permanent building of your personal construction.

 We are looking forward to reading your comments because we need you to tell us what other features should meet a person who enjoys a positive image.




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Obstacles? So good they exist!

We all dream of a perfect life, with exotic vacancies, huge houses and a Miss Universe or a Mr. Olympia as our lovers. In that perfect life, there is no pain, nor disappointment, the sky is always blue and our hair is always perfectly done. That’s why, whenever we have a bad moment, an exam to pass, a fight in our family, something bad which turns us upside down, we tend to say: “I wish I hadn’t such a miserable life”, “I’m a magnet of misfortunes”, “Everybody hates me” etc.

workLife’s obstacles are those moments, contexts, challenges which appear, making us make a decision, change a path or give up on a strategy that seemed perfect to us, in order to find a different and better solution. They are not pleasant at all, on the contrary, they can even be painful sometimes and alter a part of our life. Separations, losses, failures are among the most devastating unless we have the power and knowledge to manage and get over them, so that we could move on.

Being so tough, we can say that obstacles are necessary for our growth, even if that means sleepless nights, lasting efforts and paralyzing fears. Are they necessary? Yes, they definitely are, and we have to be happy when facing them. It doesn’t mean that we have to look for trouble on purpose, but we have to be ready to fight like soldiers.

Obstacles – a second chance

Newspapers are full of stories of some people who missed the train, plane, bus, avoiding thus a terrible accident. We all know that missing the train is not pleasant at all, but, at a second thought, this fact can be our second chance in life itself. That’s why we don’t have to make a real tragedy when such a bad thing happens: life is much more precious than getting there in right time.

I had to face an “obstacle” as a student, as well. When I was in the 8th grade, I got ill, so ill that I was almost to die. If you search for “meningitis” on the internet, you’ll understand the gravity of this illness and its consequences. Living in Romania, a country which had just got out from the communist system, was not a good support for me to fight against this challenge, considering the poor medical system at that time, back in 1990. Eventually, thanks to the doctors’ miracles and my family’s prayers, I not only recovered, but there were any bad consequences. Yet…because the long time spent in hospital and missing the final exams, I had to drop out the school in May and matriculate one more time in September for the … 8th grade. It was like a small catastrophe for me…I lost my colleagues, my friends, my former teachers. Such an experience can be devastating for a 13 years girl who has to meet new context to study. But, the end of the school year proved to be a real success for me: the new context helped me so much to focus on my exams (new but better teachers, new but wonderful friends). Looking back in time, I know that that illness brought good friends to me and some incredible teachers who turned into dear mentors and even friends for a lifetime.

 Obstacles – a good occasion to discover ourselves

We all have to keep a simple fact in our mind: life is not simple. Life istime to learn complicated and full of challenges and obstacles. If we don’t understand that, we’ll always get hurt and never find the perfect solutions for our problems. But THAT’S WHERE ITS BEAUTY COMES FROM! How can we find out that we’re stronger that we think, that we can do incredible things as long as we don’t have the RIGHT OCCASION? Iron turns into a sharp sword only in incredible heat and repeated hummer hits. This is the only way to get its strength and resilience. That’s why we have to look at obstacles in our life as good opportunities to discover our inner qualities and use them for our further development. It’s true, some things is our lives can be difficult, frustrating or annoying, but remember that nothing is impossible with the right attitude and approach. The harder the struggle, the more precious the victory. If you remember well, people like things easy to get, but they don’t appreciate free victories all the time…it’s a paradox, right? Why? Because fighting, striving for our dreams are in our genes. That’s why many wealthy people are not happy all the time. They get easily what they want when it comes to material things, but this facility gets boring and uninteresting. They need something to strive for.

 Obstacles – good occasions to re-discover people

happy friendsBad moments of our lives (losing somebody, health problems etc) represent the perfect background to reconsider our relationship with people around us, like friends, family or acquaintances. This is when we see who really cares about us, who supports us unconditionally, what they mean to us etc. Life is a permanent meeting and separation, we build and break up relationships, but we know that there will always be somebody who really cares about us and whom we can rely on. Generally, such a person is re-discovered after an unpleasant obstacle…sometimes we are amazed by their support, as they have never looked like a reliable person to us. Most of the times, a bad moment brings a separated family together and they learn how to love each other again. As you can see, obstacles can make profound changes in our social life, and our hearts, as well.

That’s why we don’t have to avoid obstacles. Avoiding them is similar to avoiding life itself, with all its ups and downs. We avoid to learn and grow. We miss our main purpose of life: to become a not ordinary person.

Share us your story, what has been the biggest obstacle of your life so far and what lesson have you learned in it? Our community needs fighters and winners like you!


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When is selfishness something good?

happy young men

From the very early years of our life, we are told that selfishness has no place in our lives, we must learn to discover and remove it because it is something bad, negative that will impede our further growth.

On one hand, these statements are true. Selfishness does not get along with the idea of friendship, socializing, mutual aid and unconditional support. We always tend to imagine the selfish as another Uncle Scrooge or a Grinch who stole Christmas, a character who hurts everyone around and enjoy their own malice.

happy boyBut can you love people and be selfish at the same time? Yes! Can you share your experience, love, support, while keeping your moral integrity? Of course you can! The exercise of “people-loving selfishness “can be learned from this very moment, and the most important thing is to know how to keep the balance between you, your aspirations and needs, and all the others, family, friends,  society etc.

“How can we do that, exactly?” you may ask. The answers are simple. Here are some of them:

 a)   Follow your passions and never give up on your aspirations - every time you want to follow your passion, there will always be someone to tell you that you cannot do it, or you will never make it, or you have to wait for the ‘right time’, others do the same thing much better or it’s not worth it. Often, even your own inner voice will sabotage and you will find yourself worrying about the difficulty of that thing that you long for doing. Do not listen to these suggestions!… Let the people talk and follow your path, because that is the only way to live your own life. You will never be able to live someone else’s life, but yours, so start NOW to build it just as you want.

b)   Stay close to your values​​ - The world is full of temptations and you will fight a constant battle between what you really want you to do and what will others want you to think and accept. Remember, when you follow your principles, you will become a model for all. A model of integrity. Values ​​such as Love for people, Kindness, Peace, Virtue can be your guides in life and turn you into leaders of your generation. Never forget that the world is full of bosses, managers, but is in a great need of leaders, models, people to inspire. Only the ones who follow their values can help the others to discover theirs, as well.

c)  Work hard for your better future – even if sometimes the road seems difficult and hard to follow, you should keep in your mind that you must build your future by yourselves. And it must be a good one so that you can help the others, too. Fight for it! Just think about it: people like Bill Gates, Michael Jackson have made countless donations, inspired and changed many lives and managed to do that because they did their best to make their future just as they had wanted. Fight for your future! Be the creators of your life!

d) Create and break relationships – life is a permanent meeting and separation.happy young men It’s a journey during which we get to know and leave all kinds of people. Some of them are part of our heart, and they are our families and close friends. Others are mere acquaintances. Each of them has a lesson to teach us and this is an important thing. Even those who hurt us, those especially. We learn so much about human nature and ourselves and get to know how to use these lessons in other circumstances. But it is vital for you to seek the company of those persons who can take you out of your comfort zone, help you progress constantly. Surround yourself with positive, creative people, who permanently grow and can become your models and mentors in your own journey. Meanwhile, let the others go, those who attract you with mischievous temptations (drugs, prostitution, robbery, gambling), those who keep you in your comfort zone by telling you “you can’t do it” those who are always naysayers, and who cut your wings so that you no more can fly. People make mistakes, love, are honest, lie or hurt each others… Choose the only ones who are solid bricks in the wall of this castle, which is your life.

e)   Be authentic – in order to become models for others, you must be genuine, and not to betray yourselves. We never like to find different people hidden beneath pleasant masks. Beware! Being authentic does not mean hurting others just for openness’ sake… You have to be a good person in every situation without giving up on who you really are.

f)   Have the courage to say NO – often it is hard to refuse someone for fear that we might hurt them. And we prefer to join friends to the movies, even if we long for a walk the park, to talk on the phone and offer a shoulder to cry on, although we are extremely busy … All these things affect our inner peace and become very frustrating. The solution is simple: with good communication, calm and understanding, we can make our needs and expectations known to the others, so that conflicts can easily be avoided.

g)    Make decisions - Life is a constant struggle to make the best decision … We search for it for so long that we’re confused almost all the time, uncertain, fearful to not make mistakes … It’s not necessary for you to be this way: your courage and authenticity derive from the your firmness. When you make a decision, make sure it is the best one and follow it without any hesitation. Weigh all possibilities well, see pros and cons for each solution and then choose the best option for you, with courage and determination and optimism.

h)   Set boundaries and make sure they are not “crossed” by others – when you find something important or find futile, pleasant or unpleasant, just say it loud. People in your life, friends, family need this information to know how to protect your space and personal values​​ better. If this does not happen, then the communication must be improved and you must find the best way to express your wishes and needs others.

smiling young girli)  Give generously – I know, selfishness has nothing to do with giving. At first glance, it looks like a paradox: how are you supposed to give, as long as you’re selfish? Yeah … never stop to help people and give them your support! Do it with passion, turn fact this into a goal of your life without letting people take advantage of you. Don’t turn yourself into an instrument in the hands of others, but a mentor, a creator, helping them to develop, as well. Offer your best to all those who struggle hard to get better, who share in similar values​​ and work strenuously to evolve.

 Now, once you have analyzed these suggestions, you will find out that selfishness in a philanthropic approach does not mean isolation, malice etc. On the contrary: selfishness can help us discover ourselves, what we really like and the best way we can serve the others.

Share your personal experience regarding your moments of “people-loving selfishness”.

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