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Practicing the art of possibility

One of the magical qualities of September, is the opportunity it provides students to experience a “fresh start”—a chance to wipe away any past failures or misgivings and begin again. However, not everyone takes advantage of this gift, feeling down and anxious before the year even begins. So this month, let’s explore a critical component to happiness, “perspective”, and how to change it when necessary.

Think “perspective” not “reality” …
How many times have you heard people discussing something that they witnessed, only to hear differing opinions? It happens all the time. Why? It’s because our brains are always trying to make sense of what we experience—creating stories to explain things and confirm our own beliefs. The end result is that we don’t really see the world as it is (“reality”), but rather our interpretation—a map of the world our mind has drawn, also known as our perspective. Problems occur when past negative experiences or thoughts influence our perception of reality, and we start to think there is no way to change the story.

Shift perspectives …
If you haven’t already, consider sitting down and talking with your kids about the difference between perceptions and reality. Help them to understand that things are not always as they think or see them. Show them ways to help change the stories their brain is telling them (E.g. “Just because you failed math last year, does that mean it has to happen again?”) Other good questions to ask might include:
Are you basing your feelings on what happened or what you think will happen?
What are you assuming?
Do you know it’s true?
Can you be absolutely sure it’s true?
When is a time you were successful?

Foster optimism …
According to Dr. Martin Seligman, Ph.D., author of several books including, Authentic Happiness, optimistic people tend to see their troubles as short-term, controllable, and specific to one situation. Pessimistic people on the other hand, tend to believe their troubles last forever, affect everything they do, and are uncontrollable.
The world can seem hopeless when you feel you have no control. Some questions that could help foster a sense of control and help your child look for options might include:

Who could help me?
How could I make this fun or into a game?
What do I need in order to succeed?
What can I learn from this?
What’s something I haven’t done before?
What could I do differently next time?
So this year, as you send your son or daughter off to school, in addition to the fresh packs of pencils and markers, try to ensure they also take a positive perspective about the possibilities that await them. After all, if reality is all just invented anyway, why not create a story that enhances your enjoyment of life.

• Interested in attending a workshop to help support improved academic success this year? Or having Rob speak at your organization or school? Call 289.286.0727 or visit www.YouthCoachCanada.com for more information.