I recently read a book called ‘The Hope Circuit’ by a brilliant psychologist, Martin Seligman. He sub-titles this excellent and highly personal book ‘from helplessness to optimism’ and in it he traces his own journey to both discovering and embracing the power of positivity.
As an adult, it is easy to look back on our early years and reflect, decades removed from the cosmic emotional and physical changes that were going on inside us at the time. Yet, with the best will in the world, we still tend to patronise and belittle the size of the battle today’s young people have to fight within themselves – as well as with the world that is changing just as quickly around them. We would do well, of course, to remember with a little more accuracy that we were all young once and just how all-consuming those feelings were – almost all of the time.
The furrowed brow of a 10-year old…
I’ve been working with some children preparing for their SATs tests, and it occurred to me that their look of trepidation is often startlingly similar to the wrinkles on the foreheads of their grandparents. Such young lives seem to have taken the weight of the world on their shoulders – because of an exam. I don’t write the last three words of that sentence lightly or flippantly – because SATs are important within the format of the current curriculum.
But, these children have their whole lives ahead of them, and today’s worry actually comes from the perception of what other people say and the fears of yesterday. Negative news, hyped-up (again – I’m not saying there is no importance here) pressure of exams and the memories of the last time they didn’t quite succeed… does not help.
The truth is that a positive, care-less (that means less anxious, not careless) and more forward-thinking attitude and approach will improve their results anyway!
The Hope Circuit
In the same way that sports teams enjoy unbeaten runs, celebrities go through phases where they are the toast of the nation, and everyone seems to perk up a little when the sun shines for a week or more… positivity is self-generating. Endless numbers of test-condition experiments and observations, phycological studies and personal experiences and testimonies show, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that positivity improves performance, emotional stability and happiness. Yet, despite that knowledge, we still have a natural tendency and attraction to negativity…
In young people, in particular, where they do have a lifetime ahead of them, it is so critical to kickstart the cycle of positivity breeding positivity. When it comes to recognised and predictable pressure points in their lives (exams, peer pressure, biological changes or life-choices) we should be supporting them with good thoughts.
I am not suggesting vacant, empty praise or an ignorance-is-bliss misreading of life’s realities here! I am talking about focussing on the opportunities of today and tomorrow, rather than the negativities of yesterday and what might go wrong tomorrow. I am suggesting that we use language and topics that increase the strength of our young people’s emotional state and physiological potential, rather than feed their fear.
Let’s build a hope circuit for our children!
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