Optimism is available to everyone. Yes, everyone. Don’t think of it as something that you had to have been born with.? Don’t believe it was how you were raised.? Don’t accept that it’s out of your reach.? If you do, you are condemning your children to the belief that optimism is out of their reach. DECIDE to be more optimistic. And once you do, you can be the parent that helps guide their child to choosing optimism as a way of life.
One’s happiness comes 50% from genes and 10% from situation. That leaves a whooping 40% left to attitude and out look. Everyday, a 1000 times a day, how you act and how you react creates your life. You literally make your life by the choices you make in every situation you face.
The first step is both the most obvious and the most elusive, the easiest and the hardest: You need to work on your internal narration. All through out the day you talk to yourself/narrate your life. In a traffic jam do you curse all the reasons it’s going to foul up your day? Or do you think say, “Score! I get an extra 10 minutes in the car to sing and NOT accomplish anything. WooHoo! Traffic jams are a gift!”
When your internal narration turns angry, frustrated, judgmental or sad, stop yourself. Rephrase and redefine! At first it may seem artificial and contrived. But with practice you start to do it more naturally and automatically. As a parent you can provide the optimistic narration aloud for the children in your life.
You have that opportunity when your child spills their juice, forgets their homework, or doesn’t get invited to a birthday party. While none of those are happy things, how you define them determines a lot about how you feel about them.
Here’s an example from my day where I started out with my internal narration having a judgmental tone, but then actively worked to change the narration. It’s a trivial little thing on the surface, but truly life is built of lots of trivial events. How we define the trivial, is in fact, monumental!
Today was a busy day. Middle of the afternoon, lots of stuff still to get done but I needed a break so I logged into a puzzle website. After 20 minutes I said to myself, “Ok. Quit wasting time. Back to work.”
Yikes. That was an unkind way to describe what I had just been doing. This whole talk to yourself kindly thing also requires listening to the things your internal narrator says. When it is unkind or negative, you have to screech to a halt and undo the negative with a positive/optimistic declaration.
So I said to myself, “That was fun, but enough’s enough.” Yikes, still not quite the voice of the Internal Optimistic Narrator. Still judgmental. I tried again. This time with a control that makes it sound contrived, “Doing puzzles sure is fun. Glad I gave myself a break from work. Now back to work with a new vigor because of good old puzzles.”
As over thought as that sounds, it is a much kinder reflection of how I had just spent the last 20 minutes. I had given myself a much deserved break. I had spent the time doing something I love. I sure am lucky that something that gives me pleasure is so accessible. And now, I really did feel more like plunging into the next project.
The exercise of deliberately stopping myself and taking a couple of stabs at getting the narration right, will help me in the future to cut myself some slack, to no longer describe taking a break as “wasting time.”
An exercise to help you develop your and your child’s Internal Optimistic Narrator.
The world is full of wonder and beauty. Notice things that elicit a positive response within you and talk to yourself about the pleasure they are giving you. When you’re with your children model this by saying these things out loud,
• When the clouds catch the light, and your attention, say, “Good work, clouds.”
• When you rest your hand on a cool, smooth surface, say, “Ooo, that feels good.”
• When the wind rustles the leaves so a whole tree seems to shimmer, say, “I’m glad I was here to see that.”
• When you walk past a restaurant and the smells make you wish you were inside, pause, close your eyes, breath deeply and feel like you’ve just had a little tasty nibble. Then say, “Yummy, yummy in my tummy.”
• As you slip into the tub say, “I love hot water!”
The idea is that when you see, smell, feel, taste or hear something you like, make a point of acknowledging it. Confirming that it gave you pleasure always increases the pleasure. Say, “Yep, that’s really great. And yep, I’m thankful that I was in the right place at the right time to be the lucky one who experienced it.”
All day we talk to ourselves. Why not train yourself to have an Internal Optimistic Narrator? Never forget that the way you attack life is your child’s number one source of knowing how to live!
Ruth Kaiser is proud to be a self proclaimed, happy go lucky, easy breezy, top of the world, Pollyanna, goofball, cup runneth over, people loving, cracking herself up, child at heart, and cockeyed optimist, who is filled with gratitude every minute of every day!
She is mom to three of the greatest kids ever! Even though they are all out in the world pretending they are grownups, they will always be her babies.
Ruth is also a teacher, author and artist. Her photography is the genesis of the Spontaneous Smiley Project. Life is pretty great when the whole world smiles back.
The Spontaneous Smiley Project is an online art project, involving thousands of people in hundreds of countries, being silly and laughing at the little things. The project is as much about finding happiness, as it is about finding Smiley Faces in everyday objects. What was at first, just a place to share photos, has developed into a joyful online community. Creator Ruth Kaiser wrote and illustrated a child’s book of optimism called, A Smiley Book of Colors (Random House, 2012).
Decide to be an optimist and connect with Ruth: ruth@SpontaneousSmiley.com
YouTube: Spontaneous Smiley
Order an autographed copy of A SMILEY BOOK OF COLORS.