Last week my 8 year old son participated in his first school swimming carnival, and ended up winning his first ever medal for “champion boy” in his age. Unfortunately I was away on a work trip, and of course when I spoke to the family that evening my son was the first on the end of the phone to tell me proudly of his achievement (he doubted himself and never expected to win). This recognition for effort has been amazing for his confidence and I have even noticed a positive change in his motivation towards other extra-curricular activities that had previously challenged his confidence.
A field known as “positive psychology” (focusing on one’s strengths) has come up with findings that this aids in increasing wisdom, satisfaction and a sense of purpose. It’s common sense really, how good do we feel when someone tells us we have done a good job?
There are three main areas where we can have a direct influence and use some “positive psychology” that is; in our family lives, in and around our working lives, in our community groups (sport clubs, rotary/men’s shed, church groups).
To do this effectively we have to always maintain our own good mental health and wellbeing and a definition which encapsulates this is summarised by the World Health Organisation (2007) – “a state of wellbeing in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
The interesting thing is that it’s almost a social and personal expectation to continually commit ourselves to our family, working, and community lives, and rightly so. These are all important areas and putting time and effort in gives us satisfaction.
Getting the balance right however between these three commitments, is tough, especially when “expectations” are not understood. In the work we do we come across a lot of misunderstanding and distress caused by individuals not communicating what their expectations are. For example a husband and wife discussing personal vs relationship expectations, a parent and teenager discussing boundaries, a boss and staff member discussing working conditions/priorities, and/or a footy coach discussing positions/roles within his team.
High expectations can be positive, it can help us grow as individuals and/or as a collective, reach achievements and hit our goals. However, many of us can also take this too far. We can easily become cynical of ourselves and others, especially when it comes to making mistakes. Shaming and blaming doesn’t help! Look for the strengths in others and yourself and don’t forget to give credit where credit is due.