I have just been called to be a welfare specialist in my LDS ward where we have more than 160 low-income housing apartments. I would like insights into how to coach those who need help in lifting their hopes and lives a little. How can I help them stay optimistic?
I would love to share some tips on choosing a positive mindset, and hopefully you will have opportunities to share these principles with the people you serve. I would recommend you do a lot of listening first, though. People must know that you care, before they care about what you know.
Listening shows people that you value them as they are, where they are, and are not just trying to fix them. Then, I would ask if they are open to some advice. Permission questions show people that you honor and respect them. Then you might share the following principles and suggestions.
Principle 1: You have the power to choose your attitude.
You may not have control over the events in your life, but you do get to choose how you will experience those events. It is the one choice no one can take from you. We learned this from Viktor Frankl, who spent time in Nazi concentration camps. They took everything he had, but they could not take away his power to choose his attitude, he said. Even though he was in the worst situation imaginable, he chose love over fear.
You have the power to choose love over fear, too.
Principle 2: When choosing your attitude, you have only two choices: fear, or trust and love (every other state falls under one of those). This makes the choice a simple one.
In every moment of your life, you can consciously choose a mindset of trust and love, or you can react unconsciously without thinking. If you do this, your subconscious mind will usually choose fear. I recommend consciousness.
Conscious choice requires you to wake up and become aware of what you are experiencing and how you are reacting to that experience. You have to get off autopilot and choose how you want to feel in this moment.
This will require practice and effort if you have been asleep most of your life. You may also have created some subconscious bad habits: things like taking things too personally, over-generalizing, catastrophizing or creating unnecessary drama to get attention. You will have to start catching these behaviors and consciously choosing something better.
The first step is choosing to see the process of life as a safe one.
Principle 3: Choosing to see life as a classroom, not a test, will take your fear of failure off the table. When you choose to trust the process of life and see it as your perfect process of growth, it will take the fear of loss off the table. Living from this place will create more peace and joy.
I recommend you make this your official policy: life is a classroom and my value isn’t on the line. Give yourself permission to be a work in progress, a person who doesn't have to be perfect. This mindset will change the way you feel about mistakes and misfortune.
Dr. Martin Seligman, in his book "Learned Optimism," said the main difference between optimists and pessimists is that pessimists see failure and misfortune as permanent and personal, while optimists see misfortune as non-permanent and non-personal, meaning they don't let mistakes affect their value or define who they are.
You get to decide how you want to experience each situation in your life. I highly recommend seeing each experience as a lesson or a location on your journey, which has nothing to do with who you are.
Here are some other suggestions for a positive attitude:
I know that it is hard to stay positive when things go wrong, but the only other choice (fear and depression) will make you more miserable — so keep working at choosing trust and love, and it will get easier over time.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.