What color are your glasses?

Back when, if someone refused to look at the world realistically, they were said to “look at the world through rose-colored glasses.”  If you read my last blog, then you know how important your perception of reality is to your personal development. Let me give you an example of how this works.

Jane Gillham of the Penn Resiliency Program explains that studies show that reacting negatively to situations can lead to depressive thinking.  Here’s a quote from www.npr.org:  “If a person tends to see small disappointments as catastrophes or failures, they can become depressed or anxious.  It’s a common trick our minds can play on us, as children and as adults.  But once thoughts are more aligned with reality, emotional responses can change for the better.”

To see how this works, consider this “resilience training” that Gillham and her colleagues have developed for middle-school studies.  At New York City’s KIPP Infinity Charter School, fifth graders were show a copy of a cartoon strip.  In the first picture, a coach is pointing to zeroes on a score board and yelling at his team.  In the next is one of the team members, with an empty thought bubble above his head.  Students were asked to fill in the team member’s thoughts, and then draw an arrow pointing to a resulting feeling.

Here are three examples of students’ responses:

  • “Why is this coach so mean?  His screaming makes me want to cry.  I think I have a tear.”  Student Alicia Echavarriato drew an arrow to the emotion “I feel sad.”
  • “Man we lost.  We let the coach down.”  Student Anthony Ortiz drew his arrow to the emotion, “I feel angry.”
  • “I won’t be bad next time.  I will be better.  The coach can be mad so what.  I’ll do better next time.”  Student Bryce Marcus drew an arrow to the emotion, “I feel okay.”

The important thing about Bryce’s response, according to Gillham, is that he didn’t take the coach’s anger too personally, and that he realized the situation wasn’t permanent.

Think Positive?

So if you just think positive, everything will be fine?  No, and this is an important distinction.  There’s a common misconception in the personal development industry that if you just think positive, everything will turn out fine.  This would be the equivalent of the player in the cartoon insisting to himself, “The coach is proud of me.  We won the game, and the coach is proud of me!” in the face of the facts.

I’m not suggesting that you exchange your “dark-colored glasses” (“This game was a disaster!  My parents are probably disappointed in me, too.  I’ll never be any good at sports”) with rose-colored glasses.  I’m suggesting instead that set the glasses down and look at the facts as they are. Bryce gives us a terrific example of this with the cartoon.

“You have a lot more control over your feelings than you think,” Todd Brunzell, the dean of students at KIPP Infinity Charter School tells the students.  He teaches them that “self-talk,” the things you tell yourself, can lead to different feelings when disappointing things happen.

What color are your glasses?  Do you tend to magnify the negative and interpret every disappointment and setback as a statement about yourself, your life or your destiny?  It’s time to jump start your personal development into authentic positive change that will re-write your future.

Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation, leadership, and teams. His tools and methods have helped hundreds of businesses and tens of thousands of people transform the ways they work and live. To learn more, visit www.theheroschoice.com.


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