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Teaching Your Kids: Look For the Good in Things, Not the Bad

So we've learned that choosing to have a positive attitude helps us be happy. But is that all it can do? Of course not. The possibilities are almost endless with a great attitude. And the next three examples show you how it can help you learn, stop worrying so much, and even share your great attitude and happiness with others. Let's start with learning.

It's amazing how two people can sit through the exact same experience and have completely different impressions about it. When that happens, there's usually something interesting to be learned in the reason why, if you bothered to look. Dorinda Phillips looked.

Dorinda is an organizational learning expert. And Early in her career in Germany, she attended a three-hour corporate training course on statistics. And she happened to be sitting next to someone who already knew a lot about statistics. As she told me, "To be honest, the training was awful. And as an effective learning expert, I couldn't help but get more and more agitated during the training. The trainer was droning on and on while the class was falling asleep. And nobody had a clue what the business impact of all this was. I felt bad for the trainer and worse for the class." And the trainer happened to work in Dorinda's department, so she somehow felt some responsibility and embarrassment for this disaster.

"When the class was over," she said, "I turned to the man next to me and asked, 'Well, what did you think?' fully expecting, of course, for him to tell me it could have been so much better. But he didn't. What he said was, 'I learned one thing I didn't know, and I can already see how I can use it tomorrow. And I'm really happy about that. It's going to be very helpful.' And, she said, I remember thinking, 'How did he not see how awful this was? Could he not tell that most people weren't getting anything out of this?' And that's when it hit me, she said. I realized that he wasn't judging the entire course, or trying to find all the things wrong with it, or even trying to determine what 'everyone else' was or wasn't getting out of it like I was. He was looking at it from a mindset of 'what can I take out of this that's useful to me? What can I learn?' It was definitely a big 'Aha' moment for me."

And yes, Dorinda still wanted to make that training better. But she was mostly struck with the unbelievable power of finding the good in things versus finding the negatives. That man's positive mental attitude allowed him to find value in the course that Dorinda, and perhaps many other people, could not. He attended the same course as everyone else. But his attitude made it useful to him instead of a waste of time.

Just think of how often your children sit through a school lesson thinking mostly about how boring it is? How often do most of us spend out time trashing the last book they read instead of focusing on the few things they did get out of it and how they're going to leverage it in their life? What a difference a good attitude can make.

So, if your child has a bad attitude about school, and who doesn't, share this story with them, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Think about the last time you attended a class or read a book you thought was awful. Now try to think of at least one positive thing you learned from it.

  2. Who do you think learns more in a class? The people looking for things they don't know? Or the people looking for things they already know, or things they don't like about the class?

  3. Who do you think enjoyed the class better? Dorinda? Or the man sitting next to her?

  4. When would it make sense to focus on finding things wrong with the class you're in instead of looking for what you can learn?

Okay, in the next lesson, you'll see an example of how contagious a good attitude can be.

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Written by

Paul Andrew Smith