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It Won’t Last Forever

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In “The Optimistic Child,” psychologist Martin Seligman identifies a key to happiness as understanding that most of our problems are temporary. When we let things grow out of proportion and view them as permanent and impossible to conquer, we become prone to distress and losing hope.

Mr. Seligman asserts that people who hold a general pattern of viewing their problems as impermanent also tend to hold the belief that they have the tools to cope with them. This combination of seeing hardships as not only ephemeral, but able to be dealt with leads to a happier outlook on life.

We have the ability to see the same situation from completely different vantage points depending on our attitude. A person could take the loss of an opportunity as an indicator that something is wrong with them, or that they will never have a chance to succeed as they had planned. The same person could also see the passing opportunity as a chance for self improvement and a reminder that other opportunities will come in the future. When something becomes the end all-be all of our lives, it holds incredible power over us, but momentary lapses keep a more manageable role.

Keeping The Right Perspective Is Key

The question remains how best to impart this behavior in our children. The answer lies in making an active effort both in the way we conduct ourselves and the way we behave in front of children. Show them by example that you take problems as setbacks rather than derailments, and use skills to deal with them rather than abandon hope.

When we hold onto any event, feeling or emotion for too long it begins to exert undue control over us. Things seen as permanent tend to bleed into all areas of our life. By remaining adaptable and looking out for the best way to deal with whatever is in front of us at the given moment, we keep these things in perspective.

Parents: Children learn their sense of priorities and proportion at home. If they see their parents treating obstacles as insurmountable they will develop a negative outlook on life. If their parents can’t handle situations, how can they ever expect to? By making an effort to not only cope with things you know are temporary, but to actively show your children  the thought process, you give them tools they can use in their own lives.

Teens: Have you ever heard someone say “we’ll be laughing about this a month from now!” or something along those lines? There is a lot of power in recognizing that as uncomfortable as something may seem now, it is a temporary circumstance. What seems to be the most important thing in life today may be a distant memory tomorrow. Think back to an embarrassing moment. Did it feel at the time like you would never feel good again? How often do you think about it now? Time heals all wounds.

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