The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Accentuate the Positives

How Will You Choose to Live Your Life from This Moment Onwards?

In Week 2, the Year 11s took part in a Leadership Day organised by Mr Mark Gale, Head of Student Leadership. I had the opportunity to speak to each of the Houses and I worked around the idea that our greatness lies not in constant criticism and fault correction, but in finding the good in ourselves and our lives. This aligns closely with Character Strengths, which is a topic to which I will return in a future edition.

I spoke to the students about the benefits of decluttering our lives. I based my comments on an article I had read online, but I cannot find the source of the information, so I apologise for not being able to cite that source and give due credit to its author. I thought I would share with you my summary of the four ways we can declutter our lives in the hope that you can reinforce these with your son, and that you might be able to role-model them for him in your own life:

  1. Our Pursuits

We talked about the importance of working out what is really important to you. One of the great things about school is that it provides plenty of opportunity to try things and to work out what you are passionate about and then begin to pursue that. I also asked the boys to start to work out their 'why': why are you here? What is your reason/purpose? These are big questions – perhaps the biggest of all. Thinking about your strengths is a starting point; as is doing things for others.

  1. Our Thoughts

The person each of us speaks to most is ourselves, even though we are not always aware of this. I asked the boys to notice what they are telling themselves, and to question whether it is true, logical or helpful. We also talked about neuroplasticity, and the ability each of us has to actually change the shape of the brain by changing the way we think. By looking for the good in our lives, we can train our brains to think differently about the world around us and we can begin to overcome the negativity bias that is hard-wired into each of us.  As Oprah Winfrey says: "The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now. And the more grateful you are, the more you get."

  1. Our Relationships

One of the key elements to how we feel, about ourselves and life, is the quality of our relationships. I encouraged the boys to surround themselves with people whom I described as 'Bucket-fillers'; that is, people who make us feel good about ourselves, who top us up with energy and self-belief and who support us to be the best version of ourselves. Some people can drag us down and reinforce our negative self-talk and we should try to avoid these types of people. Conversely, we should try to appreciate others (especially those who are different from us) and all of the things that others do for us. In doing this, we can fill others people's lives with energy and self-belief. This is another way of training the brain to think positively.

  1. Our Things

Stuff doesn't make us happy – we know this from various studies which show that, once we get beyond a basic level of income, our happiness does not continue to increase. Aristotle spoke of striving to live a good life rather than have a good time. Seth Godin says: "The frenzied search for more is a distraction and a place to hide." We would all do well to pause and consider this as it relates to our own lives.

Below are a couple of links to very short videos which dig a little deeper into how simple it is to live a good life. Sometimes we complicate things unnecessarily, mistakenly thinking that a crowded life is more fulfilling. Perhaps doing less but doing it better is a more satisfying way to live.

Kids Know What Makes Us Happy (1 min 30 sec)

The Surprising Truth about Happiness (6 mins 30 sec)