- Dealing with uncertainties is an important life skill to have;
- We feel anxious because we are not able to gain control over something;
- Distinguishing controllable and un-controllable factors is key to gain control over life.
One thing certain about life is that it’s full of uncertainties and surprises. Who knew the global financial crisis was coming in 2008? Who knew the COVID-19 pandemic would change how we live our lives? Who knew that I could fall from a bike in last August and almost broke my neck? （Thank, God; I was fine after the accident!)
Uncertainties are everywhere and they cause a fair bit of ‘stir’ to our lives. Dealing with uncertainties is an important life skill to have. For your kids, especially the younger generation who were born with iPhones and iPads, their lives are filled with more uncertainties because information flows so quickly over the Internet. They feel that things can change ‘quickly’ so they must be ‘online’ 24/7; that’s not right.
Facing an uncertain situation, people develop anxiety; the longer something is uncertain, the more anxious people become. For adults, it may show up during the process of building up a big project (fear of failure). For kids, it could be the period of time gearing up for a big exam, typically those exams leading to university applications in Year 12.
The reason why we feel anxious is due to the feeling of being not able to gain control over something. An adult may feel anxious about company restructuring because he is not able to control the outcome. For a kid who feels anxious about a ballet competition is because she is not able to control her performance; of course, not the result. Who was not anxious and nervous about going to the stage, facing a big audience and compete with other great young dancers?
Coaching your kids to gain control over their lives is essential. The key is to teach your kids what factors they could control or manage and what factors they could not. Once that’s clear, then your kids would be able to relax by focusing on those factors that they could control or at least, to manage. How about those uncontrollable factors? Just forget about them and shift your focus away!
My daughter is a teenager and is a keen ballet dancer. She has been through many competitions since she was 6. We, as parents, never care about the outcome of her competitions. What we have done is to support her and be her chill leaders. I taught her the secret to relax before a big competition and how to get into the ‘flow‘ quickly in her ballet performance.
“Just look at what those great swimmers do before starting the final of Man’s 100m Freestyle at the Olympics!“, I said. What they do is ‘nothing‘, just relaxing; many of them put their headphones on and listen to their favorite music (I suspect that some of them actually listen to nothing!). Many of them go into a semi-mediated ‘zone‘ to focus and relax. “That’s the secret to win for top athletes.”, I said.
Learning how to distinguish controllable and uncontrollable factors is key to gain control over life. Once your kids learn this, then they will be able to focus on controllable factors with less stress, relax and perform the best version of themselves. With this skill, your kids will enjoy their lives more with less stress.
Less stress also leads to better performance and success. Then, there comes the foundation of a happy life. Have you noticed that many successful ‘big-shots’ always appear to be calm and relaxed? This is why. They know they only perform the best when they are relaxed. ^_< How about your kids and yourself?
Dr. C. Richard Wu @ REEAConsulting.com
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