In the 1980s and 1990s, one of the popular TV shows was “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Audiences watched episodes portraying the lives of entertainers, athletes, and business magnates, who owned the fanciest homes, yachts, cars, and private jets. The host, Robin Leach, would close each show with his signature phrase, encouraging “champagne wishes and caviar dreams!” It was a fun show and those who watched could escape their seemingly humdrum existence to envision a life of comfort in faraway exotic locales.
Television shows are one thing, but when fantasy crosses over into everyday thoughts and activities, comparison of ourselves with others can turn sour. Today, teenagers are bombarded with images on social media, music, movies, and the like, which reminds them of others who are smarter, more attractive, richer, funnier, and better athletes. But here is reality. That’s all true! None of us can keep up with the Kardashians, or the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and that’s perfectly okay.
And for teenagers who struggle simply getting out the door for school on time with completed homework assignments, writing an English essay, or concentrating through an entire Algebra class: seeing the amazing accomplishments of others can create negative attitudes, low self-esteem, and even hopelessness. In other words, teenagers can become trapped into a fixed mindset that things are the way they are for me, I will never measure up, and nothing I do can improve my lot in life.
As parents, teachers, tutors, coaches, and adult influencers in the lives of teens, we have the responsibility to create better perspectives, and push them away from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Many articles have been written on the mindset research of Dweck, mentioned in the last blog. Here is a cherry-picked list of ways to move from a fixed-mindset, toward a more positive outlook.
- Accept your imperfections. No one is perfect, and it’s unfair to expect this of yourself or others. Maybe this can lighten the burden for you; you are not exceptionally talented at everything. No one is.
- Acknowledge your gifts and talents. It’s not necessarily arrogant to understand where you excel. In fact, this can help you pursue dreams and goals that align with those abilities.
- View challenges as “opportunities.” Many people, especially teenagers, don’t want to look stupid. For them, losing a soccer game, or earning a low grade on a test, making new friends, or failing to get into the Ivy League school they desperately desired, is too much to bear. Some people avoid challenges, because they don’t want to fail. But for those who take on a difficult task and succeed, the thrill of victory will be fantastic!
- Stop seeking approval from others. This is extremely difficult for teenagers who dwell in the chaotic mental space of wanting to be their own individual, but at the same time, never wanting to appear different, or to have those differences pointed out by peers.
- Cultivate a sense of purpose in your life. Actively seek advice from peers and adults you respect and admire. Have one-on-one discussions, or read books and articles to grow in the wisdom of how to do life well.
Let’s instill these elements of a growth mindset in our teenagers, and in ourselves too, parents. Each of these principles are philosophical underpinnings of Executive Function coaching sessions. We want students to focus upon their own situation and avoid the noise and distraction of the world around them that makes them feel like they aren’t enough. It takes time to build self-confidence and understanding of one’s place in this world, and can be every bit as demanding for older adults as it is for teenagers who have yet to make their mark.
And for those of you who love champagne and caviar, go for it. I will happily settle for a bacon cheeseburger and a root beer!