is a key theme in positive psychology
and luck is a key theme among the Irish. Not surprisingly, optimism and luck are first cousins. One of the defining characteristics of people who consider themselves ‘lucky’ is optimism or the belief that the person is ‘lucky’. The Irish often reflect on how lucky they are to be alive…to have a roof that does not leak…to have a potato in the pot…to have a coin in their pocket. A typical Irish blessing blends the hopefulness of optimism with the anticipation of good luck: "May the sun always shine on your windowpane and a rainbow follow after each rain and good luck follow you down the lane."
Neuroscience informs us that children and adolescents (and all of us!) have brains that are hardwired to optimism. From the science of optimism, it is easy to extract four ideas that convert optimism into good luck. I call these ideas the Four Good Luck Shamrock Lessons:
1. Envision Possibilities - As the brain ‘builds and broadens’ it’s emotional neuronal capacity, there is an increased ability to create a positive self-fulfilling prophecy. If children and adolescents learn to imagine the positive potentialities, they increase the likelihood of positive actualities. Luck follows visualization. Students should engage in visualization exercises thoughout the da visualizing options and opportunities. Positive imagination is a pre-requisite for optimism. The Irish call it daydreaming.
2. Predict Good Outcomes - Just as Rumpelstiltskin spun straw into gold, the brain spins positive memories into optimism - and optimism creates a good luck outlook. The brain has a highly selective memory system that typically has a bad memory for negative experiences. Teach students to remember the good memories and the positive results. Insure that they can willfully focus on past positive events, and attendant conditions, and use their reflection as the basis for a positive prediction. Teach students the express the self-narrative of past positive memories and to use it to frame future positive expectations. The Irish call it storytelling.
3. Reflect and Reframe Setbacks - Children and adolescents are capable of reframing most outcomes as good outcomes through practiced reappraisal. The healthy brain is able to exchange the bad for the good creating more optimistic resilience and a good luck orientation. The brain is neurologically predisposed to wear rose-colored glasses and is wired to try to live happily ever after. Teach students to use affirmations because affirmations can increase the hopefulness that increases good luck. The Irish call it survival thinking.
4. Anticipate Good Feelings - When children and adolescents feel good, they feel luckier. When children and adolescents act on good feelings, they are more likely to get lucky. Within the caudate nucleus in the striatum of the brain, there is a cluster of nerves that announce a reward is pending and broadcast to the news to rest of the brain: something good is coming! The more good feeling is anticipated -- the more brain activity found in this area. The Irish call it ‘happy go lucky’.
From optimistic to lucky is only a short leap of faith.
Do you tend to be an optimist? Do you temper your optimism with realism? Do you consider yourself a ‘lucky’ person? How are you lucky? Do you think you can increase your good luck? Even when bad things happen to you, do you search for the silver lining? Do you spend at least 10 minutes a day using visualization techniques to enhance your luck? Do you spend 10 minutes telling yourself a positive story with a happy ending? Do you spend 10 minutes a day articulating affirmations to self or others? Do you spend 10 minutes a day thinking about something good that is going to happen to you?
Smith, E. E. (March 1, 2013). The benefits of optimism are real. Atlanta: The Atlantic.
Zakrzewski, V. (November 6, 2012). How to help students develop hope. UC Berkeley: Greater Good Science Center. Books
Sharot, T. (2012). The optimism bias. New York: Random House.
Suttie, J. (2012). Rainy brain sunny brain. New York: Basic Books
TED Talk Tali Sharot: The Optimism Bias.
Affective Brain Lab
Stanford University Learned Optimism Test
University of Pennsylvania Teaching Optimism
Positive Psychology in the Elementary School Classroom and is the first in a series intended to help teachers build positive psychology classrooms. http://books.wwnorton.com/books/Author.aspx?id=23961
Author Page: www.pattyogrady.com