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Book Install#44-Taking Healthy Risks

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 H20 to Go!

Growing Emotional Resilience and Navigating Through Childhood

with Heart, Humor & Optimism

BY Margo Judge

From Book Preface:
...And Last but Not Least, Optimism
If Heart is the essential start point, and Humor, the bridge over troubled waters that leads to Perspective, then Perspective becomes the pathway to Optimism.  Once children can step out of their space in time, and see beyond the moment, they will no longer feel trapped. They can maneuver around obstacles, find ways to handle difficulties and see the beyond. The more they learn how to cope, the more confidence they gain and that confidence will encourage taking healthy risks, pursuing a passion, trying a new endeavors.
Optimism is the engine that fuels motivation.  It will push our teenagers towards a future dream or goal and keep them focused and committed--trying out for the team, auditioning for the play, traveling to foreign lands, turning a hobby into a budding business, becoming serious about a field of study.

Optimism can overcome disappointments and failures, fears and rejections.
And I am not speaking of--you’re perfect because I say so, and you’re entitled no matter what they say, and I’ll get it for you even if they won’t--kind of Optimism.
True Optimism affirms children’s belief that they can make it on their own and believe that in the end, whether or not everything works out the way they thought it would, they will be fine!

Just as Heart cannot warm itself, Optimism cannot manufacture itself.  We must supply it to our children as abundantly as we supply Love, if it is to become part of their being. Even when we doubt, they cannot doubt. Ours is the only strength they will have to draw on, and so we must show Optimism even when and if we don’t feel it.  We might be worried about money, have personal stress with family or health, but children need to hear us say all the time--
good times always follow bad;
tomorrow is another day;
and this too, shall pass.

Even they roll their eyes and we think they’re not listening, we should not be fooled.  One day, when we least expect it, we will over hear our son or daughter comforting a friend and saying—don’t worry, in the end it will all work out.  You’ll be fine.
If we can warm our children’s Hearts so that they grow Love, Empathy, Ethics, and Principles;
if we can offer Humor as a coping skill and an introduction to Perspective;
if we can continually supply the Optimism necessary to motivate and to pursue--our children will be more than fine.
They will survive, they will overcome, they will move forward, and they will achieve.



Updated 2009

H20 to Go! Copyright, 2004
By  Margo Judge

All rights reserved.
All material on this website protected.
Permission granted for reprinting with
Attribution to Margo@MomOpinion Matters (TM)


Chapter 6 (cont'd)
Installment #44
The Power of Optimism & Talking Healthy Risks

When I was in high school a college freshman friend invited me to his acting class. I had at that point, never attended an acting class. I remember getting on the subway so excited to be going to watch a group of aspiring actors. He kept from me, however, one essential piece of information. I did not know this until, while sitting in a circle with everyone else, the teacher handed out an exercise. The class was to look through a book of Dorothea Lange Photographs on the Depression, and choose one photograph to act out on stage. When I was handed the book, I immediately passed it on to the next person.
Oh, no, the teacher replied. You must participate.
I'm here only to watch, I explained.
No one is here only to watch, she replied. Acting is never about watching. You must do!
I, who was afraid of nothing-so I thought, had an all out panic attack!
I can't so this, I whispered to my friend.
Yes you can, he whispered back, you'll be fine.
I can't! I pleaded! I can't!
You have to! He pleaded back! It's the rule in this class!
You didn't tell me that! I'll leave, I countered.
You can't do that now, not in the middle of the class! Come on, Margo, you can do this, honestly you can. I would not have brought you here, if I didn't think you could.

I flipped through the book, truly numb with fear (not to be too trite!) But the photographs also riveted me. I stopped at one picture of a woman working in the field with her baby strapped to her back. I heard my name called. My heart was racing, and I shook violently as I walked onto to the stage. I was so scared I could not look up or out. I was almost grateful to bend over and start picking cotton in an imaginary field, hushing my imaginary crying baby, mumbling that I was so sorry I had no milk for it. But my real fear was so overwhelming, I actually started to cry while mumbling, and then to sob while walking in circles around the stage, until I was such a mess, I just fell in a heap on the floor!
I heard the teacher shout-End! And then, the class applauded.
Very good! The teacher exclaimed!
But, I wasn't acting, I blurted out, almost angry with her! I was crying because I was so scared to be up here.
And I still remember her words: It does not matter why you were crying. You got up, you allowed yourself to risk and be vulnerable. You used your fear as energy. That is the courage you need, my dear, to act!

As much as teens are surprisingly universal, in their wants and needs, they are also surprisingly universal in their fears and apprehensions. They seek security, and they seek the familiar. They will covet their friends, their spaces, and their favorite things.  They may be physical daredevils, throw emotional caution to the wind in love. But, they fear failing, and they fear disappointment.  They might stay with the tried and true, or hide their insecurity behind big masks of outward bravado. Above all, teens want to protect their fragile egos. This will become a serious concern if it keeps them from moving forward and taking positive risks--not so much because they fear the actual challenge, but more because they fear the risk and worry about how they will be perceived by peers or family. If they fail, will they feel stupid, and if they make a mistake will they be teased or criticized. Is the risk worth their sense of self worth? 

But, positive risks actually strengthen fragile egos. Unlike negative risks (speeding, drinking, hooking up, getting high) taking on new challenges--auditioning, entering a contest, applying for a job, competing-anything that involves a risk of failure--will do more than anything else to build a teenager's self-confidence. Just as happiness is in the pursuit thereof, real achievement is in the risk therein. Succeeding at a particular task is not the ultimate gain; the act of risking in order to succeed is. It builds on itself with each subsequence try and new challenge. Having the courage to risk will absolutely guarantee ultimate success--maybe not at the particular challenge at hand, but in some future task of importance.

Just as I had a close friend say to me-Come on, Margo, you can do this, I know you can, our children need us to say to them--come on sweetheart, I know you can do this, and what's the worst that could happen? You could totally bomb? Well, heads up, my dear. There's not a person living on this earth who has achieved anything without first bombing! Sometimes, big time! Sometimes a lot! Look no further than to the back-stories of Olympic champions. So, if you bomb? Congratulations! Join the club! Now you know you're on your way to real success! People who don't try and risk, may not fail or bomb! But their success is "fake". It might look good for show and tell, but it's hollow, and will not stand test of time.

Optimism plays a powerful role as our teens start to engage in the process of competitions, applications, examinations and presentations. Actually facing and verbalizing the worst that could happen is what floats true Optimism. Teens do not need inflated egos or false praise, they need motivation. Optimism fuels motivation. We can give our teens that Optimism by telling them they are not the sum total of one competition lost, one application rejected, or one examination failed. This is one moment in time (and remember we do not want our teens getting stuck in any one moment in time then shutting down, quitting, turning inward, or giving up) We want them to realize they have a long life ahead of them with many more moments in time, many more opportunities and many more chances. There is always another door, a new plan, or different route. And We can help them grow true Optimism by continually saying we believe in them, and if they keep working hard, keep striving forward, and keep future possibilities, in their vision, they will absolutely know success. Promise!


Updated 2009

H20 to Go! Copyright, 2004
By  Margo Judge

All rights reserved.
All material on this website protected.
Permission granted for reprinting with
Attribution to Margo@MomOpinion Matters (TM)