by Troy Christensen, vice president, Bridgerland Applied Technology College 

An elementary school teacher asked her students to draw pictures. She noticed that one little girl, who normally didn’t pay much attention in class, was completely absorbed in her drawing. Intrigued, the teacher made her way to the girl’s desk and asked what she was drawing.

Without looking up, the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” Surprised, the teacher replied, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” The girl responded, “They will in a minute.”

Children are not inhibited by perception and expectations. We lose this simplicity and confidence as we grow older and, consequently, don’t seem to fully connect with success or happiness. In other words, we work on the “horn,” but avoid fixing the “brakes.” Distraction is a major contributor of unhappiness and lack of success. To keep us focused on “needed repairs” and not easy “fixes,” I suggest three focus areas:

  1. Perfect your communication.
  2. Set and live your standards.
  3. Have a clear and positive perspective.

First, communication is an essential ingredient in life. One key element of great communication is listening. Listening builds our ability to be disciplined and caring. Steven Sample said an average person has three delusions:

  1. He or she is a good driver.
  2. He or she has a good sense of humor.
  3. He or she is a good listener.

Second, having a set of standards helps your life have purpose and meaning. We all know basic standards of conduct, but here are two ideas: First create your “rules of the day.” These are things that you will do each day. Here are a few examples:

  • Find someone doing something good or appropriate and acknowledge it. This helps us to always look for the good in people, and our happiness soars.
  • Express appreciation, written and verbal. This also changes perspective. I’m amazed at how a thank-you note can touch hearts.
  • Be happy, smile, laugh and joke. Appropriate humor makes life enjoyable even during the roughest times.

The key is to think about “who” you want to be and how to become that person. You can do this by doing small and simple things every day to create new behaviors. Use the “six second rule:” If you have a correction, criticism, complaint or something negative to say, you have six seconds to do it. We spend far too much time “driving home” the point to make sure people understand what they did wrong or what needs to be corrected. Acknowledgment of the problem is needed and appropriate, but elongated shame creates animosity and discord. The “six-second rule” is a simple, effective way to strengthen relationships.

Lastly, having a positive perspective changes how we see the world. The picture below illustrates what I refer to as the “rhino principle.” He is painting the beautiful things around him, but one thing seems to take focus: his horn. Sometimes we allow certain aspects of our lives dominate and distort our view that we miss the beauty around us. We define ourselves by this “horn” and can’t seem to move past it. Bad things happen, but don’t let them ruin your view. Keep an optimistic perspective, and you will see beyond the “horns” that could easily distort your view of the world.