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This year, as you think about all the gifts you’re planning to give, consider surprising a child or young adult with a special present that is guaranteed to make them happier. You won’t be able to buy this gift in a store or wrap it in a box. In fact, you can’t even give it to someone. All you can do is contribute to helping the other person discover it.

The gift I’m talking about is the Self-Confidence we all need to overcome obstacles, achieve meaningful goals and maximize our love of life.

This year, as you prepare to celebrate the Holidays with your extended family and friends, I encourage you to interact a little differently with the young lives in your life.

Unfortunately, if someone between the ages of 12-25 crosses your path at a party, there is a chance you’ll be saying hello to a young man or women who has lost or is losing their self-confidence. I say lost because all children start out with a confident, “I Can Do It” attitude.

However, for too many children, their intense trust in themselves slowly deteriorates as the inevitable obstacles and disappointments in their life increase.

While it’s true that self-confidence is not enough for our young family members and friends to flourish, it’s also accurate to say without confidence even the most talented individuals are destined to live lives of “quite desperation” and potentially suffer from mental health problems.

Consider these startling statistics.

  • 50% of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zers have left a job for mental health reasons.

  • Younger people deal with a mental illness at about three times the rate of the general population.

  • More than 60 percent of college students said they had experienced “overwhelming anxiety” in the past year.

  • ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children ages 2-17. (Mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, causing distress and problems getting through the day.)

  • Depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide have been increasing every year since 2005.

  • The top 3 leading causes of death among kids from 10-19 are unintentional injuries from car accidents and drug over-doses followed by suicide and homicide.

  • The costs to treat depression, stress, anxiety and other ailments exceeds $200 billion a year, and for many employers the number of sick days and lost productivity associated with mental health represent one of their biggest expenses.

"Delivering confidence is the work of leaders."

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

No one can change genetics or reverse childhood trauma, but today’s leaders have an opportunity and responsibility to help increase the confidence level of the young people in their life.

When kids and young adults discover how to create and sustain their confidence, their chances of developing the grit and resilience required to passionately pursue challenging goals, overcome adversity and improve their well-being goes up dramatically.

One place to begin inspiring and influencing others to regain their confidence is to help them replace their fixed mindset with a growth mindset.

Psychologist Carol Dweck, author of the excellent book Mindset, has done extensive research on people’s opinions about themselves and their abilities. These beliefs strengthen or weaken a person’s self-confidence.

People with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence, skills and personality are unchangeable. Their worth is based on always looking good to others. This unattainable goal results in a belief that they’re never “good enough”. This mindset leads to a lack of confidence, disengagement, and a life of despair.

People who develop a growth mindset believe their ability to create positive change is cultivated through effort and persistence. This mindset leads to a passion for learning, a commitment to personal growth and the confidence to overcome obstacles and adversity.

Authentic confidence never comes from getting participation medals or insincere praise for reaching easy goals. It comes from sustained effort, honest feedback and the knowledge you’re doing the best you’re capable of doing.

Fortunately, developing a growth mindset is available to everyone.

How can you encourage others to develop a growth mindset?

Whether you have kids or not, the next time you interact with a young adult take turns telling growth mindset stories. You can use some of these questions to start your conversation.

1. What goal were you most proud of achieving this year?

2. What did you do accomplish that objective?

3. What challenges did you have to overcome?

4. What new skills helped you deal with those challenges?

5. Who helped you be successful?

6. What feedback did you get that brought out the best in you?

7. What goal did you want to achieve this year but failed to accomplish?

8. What did you learn from the effort you made to reach that objective?

9. How can you use that experience to get better at something important to you?

10. What can you teach someone else that will help them learn from your experience?

Each time you hear a growth mindset story, only praise their effort not their intelligence or accomplishments.

When we focus our feedback on the outcome achieved or a person’s intelligence, we unintentionally minimize the importance of all the work they did that was responsible for their success. Praising someone’s intellect or natural talent also harms their future motivation and performance.

“Yes, children love praise. And they especially love to be praised for their intelligence and talent. It really does give them a boost, a special glow…but only for the moment. The minute they hit a snag, their confidence goes out the window and their motivation hits rock bottom. If success means their smart, then failure means they’re dumb.

If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep learning” Carol Dweck.

Having growth mindset conversations with the young people in your life can be the first step in helping someone develop the confidence they need to thrive, not just survive. Those conversations may also do the same for you.


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