A Positive Outlook for 2016

Every new year offers a wealth of new opportunities for everyone. It’s a chance for personal reinvention – a chance for self-discovery and exploration. It is during this time of the year where the saying: “Carpe Diem” (Seize the Day) rings loud and true for us all. While we take the time to reflect on the previous year – the highs and the lows, the successes and the failures – we begin to stipulate how we can learn from the previous year and take all that we’ve learned to better ourselves in the new year. Already being a few days in to 2016, some of us are either on the path to self-improvement or still trying to figure out what that path looks like. Whether it’s the first day of the year of the last, there is no right person to be. It’s okay to be the person just figuring things out just as much as it’s okay to be the person who has figured things out already. As long as you’re moving forward and investing in yourself, you’ll be okay.

The new year offers many opportunities to accomplish self-discovery. You can try something new like water-skiing or enrolling in a course or adopting a pet. You can continue to do things you enjoy and are passionate about, like write or take long walks early in the morning or take pictures more often. Perhaps you want to challenge yourself and do something that is completely out of your comfort zone, like learn a new sport or perform on a stage or travel to a new country. Seize the day – seize the new year. Allow yourself to do what you love and what is familiar, while also allowing yourself to try new things that challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone.

While we set these goals for self-betterment in the beginning of the new year, we have the idea in mind that by the end of the year, we’d have already achieved what we set out to do in the beginning of the year. In our heads, by December 31, 2016, we have already become who we set out to be in January 1, 2016. If this was a perfect world, this is what would happen for all of us. Unfortunately, we are all flawed and we live in a flawed world. So it’s okay to not have things completely figured out by the end of the year. It’s even okay to still be figuring things out at the end of the year. There is no set time line to develop a Bette sense of self (and if you want my opinion, 12 months is not enough time). So don’t be so hard on yourself if you didn’t manage to go to the gym 5 times a week like you promised yourself, don’t be so hard on yourself if you still manage to procrastinate a little bit throughout the year – mistakes are a crucial part of this journey to self discovery. As human beings, we are entitled to slip up from time to time and that’s okay. As long as you continue to pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and move forward, you’ll be okay. You never want to aim for perfection – you want to aim for growth.

Growth is vital when a new year starts. The only thing you don’t want to be doing for the new year is restricting your growth. You don’t want to be exactly where you were in 2015 – making the same exact mistakes and never learning from them, doing the exact same things and never learning anything or doing anything new. All these things limit your growth and as the years go by, neither you nor I get any younger. We owe it to ourselves to nurture our growth each year and make sure that this year, and the many years after, are used to develop yourself in as many ways possible.

Looking ahead into 2016, we have the world at our feet. We are free to do whatever we wish. Just make sure we use this free will and the promise of 2016 to make a positive mark on this world for you and for others.

2015 was a remarkable year for us all. Let’s make 2016 even more remarkable.


The Power of Feedback

The semester is winding down and some of you have gotten or may still be anxiously waiting to find out how you did on your assignments and midterms. The anticipation builds up of both nervous and excited emotions as you get your papers handed back or when you are logging onto Blackboard to check your mark. But you crave to find out how well or poorly you did. This feeling for feedback is normal and is an important part of your daily life. How we perceive, analyze, and integrate feedback shapes our behaviours, and it is typically driving you to keep going forward.

However, as you probably already know, not all feedback is created equal and can have many outcomes. It can be positive, negative, or even neutral. I feel that a majority of the feedback you give or receive is generally on the negative side. Negative feedback usually tells you where you fell short and what you can improve on. But you can improve with positive feedback as well. Positive feedback tells you what you are doing right or what your strengths are. Knowing this, you can keep doing more of something, and you know what works so you can apply this to other situations.

Negative feedback can work for or against you. In one instance, if you get a poor grade on a test it may serve as a driving force to make you work harder and do better on the next one. This is ‘the carrot and the stick’ concept. Where a horse is pulling a cart and in order to keep the cart moving forward, you dangle a carrot on a string on the end of a stick so the horse walks forward trying to get the carrot while pulling the cart forward. On the other hand, negative feedback can sometimes make you feel like a failure, and may even lower your confidence and self-esteem. Consequently, this can prevent you from reaching your goals or completing tasks, which can influence your future actions such as deciding to drop a course. Furthermore, if you have low self-expectations and believe that others perceive you in this same light, often this can serve as self-fulfilling prophecies. This is when your negative beliefs will predict your negative behavior. Let me share with you some tips on how to give and receive feedback.

Giving Feedback:

  • Make It Useful And Constructive: Consider the value of the feedback to the recipient and remember too much feedback at once can be overwhelming.
  • Start And End With A Positive Comment: Balance the content with a “sandwich approach” which helps to boost confidence and keeps weaker areas in perspective.
  • Instead Of Using The Words “But” Or “Don’t,” Substitute With “And”:

For example:

“You delivered your speech in a loud clear voice BUT you spoke very monotone.”

“You delivered your speech in a loud clear voice AND to further engage your audience next time you can try to add some vocal variety.”

  • Give feedback in person and in private: You do not want to embarrass or make the recipient uncomfortable in front of others.

Receiving Feedback:

  • Think Before You Respond: Make sure you understand the message before responding and do not let your emotions overtake you.
  • Be Aware Of Your Nonverbal Responses: Attentiveness indicates to someone that you value their opinion rather than looking bored or distracted.
  • Receive Feedback Openly: Be receptive to new ideas and opinions. Often there is more than one way to do something.
  • Always Say Thank You: Regardless of whether you change your actions based on receiving feedback, always say thank you to the recipient. They are trying to make you a better person, even if it did not come across in a constructive manner.

Feedback is a two-way process and a valuable learning opportunity. By being honest and helpful to yourself and others, feedback can help you in your personal growth and development.