If you are a parent and have a son or daughter graduating In the next few weeks from high school or college, you're probably planning your graduation gift -- giving it is pure parental enjoyment.
You have many choices, all mitigated by financial realities. Some gift a new car, others present a trip. Rings, bracelets, necklaces, watches -- inscribed -- are popular. Pads, pods, phones and tablets are gift wrapped too. My friend got a dog for his graduation present with the parents paying vet bills for two years. Plenty give old reliable -- a check, the zeros depending on family affluence and flowers to your daughter if you can't be there.
I suppose there are many others but research for my latest book, Performing Under Pressure, made me realize that the most useful, beneficial and most inexpensive graduation gift is conspicuously left off the graduation gift list: a coat for all seasons. The label isn't important only the fabric. Forget cotton, fur, leather, suede or wool. This is a "COAT" of Armor, woven with confidence, optimism, tenacity and enthusiasm and it is exactly what your graduate needs to wear if he or she is to advance in life.
Confidence is needed so your graduate believes he or she will attain success in their chosen way. Optimism helps them get off on the right foot with positive expectations and increases their awareness to see the many opportunities all around them. When confidence and optimism wear thin, tenacity will help maintain their focus and keep them on course, and when it gets cold, enthusiasm will zip them up.
Don't worry if you're short of cash. You don't have to buy this COAT but you do have to spend the time weaving it.
Start with the basic fabric -- confidence. Giving your kids plenty of positives promotes self-esteem but it is not the same as confidence -- their belief that he or she has the ability to influence their destiny.
Confidence starts with accurate self-assessment so encourage your graduate to realistically appraise their capabilities and skills. A realistic appraisal puts them in a better position to map out strategies for developing their skills -- they become more sure of their ability and their confidence increases. Let them know the importance of being open to the perceptions of others -- emphasize that criticism is simply information that can help them develop their capabilities and thus they should welcome it rather than become "defensive."
Optimism is easy to stitch in by getting them in the habit of using an "optimistic vocabulary." Gently catch them in the act when they use phrases such as, "I should have," There's nothing I can do about it," and point out that these mindsets are often self -defeating, whereas "I could," "When (not if)," "I can" are empowering phrases and will help them approach the tasks they need to master with a positive mindset. Don't lecture, but point out when you can that "the world is usually fair and hard work usually pays off." When your Graduate accepts that hard work pays off, he or she will tend to have positive expectations that their efforts will be rewarded, a perception that increases the tendency to approach tasks with positive expectations.
Tenacity will prevent their COAT from ripping. Weave it in by encouraging your graduate to have meaningful goals, ones that are worthy of him and her. Meaningful goals will keep your graduate living with purpose and when setbacks occur, they will be more likely to keep their hope alive, keep their focus and find the pathways to their goals.
Enthusiasm dresses your graduate with good feelings. We're hardwired to experience enthusiasm upon goal completion but that can often take a while. If you want your graduate to wear their coat daily, enthusiastically point out the micro-successes -- the small victories of progress that he or achieves on the way to big victories. Get him in the habit of doing this and he will be manufacturing enthusiasm. Enthusiasm will keep his COAT looking new.
The COAT of Armor -- it's the graduation gift your graduate will wear forever!