Chapter One: The Power of Positive Thought
Foster Care Wisdom:
“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha
The power of positive thinking is vitally important. You may have heard this before; however, it is without a doubt the purest form of truth. Positive thought creates successful people. You can only become what your mind tells you to become. Therefore, you must train your subconscious to think positive, gratified thoughts while eliminating negative thoughts. It is essential that you are aware of your thoughts as well as how to control them. Take twenty seconds and think about the last few thoughts you had. If your thoughts were negative, replace them with something positive. For example, if you thought, “I am bad at math,” alter this negative consideration to emphasize a subject that you do well in; such as, “I am really good at biology,” or “I like to learn new things.”
Throughout the day, simply stop and ask yourself what you are thinking and how you are feeling. Make this mindful reflection a habit. In short, remind yourself to think about what you are thinking. If you find yourself feeling down, thinking negative thoughts, or simply having a bad day, stop what you are doing and fill your mind with positive thoughts and words of encouragement. This skill cannot be emphasized enough: you will become what you think about most. If you feel like a failure and let disappointment control your thoughts, you will become a failure. Controlling your thoughts is a difficult task, but it can be accomplished overtime with regular practice.
Moreover, by simply being a foster child, you may hold serious doubts about the likelihood of succeeding. Unfortunately, these feelings are typical and even expected. Why would you not have these doubts? Judging from foster care statistics, it is not entirely shocking to assume many people believe you will fail in life. When only 2% of foster children will graduate from college, you may be skeptical about your opportunity to attend college at all. This kind of doubt is both toxic and counterproductive.
The key to eliminating these doubts and fears is by simply replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones. Once you become aware of the negative thoughts that are obstacles to your successful future, you have the power to change them. If you are considering attending college and doubt seeps into your thoughts, simply remove uncertainty and replace it with confidence or assurance that you too, are capable of reaching your objectives. Think about how exciting it will be to pick your class schedule, meet new people, and soak up all the new knowledge. Focus on how a college education can lead to greater financial independence or how it will feel to become the first college graduate in your family. Find the motivation to become part of the 2% of foster children who complete a college degree.
To employ positive thinking, each day find a quiet area—free from daily distractions—to clear your mind. Take some time to become aware of your thoughts and overall disposition. You are now going to do some “house-cleaning” in your mind. Remove all negative thoughts that enter your mind and replace them with something positive. Focus on ambitions, opportunities, talents, and accomplishments. This conscious effort will help to train the subconscious from focusing on failures while developing a positive attitude, despite obstacles and challenges that may arise. If you fully invest in these actions, you will notice a difference. Failure may still be around you, but you will no longer feel it defines who you are. Being a foster child will no longer carry a stigma of worthlessness; instead, you should feel empowered to seek and use resources to better yourself.
In addition to positive thinking, to be truly successful, you must clearly identify what you want in life. Determine what motivates you and outline the goals you want to achieve. This is not a time to think small—think big. Do not let your current situation inhibit you from developing your dreams and goals. Again, focusing on the negative aspects of life will only create a holding pattern; focus on positivity and plan for the future. Be determined despite your current situation. Your thoughts alone are the key element to your success. You must learn to formulate positive thoughts that will lead you to your desired goal. It is only natural to feel negative thoughts; thoughts of doubt, discord, discouragement, and failure plague many current and former foster children throughout the world.
Immediately replace these negative thoughts with thoughts of bliss, encouragement, joy, and positive expectation. Clear your mind of past failures, as this will only create the additional obstacle of dwelling on the past, eliciting failure in the future. Clear your mind of the fear of failing. Instead, envision yourself accepting your diploma on the commencement stage or walking into your first adult job with your head held high.
Constantly reminding yourself you will be a success story is the first step on a path unknown to many like you. Think about who you will become. Create a list describing the type of person you want to be. What characteristics are important to you? What will you strive for? How do you define success? Once you have jotted down a list, read it every day. For example, “I want to be strong, smart, faithful, a good friend, a good student, a healthy person, and a wealthy person.” Repeat your list as you wake up in the morning and as you go to bed at night. Submitting these ideas to your subconscious will help you to visualize and become that person. However, you cannot simply just read aloud your list and expect change. You must follow through with action. If you want to be smart, then you must ensure you are taking appropriate steps that will bring this result. Education is key in attaining this goal. You must pay attention in class, formulate good study habits, begin thinking about college, and remain positive in this pursuit.
Furthermore, think of how great it will feel when you become a success. Take a moment and reflect on that last sentence. Picture the feeling of accomplishment and self-reliance. You can be part of the less than two percent of foster children who graduate from college. Perhaps you will go further; be a doctor, a lawyer, or a scientist. The possibilities are endless. Really think about that for a moment. You alone have the power to make your dreams reality.
“I just keep telling myself that I want to be able to provide for my kids. I want to be successful. That’s what kept moving me forward, is that I don’t want to be like my mother and father.” Research Participant/Former Foster Child
As stated in the previous paragraph, you must follow up your positive thoughts with action. This action must be positive. Otherwise, what’s the point? To do this, you must separate yourself from fear and doubt. If you speak with someone who discourages you from accomplishing your goal, then you must end the discussion and walk away. Do not discuss or read materials that will bring about negative thoughts and discourage you from who you want to be. Do not surround yourself with people who discourage you from becoming who you want to be. Surround yourself in a positive, flourishing environment. Do not associate with people who have no interest in furthering their own lives. For example, if you are with a group of people smoking marijuana or making other poor decisions, you are in the wrong environment. That should be an obvious statement. Do not discuss past failures and do not discuss your family or your circumstance negatively. Start discussing your life positively.
Focus on the present and the future. As a middle school or high school student, you will undoubtedly face some form of peer pressure or criticism. Practice blocking out negative influences and talk that prevents you from attaining your goals. If your goal is to become a teacher and you enter a discussion with someone who discourages you, simply thank him or her for the input and walk away. From a personal standpoint, I began writing this book in 2012, and after reaching out to different people, I got the impression my attempt would be a lost cause.
Those comments stuck in my head, and after a long year, I realized I should have listened to my own advice. It is vital to surround yourself with positive people so that you can continue to reach for your goals.