Some people seem to exude a natural positive, optimistic attitude towards their future. Whatever they face, they seem to instinctively know that tomorrow will be better than today, and how they act today will influence tomorrow. They are in charge of their lives, continuously moving forward, and are constantly learning.

Others, however, don’t share that same outlook. They act more defeated, like nothing is under their control. They get easily overwhelmed or frustrated by their circumstances and spend a lot of their energy concerned with the past or their current obstacles.

Read more about the 4 personality types, especially negative thinking, that give some people a higher risk factor for alcohol and substance abuse.

It’s no surprise that optimistic, positive people report a higher degree of wellbeing and vitality.

The question remains, however, are people stuck with one attitude or another, or can their outlook be changed?

Fortunately, there’s been years of rigorous research done to better understand the dynamics of motivation and grit – the qualities that some people embody that give them tenacity to push through resistance and keep growing.

One such study comes from the Official Journal of the Society for the Study of Motivation, called ‘Implicit theories and motivational focus: Desired future versus present reality’.

Don’t worry, we aren’t suggesting that you put on a pot of coffee and your spectacles to dig through the academic literature — we did that for you.

One of the most significant findings is the opportunity to guide people who have more of a fixed, narrow mindset about their own lives, their future, and their opportunities to grow and change.

Regardless of a kid’s outlook, if they’re guided to think through a positive framework regarding their future, they can adapt to a more positive response.

As the researchers note, “Apparently, believing that one’s abilities can be improved makes the desired future state more salient to people than believing that one’s abilities cannot be changed.”

In other words, as we seek to guide students to make choices and develop habits that set a foundation for their future wellbeing, we can deliberately guide them to think about the shape of their lives in a positive way that will really have a positive effect on where they end up.

Fortunately, it’s not a complicated process. We decided to adapt the academic research and put it into a structured, repeatable format any educator or parent can use.

It’s an activity we created, called Designing Your Future.

In it, there are simple steps you can guide students through that will give them greater ownership and control over designing a positive future.

Take a look at the activity, and find time to use it with your kids.