The Biology of Stress.

The Amygdala Hijack

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⊕ From Stress to Success ⊕

In this video clip of my keynote speech at the “You Can Do College Event” I share the biological origins of stress and anxiety with 300 high school students from Ontario, Canada.

In this segment, I also demonstrate simple strategies for dealing with high stress situations. Including deep breathing exercises, mindful awareness, and personal responsibility.

To learn more about the role of positive psychology in stress management & resilience, check out my TEDx Talk “Thriving Under Pressure” on the TED TALKS site.

You Can Do College Event.

I love sharing ideas with students.

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I can’t imagine a better moment in life to learn about purpose and empowerment than when we are young.

Which is why I embrace every opportunity to share the principles of positive psychology with students across Canada.

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The most recent opportunity being a conference called: “You Can Do College.”

  • 600 grade 10 students from 14 high schools participated in the 2 day conference.

The purpose of the event was to introduce high school students to all the programs available to them when they graduate in a few years.

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Showing them that if they work hard today — “They Can Do College” in the future. Whether it be as a civil engineer, a veterinary technician, a nurse, or an early childhood educator.

The choice is theirs to make.

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Students are our future.

My job as a Motivational Speaker was to ignite their inner flame for higher learning. This is what I was born to do! 🔥

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Pay attention to the person right in front of you. They have something to teach you.

Connecting with audience members is essential for me. No matter how big or small the crowd.

Accordingly, I encouraged students to answer as many questions as they could (which they did!) as I walked and talked freely with the large crowd.

Hoping to meet as many of the 600 students as I could.

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One of my favourite moments was when the young gentleman above shared his lifelong dream of becoming an engineer.

Just listening to his mission shifted me to a higher place.

The icing on the cake was hearing about destiny from a student named Destiny. 

Destiny aspires to be a cosmetologist to the stars one day. How cool is that!

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The next time you meet a student, ask them about their dreams. The stress they’re experiencing immediately disappears.

What’s your why?

Shifting from Extrinsic to Intrinsic Motivation

We live in a world that rewards frivolous behaviour with fame and fortune, so it is no wonder that some students expect their motivation to come from the outside, in the same way that reality show contestants expect to win a million dollars, simply by “showing up”.

How can we change this? What impact can we have on millennial, tech savvy students expecting instant gratification in our classrooms?

We start by reminding students (and ourselves) that motivation begins on the inside. We show students why external motivators will never sustain them. The overjustification effect is just one example of this fact.

Better yet, we tap into students’ own life experiences to ignite long-term commitment and motivation. Students often forget the feelings of joy and anticipation they felt when they first opened their acceptance letters to school.

In the midst of going to class, applying for OSAP, juggling family, work, and school demands, and paying bills, students often forget why they applied to their programs in the first place.

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why. William Barclay

Sometimes, igniting motivation is as simple as asking students “Why?” they are at college in the first place. Why?” exercises help students get to the heart of what motivates them, guides them, keeps them going. From early morning classes to late night study sessions to unexpected academic costs to making it through final exams.

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 How I incorporate “Why?” exercises into lectures:

  1. I ask students to relax, sit back, close their eyes, and take a deep breath.
  2. Next, I ask them to visualize the day they applied to college and ultimately received their acceptance letters.
  3. Finally, students are asked “Why?” they wanted to go to college in the first place – what’s their ultimate mission and motivation for getting a diploma in their chosen field.

Student answers to this simple, yet complex question of “Why?” is so varied, so unique to each student. Yet, each answer is united by the same ideal, the same belief: Hope

Students are searching for something better, to change for the better, to make the world better. They want to save lives as nurses, to design hybrid cars as engineering technologists, to help children who are abused as child & youth care workers, to inspire their own children by being college educated, to be independent and self-sufficient, to do what they love, and most of all, students yearn to make a difference in this world.

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Sustaining Motivation and Commitment

Once written down, I encourage students to carry their answers (in one word, if possible) in their wallets, post them on the bathroom mirror, on their phones, in their cars, and look to their “Why?” every time they need inspiration.

Their answers remind them “Why?” they choose to study for midterms, “Why?” they choose to write research papers, “Why?” they choose to attend class rather than do something that brings instant gratification.

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. Nietzsche

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I believe so strongly in using “Why?” exercises that I incorporated them into my psychology textbook.

Intrinsic motivation can be taught in so many ways. During “Why?” Exercises, students teach me. They teach me that hope is enough to sustain us through the hard times. Hope is enough to push us through life’s challenges. And the most important lesson of all is that hope mixed with drive, self-determination, and hard work changes lives for the better.

Students are my reason why.

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“Why?” do you do what you do?