In this episode, we’re excited to share with you insights from Sarah, a youth mentor and researcher who has recently completed a dissertation on helping young people build hope and resilience in the face of ambiguous loss and uncertainty. With the ongoing pandemic causing unprecedented challenges for everyone, particularly for young people, Sarah’s work couldn’t be more relevant.

In this episode of our podcast, Sarah takes us through her framework for understanding ambiguous loss and uncertainty and provides practical tips for increasing tolerance of uncertainty, building strengths, and using language that empowers and motivates. You’ll learn about the tools Sarah uses to help young people recognize their strengths and move forward despite challenging situations.

If you’re looking for ways to support young people in building resilience and hope, or simply want to learn more about navigating uncertainty, this episode is a must-listen. We hope you enjoy the conversation and welcome your thoughts on this important topic.

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Sarah Found holds a Master of Science (MSc) Degree in Positive Psychology (MAPP), where her dissertation research focused on the development of a framework and story-based media program to help teens build hope and resilience when facing ambiguous loss. Through her positive psychology and youth mentorship work, Sarah holds group workshops and creates online courses to help youth discover their character strengths and build mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual resilience.

Sarah also holds a Business degree and has worked in the technology industry as a leader in content marketing and team building for over 15 years. She holds numerous certifications in different modalities ranging from youth mentorship, character strengths and trauma-informed art therapy to youth fitness and mindfulness. A storyteller at heart, Sarah is also a published writer. She educates in a playful, imaginative way that integrates her love of story with her background in positive psychology, technology, marketing and communications. Her classes often leverage movie and book characters, expressive art and other positive media forms to help youth re-imagine the future and find the hero within during adversity. Focused on ‘second wave Positive Psychology’ – navigating the dark side of life, Sarah’s non-traditional approach helps youth learn to embrace all emotions and normalize uncertainty in a complicated world.

Sarah currently lives in the Canadian province of Newfoundland, a picturesque island at the easternmost tip of North America in the Atlantic Ocean. She lives by the water with her husband, son and British Golden Retriever, Mr. Carson.

Find Sarah on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/sarahjfound/ or email her directly at sarah@thepositivepsychologyplayground.com.

And join us both at the Youth Mentor Conference 27 Feb – 1 March 2023 at http://youth-mentor-conference.com
As always, follow us on Instagram: @shinefromwithinhq
And check out our main website: http://shinefromwithin.com.au


Sound bite

And I think in overwhelming situations, or when someone’s feeling really stuck in uncertainty, Setting goals, things like those types of words. Again, back to some of the words we use can seem a little overwhelming at times. Mm-hmm. So even talking about, you know, reimagining the future a little bit or you know, talking about things that they might be able to look forward to.

Um, one piece of research I did that I was really, again, um, I think something that, a lot of people could, even adults could benefit from is I think that we have such a, you know, I know in North America very much the hustle approach to goals and things like that. It’s like, be a goal getter. Chase your goals.
Don’t ever give up. And consistency and determination are wonderful things, but there’s also power in acknowledging sometimes that a goal is just not for you. And there’s a whole area around this that I looked into as part of my framework about, you know, adjusting goals or abandoning goals, and that when you look at people that you know, are sometimes in these uncertainty struggling situations, or may feel that there is just no way for them to meet a goal anymore because something’s changed.

Again, I’m gonna go back to the easy example of, you know, your goal was to graduate from. School and, and go to the prom and have the ceremony and it all got canceled. You know, that goal can’t happen and you know, how do you, how do you let go of that, you know, in a way. allows you space to free up to, to focus on other goals.

generic intro

Hello and welcome to the youth mentor podcast. This is your short burst of inspiration tips and research about teens for parents, educators, and mentors. I’m your host, Amanda Rootsey, founder of teen personal development school Shine From Within and coach to incredible youth mentors all over the world. Now I certainly don’t know it all.

So I interview the experts about what’s going on for youth today. From psychological insights to really practical advice, this is your moment of inspiration, motivation, and a few laughs amidst the ever changing world of teens and tweens.

Episode Intro

Welcome to this episode. I’m so excited for you to have a listen to this and to get to know Sarah found. Sarah is a, what is a youth mentor with us? She did a youth mentor training a while ago. Um, but she’s recently done a dissertation where her research focused on helping young people to build hope and resilience when facing ambiguous loss and uncertainty. So, so relevant for what’s going on in the world right now and, and the space that we find ourselves in, as we try to navigate what’s happened. Where things are at right now and where we are going next. And particularly of course, for young people that, that have missed out on some things that they were really looking forward to when their lives through the last couple of years with the pandemic.

Such incredible and important potent work that she’s doing right now. And so we really dived into parts of our framework that, that she has around understanding what ambiguous loss is and uncertainty and how that definition has changed recently over the last few years. And, um, how we can recognize it too.
[00:03:00] And then she talked us through how to increase our tolerance of uncertainty. Um, how cool is that? And you know, the ways that we can acknowledge it and. Um, feel comfortable being uncomfortable, which is something that, uh, quite a lot of the teams that I work with have expressed to me that they’d really love to work on for themselves. So, um, it’s, it’s a, it’s a hot topic right now.

Um, yeah, they’re so smart. And then we talk about how we can kind of adapt and move forward and create a vision for ourselves as well. Um, as well as moving forward. And we talked about building strengths, how you could discuss that and talk about that. And some of the tools that Sarah uses when she’s working on building strengths with young people and helping them to recognize the strengths that they have within.

We talked about language as well and the different, the subtle kind of language shifts that we can use when working with young people and even in our conversations with each other to, to help us feel validated and feel ready to move forward when we’re going through a challenging situation. Um, so there’s, there’s a lot of gold here. I’m probably already overwhelming you at the magic that’s that’s coming up in this episode.

Um, but I’m really excited for you to have a listen to this. Uh, to this conversation. So you can hear from Sarah herself, yourself. Um, enjoy having a listen and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this one. 

Episode Begins

[00:04:17] Amanda: Welcome, Sarah to the Youth Mentor Podcast. So, so lovely to have you here. 

[00:04:22] Sarah: Hi, thank you. I am so excited to be here, Amanda. Yay. We, whenever we are on a call together, I just feel like we can chat forever about all sorts of things. So would you mind starting off by sharing a little bit about yourself? Yeah.

Um, I’m Sarah. I’m actually from Canada. Um, so, uh, I live actually in an island that’s in, basically in the Atlantic called Newfoundland. Um, what I have a husband and a dog and a son, um, that I adore. So, um, my background is basically, it’s a little different. Um, I work in the technology industry actually.

I’ve been working in. For 15, 20 years actually, um, in marketing communications. And on top of that, I just have always had a real passion, uh, working with youth and something I’ve done throughout my life in, in all different capacities. And I think just, you know, over the last five or six years, it became even a bigger calling for me.

So I did some work with you and, um, and the youth mentor CER certification. And then I just really got this passion. I’ve always had love for psychology. Um, and I decided to really take a big step and go back to school. Uh, so I went and got my master’s degree in applied positive Psychology because it’s something I love and I felt, um, I could really apply.

And so I graduated last year and so that’s really where, um, I’m kind of focusing on that and still my work, uh, as well in communications in the technology industry cuz I have a real passion for technology and for leadership too, as well. Um, so yeah, it’s been [00:06:00] bringing all these things to life and, you know, exploring different passions that I have too.

Amazing. So cool. It’s so awesome to hear that, um, that you’ve just followed that pathway and keep following that curiosity. I’m big about character strengths, which is a big part of positive psychology and like my number one and number two are love of learning and curiosity.

So, oh, I think that’s where I follow. I have to watch it sometimes because, uh, sometimes we can become lifelong students and not implement. Um, so it’s finding that right balance. Um, but yeah, I just, I love, I love to learn and I’m, I’m always curious about new things for sure. Yeah, I love that though. Um, and the recognition of implementation as well.

I love that too. Yeah. , it’s easy just to wanna go onto the next thing. Exactly. Yeah. Mm-hmm. And there’s always more, right? There’s always more another qualification you can add before you go and actually do the work in the world. Yeah, and that’s a big thing too, right? It’s, it’s balancing between, you know, wanting to, to know enough to feel, to feel confident, but then knowing a lot of that confidence comes from implementing and getting out there and, and doing the work and that you don’t have to be perfect.

You know, I think we talk to youth a lot about that, but I think as mentors and practitioners, we have to remember too that, you know, sometimes what’s most important is just being real and, and not being perfect in any way makes you more relatable too. Right. So that’s been something I’ve learned along the way quite a bit too.

Yeah. Great. Yeah, I love that. And so, um, uh, you, from the chats that we’ve had, I feel like you had a specific kind of research project that you did during that master’s degree. Would you mind telling us a little bit about. 

Yeah. A lot of my focus, um, has been in the area of uncertainty or ambiguity. Mm-hmm.

uh, when I started out in positive psychology, when I sometimes talk to people about it, they’re like, oh, happiness and, and joy, and, and that’s important, but I’m, I’m not an advocate for toxic positivity. Uh, anybody that knows me knows that. I can, I love to laugh and, and I love to have a good time, but I’m not somebody who’s happy and, and always optimistic all the time.

So, uh, you know, when I went into positive psychology, what I loved the most about it was, and they call it second wave positive psychology, but is really like understanding how to get through some of our darker times and some of our struggles and, you know, traumas in distressful times and how to get through and navigate through those.

And so that’s really where my passion. Even from, you know, some situations I’ve been through in my own past and where I felt I wanted to help the. . So that kind of led me down this path. I started in my research and uh, again, I started my, uh, master’s in 2019 and who knew what was gonna happen in 2020, uh, with the pandemic and everything too.

So it really changed things. And I think even in 2021, late 2021, there was more and more statistics coming out, you know, from every country really just showing that [00:09:00] youth. Rates of hopelessness, depression, anxiety, all these things were just increasing so much. And you know, what I found still interesting is that, you know, even in the latter parts of 2021, where you think maybe that was changing a little bit as things were open again and, and people were, you know, going back to some routines, they were still seeing those numbers decreasing.

And there’s a lot of research still going on as we know. But, you know, that’s really where I started to follow my curiosity. , you know, what else, what else could be going on? And so it just led me into this whole area of, of uncertainty and, uh, what you call ambiguous loss was another area too. So when I talk about ambiguous loss, um, this is a whole field that was, uh, developed by a psychologist named Dr.

Pauline Boss, who I. I wrote just, she’s done some amazing work since like the 1960s and ambiguous loss is really about a very certain type of loss. It’s a loss that where you can lose something or someone psychologically, but they’re still physically present or the opposite. They can be physically present, but not really their psychologically and.

basically, the most extreme examples of this would be, you know, someone goes over to fight in a war or something like that and they don’t come back and, and you don’t really know, you know, what’s happened. Uh, you know, those would be very extreme things. Um, natural disasters and things like that. But when you get into more of the practical, more common examples we see, it can be things like, you know, even, uh, divorce in a family and, and maybe you don.

See one parent anymore. Um, or it can be these examples that we’re seeing through the pandemic and that definition of ambiguous loss has really opened up since the pandemic to recognize just all the other areas where, whether it’s job loss, whether it’s loss of, you know, youth that, you know, we’re planning to graduate from high school.

And didn’t get to go through those rights of passage or losing friends, um, because they physically couldn’t see them and, and all these different things. There’s like so many different examples. So that really led me into this whole field of uncertainty and, you know, ambiguity and, you know, could that be.

Responsible for some of this because we’re just living in it so much. And I think, you know, we talk about the pandemic, but you can talk about, you know, the war going on. You can talk about climate change. You, you know, there’s so much, um, so much uncertainty that, you know, so many of our youth are, are just living.

It’s just kind of part of our life every day. And how do you, how do you navigate? Yeah. Wow. Oh, fascinating. I can see why you just kept kind of going down the rabbit hole. Yeah. And learning more . Yeah. Oh gosh. And, and so, um, how do you help young people to navigate this, um, ambiguity and, um, yeah, [00:12:00] uncertainty.

Yeah. And , that was really the interesting part, right. When she understood it. Um, more and just, you know, the research I did and, and the people I got to work with and, and my own research, um, you know, really took it down to also understanding first, you know, what is someone’s. Tolerance for ambiguity. So they say actually that up to the age of 12, the brain has actually a pretty high tolerance for ambiguity that we can deal with those uncertainties a lot more, especially in like the 10 to 12 year age group.

But after age 12. , the brain starts to change a little bit and that tolerance goes down a bit. And we get more comfortable when the answer is, you know, two plus two equals four. There’s one, you know, that one answer to a problem. And so, you know, some people just naturally have, uh, a higher tolerance for ambiguity and, and for uncertainty.

Um, you know, those are people that love, you know, problem solving when there’s multiple answers or multiple solutions out there and things like that. But there’s other people where, Is not the case for them. And they find it quite stressful, um, to try and, and, and come up with that or, or know what’s gonna happen next or live in that uncertainty.

So it’s, it’s trying to figure out, you know, how can we work with youth to help increase that tolerance because we can’t change the uncertainties that we’re living in. Um, and this is it, there becomes a real control issue cuz we can’t control it. Um, and what I’m seeing and what I’ve, I’ve seen a lot and what I’ve done in some of the youth I’ve worked.

Is, there’s a lot of what I’ll say is pathology around it of, you know, youth even thinking there’s something wrong with me, there’s something wrong with me. You know, I have these, these negative feelings or emotions or I’m feeling these feelings of anxiety in that and there must be something wrong with me.

And you know, one of the biggest messages I have, and you know, a big message Dr. Boss has shared and some other researchers is that especially since the pandemic, we are having very normal. Normal responses to very abnormal situations and you know, the pathology or what’s wrong is actually the situation we face.

It’s not us, you know? Mm-hmm. , we’ve been through, you know, again, through all these examples or or other examples youth might be living every day. Those are just very normal reactions sometimes to just a lot of uncertainty you’re living in, so, Kind of step of just even honoring where you are and that there’s nothing wrong with you.

You know, there’s, there’s, you know, these are normal, normal reactions and feelings to have in times like this. Hmm. So I think that’s, that’s one of the first pieces is just kind of acknowledging and honoring that. Yeah. Great. Yeah. Yeah. So do you think, uh, opening up those conversations, having. Group discussions, bringing it up at the dinner table, all of those things just kind of from, maybe not reminding, but opening the doorway to, to acknowledging that even though we’re probably sick of [00:15:00] talking about it and it might feel like life’s back to normal and, um, build back better and all of those messages that are kind of coming out from politicians and things, it’s still very much.

An abnormal situation that we’re in right now and that we’re kind of trying to recover from. Yeah, exactly. And I a bit more mm-hmm. , I think that’s, you know, I always cringe when I hear people, um, you know, whether it’s to youth or to adults, say, you know, it’s time to, you know, and I don’t just mean the pandemic, I mean other situations too where it’s like time to get over it.

Mm-hmm. or time to get back to normal and everything. I would say. You know, we’ve learned so much over the last two years. I don’t know that you can ever go back to where you were before because you have so much more knowledge now and you’ve lived through so much. So, you know, I think that that’s some of it.

Um, but I think that there is this pressure sometimes of like, , you know, let’s get over it. Let’s move past. And if someone feels like they can’t do that again, I go back to them feeling right away, like, well, there’s something wrong with me. How come that person seems like everything’s great and fine? And I’m not really feeling that way.

And it really is. You know, you talk about the dinner table and you know, it really is, you know, a family discussion, a community discussion, you know, to be having a rallying around our youth that it’s not an individual. Issue. And again, I am a complete advocate for where therapies needed and, you know, youth experiencing, you know, extreme levels of, you know, depression and, and things like that.

But in a lot of these cases, you know, we’re, we’re talking about kind of. Feeling anxiety, some negative emotions, you’re sitting and things like that. Just being with people that acknowledge those feelings might be feeling that way too. Um, or that you can share that with, um, you know, there’s a lot of power in that, in that feeling that, you know, there’s something, there’s something wrong with me to feel this way.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And so do you see.

Whilst, like you just said, you know, there’s, uh, it’s really important to seek out therapy and, and extra, extra support when you need it. There’s also a, particularly at this time, a, a real need for that. Um, being in that preventative space almost and kind of having these discussions before they progress to a, to a point where they need.

Additional therapy. I feel like you’ve talked about this with me before and it came up quite a bit in your, in your degree as well, . Yeah, no, exactly. And, you know, and I’m not a therapist. Um, and I, I think there’s a huge role for them and, and a place for them. But I also know that, again, so much of these shared experiences, Would be helpful to, you know, to address in a group environment.

And even in, you know, some of the conversations I’ve had with, you know, some really leading psychologists in my research who are therapists, who are these psychotherapists that are, you know, um, on the ground one-to-one with people and they are saying we need more group-based, you know, resilience programs, um, you know, group-based programs that really look at, you [00:18:00] know, teaching.

Some of these skills, letting teens, uh, especially with teens, they’ll say, you know, share openly and speak openly about these things. And they need this at a community level. They don’t, you know, they don’t necessarily need this one-on-one. Um, you know, many communities are saying, we don’t have the bandwidth or the resources to even work with people.

That many people one-on-one. Um, so that’s something I’m really passionate about too as I move forward, is, you know, how to make positive psychology more accessible to more people. Um, and I think all the youth work and, and the wonderful work you do and all the other youth mentors do is just that there’s such a need for that at a group level and to have that kind of peer support and peer interaction, uh, while still being, you know, guided by somebody.

Hmm. There’s so much magic in, in them getting to learn and hear from each other. Isn’t there more so than. As well as, I suppose, teaching specific skills and tools, like you said, around resilience, but even just holding the space for them to, to kind of go, well, how are you feeling at the moment and, and what’s helped you?

Yeah, really powerful. Hey, Yeah, exactly. And I think, you know, there’s, they talk about disenfranchised grief and, you know, it’s something I experienced as a youth myself and that’s a type of grief where you don’t feel that you can, you can express it. You know, for me it was living in a, a single parent home where, you know, my father left when I was 13.

It was very hard to have a place to express that because it just wasn’t, it wasn’t like somebody had passed away and there was a funeral mourn. It was just somebody was gone. And though this is different, it is similar in that, you know, these situations where we feel sadness or we feel grief because maybe we didn’t get to, to celebrate, um, a graduation or a specific birthday, or we didn’t get it to experience that.

First year of university or college on campus and, and see all the new things. And we feel a bit of of normal grief around that, but we don’t really feel like we can express it or how do we express it? And, you know, getting around other people who have had those same types of losses and, and that, you know, just, it normalizes it warm for them.

Yeah. And gives them the support they need. Hmm. Yeah. So powerful. Okay, so the first. is acknowledging it, having conversations about it, helping them see that this Yeah. That their reaction is, is normal and the situation is the thing that’s weird and, and abnormal. . Exactly. . And so up there, um, what’s next?

What comes, yeah. What else would you suggest? Yeah. I, I think as, as kind of the next part of that, it, it’s, some of the terminology, it’s about adapting. How do we adapt? Mm-hmm. , how do we move forward from this? We can’t go. . So how do we move forward and adapt without using some of those words, like moving on, letting go, all those things that can really trigger somebody, right?

Mm-hmm. Because it just, that’s a big step to tell somebody to just let go. Forget it, move on. [00:21:00] But if we talk more about, you know, okay, how can we adapt? How can we look forward? You know, how can we start to vision something different? It just, you know, it opens it up a little bit more for them. Hmm. Um, I always say the next step, and this is the part that’s nearest and dearest to my heart.

is the strengths piece, the character strengths. So really understanding and I mean, you know, there’s formal going through, you know, understanding your, um, character strengths through positive psychology, or it can be just talking openly as a group about just strengths, but you know, what are the strengths that you can tap into that you have that might help you and how can you engage those?

So, you know, for me it might be, you know, one of my key strengths. is writing, and so, you know, maybe for me that’s journaling or maybe if you’re someone who is, you know, spiritual or you love nature, maybe for you it is just getting outside and, and making sure you get those walks in and you’re out in nature, you know, so you kind of get that extra.

Space to take a breath and, and get, you know, some space in the situation too. So, you know, what are your strengths? We all have them. They’re not something that you have to go, oh, I have to go, you know, invent these new strengths. They’re all in us. It’s just about how do we, sometimes you need a little bit of extra help to uncover them a little bit or, or build on them a bit, but you have them and you know, you have those to tap into and, and help you as well.

Mm-hmm. . And do you, um, To help, to help them uncover those strengths for themselves. Do you recommend any free online quizzes or, um, yeah. What, what do you recommend? Yeah, via which v i a values in action. Uh, they have a survey and they have an adult one and a youth format, um, that are great. They’re free online tools that you can go.

Um, and basically you answer, it’s quite a few questions, but uh, you get through it and it will tell you kind of. what your top five signature strengths are, and then you can start to explore those further. That’s, there’s a few different tools I kind of have in my tool bag when I work with youth. Um, but that is, you know, that’s one of my favorites.

Um, but you know, you’re finding out more things about, you know, these mores. General strengths versus there’s other strengths, tools that might be something more of like, you know, great ideas for where you might pursue careers and things like that. And, and skills. Mm-hmm. . Um, but this is really like, you know, what makes you who you are, but I always say like, you know, tools are great, but I love, you know, a lot of work I do is in strength spotting where you.

I might send a youth, uh, at home and say, you know, talk to your family, talk to your friends and say, you know, when you think about me, what strengths come to mind? Or, you know, or thinking to yourself, what do people always say they like the most about me? Um, or what I’m good at? Um, and, you know, if you have a group together, what I love about group sessions that are done over multiple weeks, and that is people get to know each other.

You can [00:24:00] start to have. Conversations in a group where you can kind of go back and forth between people and say, I, you know, I really like this about you, or I always notice this about you, and you can start to see things and, you know, I’ve done it with my own friends at times. I’m like, really? I never thought about that.

And five people have said the same thing about me, . Um, so, you know, I don’t always like to just narrow it down to, you know, an online quiz, but it can be a great piece to, to add in with that. I love that. I love doing that via strengths quiz. Um, I love having a deck of strength cards as well, just so they can see all of the different possibilities.

Yeah. Um, but I love that of, of just giving them kind of homework to go and spot it in their life and get to hear that beautiful validation and feedback from the people in their world too. How beautiful. Yeah. One thing I’ll just add there because it’s my, if I had room, I’d show it to you here now, but, you know, everybody talks about, um, vision boards every January, and I think they’re great.

I love them. I actually have a strengths board and so what I do is kind of put all my strengths together on a big board and then pictures that really bring them to life. to me. So that can be a great thing too, cuz it just, you know, especially if you’re having a difficult day, you know, you look at that and it just kind of brings it all to life, um, to you in pictures and that too.

So just kind of finding ways to keep your strengths in front of you and, and kind of think, okay, how could I use this strength to help me in this way today? Yeah, I love that. What do you think about this? I, I’ve heard this before, where, where they might say, um, , you know, firstly choose a strength that you see, um, in others or that someone you love has, and I, I’ve noticed young people can, can pick those strengths up easier because it’s, you know, it can be easier to, to kind of go, oh yeah, I love that thing that my mom has within her.

Like, I really admire that strength that she has. Um, , they can find that a little easier, I think. Especially in a group setting than reflecting on themselves. Yes. And then kind of flipping that around at the end of like, okay, well if you can see it in someone else, you have it within yourself. Is that kind of a Exactly.

old wives tale or is that a thing? What do you think? ? No, I think that can be a great way to warm up. Cuz especially, I mean, you know, if you’re sitting in a room with youth or, or even one-on-one with a youth who’s in a, you know, maybe in a place of, of just, you know, feeling really low, um, you know, Not really seeing very much good in themselves.

It can be very, um, very difficult. And I always say the same thing about affirmations. They’re, these things are wonderful, but they can be, some of these things can be very difficult if you’re in a very dark place or you just can’t see anything good about you right now to say, oh, write down your strengths.

I did one workshop actually once where there was, um, it was a large workshop, uh, but there were friends amongst it. And I remember this one girl and she was, and they were supposed to be writing down their strengths. I was kind of facilitating the, uh, workshop with somebody else and I said, I noticed you done anything down.

She said, there’s nothing good about me. [00:27:00] And I said, you know, there’s gotta, you know, don’t, I’m not gonna go for that. There’s something there. And she’s like, I don’t have any strengths. And, you know, coaching a little bit too with questions. It was like, What do you love to do? And while it came out, she was a dancer.

Well, what do you love about dance? And then, you know, through that, you know, she talked about how much she practices dance and everything else. It was like, well, look at that. I can see like you’re a very committed, determined person. You follow your passions and you know, just kind of opens it up. So if you can even start to talk to them about their interests or like you.

maybe other family members, other friends, um, they can, they can start to see that, um, a bit more. I find if they start focusing on the friend too much, then especially if they’re in a negative place, it can be like, yeah, it almost brings them down a bit more cuz they’re like, oh yeah, she’s got all these drinks.

I don’t have any of that. So, but like really trying to. Uh, prep them along a little bit because yeah, it’s not natural a lot of the time for us to sit down and say, oh, I have all these wonderful strengths. , well, you know, amazing at this. Yeah. , it would be wonderful if they felt that way, but yeah. Yeah. Maybe we should incorporate that into the online academy.

The start of every check-in. Yeah. Shout out one of your strengths. . Yeah. No, it can, it can be really, um, really helpful. Hmm. Or perhaps how have. Tapped into your strikes this week or something? Well, and that’s the power, because there’s two sides of it. And that is, um, part of the work I did too looks at those sides of that is, you know, it’s identifying and knowing them, but that’s great.

That’s only gonna take you so far. It’s how do you engage them, you know? So, and I even do that, like, there are certain situations I’m facing at times and I’ll say, you know, okay, how am I getting through this one? You know, this situation today. And I’m, you know, kind of thinking, I’m like, , I know I’m a really curious person.

I’m gonna find the answer to this. I’m gonna, you know, if I’m feeling, I, I don’t think I know how to move forward. Uh, I’m gonna really tap into my curiosity today and, and figure this one out. So really kind of looking when you’re going through like a very specific situation, sometimes kind of picking from them, like an inventory of, I think, yeah, I’m gonna follow this one today and I’m gonna figure, I’m gonna really apply that and see if that can help me get through the situation.

Um, that can be helpful too. Yeah, you. . Okay. I can imagine that would really help to, uh, support young people to look forward and to think about how they can use what they have within them to deal with the current situation and give them some hope. Yeah. . Yeah, no, exactly. And you know, from there, and you, you’re kind of really leading into the, the next step of the framework I developed and, and some of the work I’ve done is really, you know, looking at goals and how do you move forward.

And I think in overwhelming situations, or when someone’s feeling really stuck in uncertainty, Setting goals, things like those types of words. Again, back to some of the words we use can seem a little overwhelming at times. Mm-hmm. So even talking about, [00:30:00] you know, reimagining the future a little bit or you know, talking about things that they might be able to look forward to.

Um, one piece of research I did that I was really, again, um, I think something that, a lot of people could, even adults could benefit from is I think that we have such a, you know, I know in North America very much the hustle approach to goals and things like that. It’s like, be a goal getter. Chase your goals.

Don’t ever give up. And consistency and determination are wonderful things, but there’s also power in acknowledging sometimes that a goal is just not for you. And there’s a whole area around this that I looked into as part of my framework about, you know, adjusting goals or abandoning goals, and that when you look at people that you know, are sometimes in these uncertainty struggling situations, or may feel that there is just no way for them to meet a goal anymore because something’s changed.

Again, I’m gonna go back to the easy example of, you know, your goal was to graduate from. School and, and go to the prom and have the ceremony and it all got canceled. You know, that goal can’t happen and you know, how do you, how do you let go of that, you know, in a way. allows you space to free up to, to focus on other goals.

Um, you know, and I use the example in my own life. I, you know, went through an issue with, um, you know, losing the use of my dominant hand for quite a few months and not knowing the uncertainty of was I gonna be able to use it fully or not again, and, and I had writing goals and, and all these things I wanted to create and it became like, You know, what do I do?

And so it was learning where I might need to adjust a goal or change it a little bit, uh, and be open-minded to that. And that’s, that’s a lot of it. Allowing that kind of flexibility in our mind to, to say, okay, if I give up this goal or I abandon this goal, that doesn’t mean I’m a personal failure. It might mean it’s just not for me.

Um, you know, I think there’s always the situations. We know where we need to, we need to keep moving towards a goal and maybe we need a break, but it is a goal. We just need to work for it. But I think there are times when the goal is just not for us anymore, and there is power in acknowledging that and, and channeling that energy and that determination towards something that’s much gonna serve you much better.

And it’s shown that that. increase hope levels, you know, again, in youth versus just coming up against the same wall over and over again. That you need to help them find, how do they make that transition? It’s not just okay, you know, let go of the goal and we’ll figure something else out. They, you know, that doesn’t help.

It’s more, okay, how do we learn to, you know, start to transition towards something else that might be more, more suited for you now? And, you know, we’re just, you know, bring you some. . Um, and so I love talking about that with people cuz I just think that there’s such, so much emphasis on, you know, never give up on your goals and hustle for your goals.

And, and I think that that’s, you know, that’s a challenge for people sometimes. [00:33:00] Yeah, definitely. And I feel like young people are really craving that now, you know, that, um, that flexibility and that, um, that nurturing approach that you’re talking about. You know, even when I think about the, um, the Rise holiday program, That, um, we’ve got coming up by the time we release this, it probably would’ve been, um, you know, it’s in the new year, it’s in January, and when I talked to the teens about, you know, what should we call it?

How do you want it to feel? We were all, um, myself included, really conscious, um, but them as well, really conscious of it, not just being another. New year, new you kind of vibe. You know, like the, and, and so for them they were, they were like, I actually wanna feel grounded in the new year. And I want to feel like I can reach for the stars and dream as well, but I also want to feel like connected to myself and, and what’s next and be able to make.

Beautiful values-based decisions rather than, you know, I wanna lose weight or get five A’s, or anything like that. So to hear that from them, oh wow, you guys are so cool, , and this is totally kind of like, I feel like I’ve taken so much of my life to undo a lot of that hustle culture. Yes. And find that gentleness.

Yeah, no, exactly. And when you say that, it makes me think of too, back to the, you know, this whole thing about uncertainty, one of the most common responses, you know, we talk a lot about fight or flight responses, something very common, most of us know about. But the other, there is another, uh, response and that is freezing and becoming frozen and through uncertainty.

So common. I know I’ve done it in my own life, but it’s very common in these situations. And, you know, becoming frozen may look like zoning out on social media or zoning out in video games, or you know, these types of response where we just, we don’t know what to do. We’re overwhelmed. So we almost just go into freeze mode.

And so, you know, I talk about in my framework about how to become unfrozen. And then what you’re saying is one of the most, you know, important steps is, you know, how do you become unfrozen? You have to start to ground. And really become present again and, you know, and kind of sit with some of those emotions and, you know, and, you know, sit with yourself and sit with those emotions and, you know, de you know, unfreeze as we say from them.

Um, you know, and it’s not always comfortable, but, you know, just finding that grounding again to, you know, to who you are. And like you just said, your strengths, your core values, all that becomes so important to move. Hmm. I feel like beautiful ways to kind of thaw your body out, like you’re going and sitting in a comfy chair by the fire to slowly unfreeze.

Exactly. Right. And, uh, yeah, no, I think there’s just, there’s a lot of power in that and, you know, you go back to the, the toxic positivity, like I said, that, you know, uh, isn’t that helpful in these times? And it’s like, you know, it’s great to say, be grateful and practice gratitude and all these things. And I, you know, they’re [00:36:00] important, but sometimes we just have to sit with those difficult emotions and just, you know, process that, you know, what you’re feeling in those times of uncertainty.

It can be hard for a teen to verbalize that, oh, I’m feeling uncertainty. You know, what does that look like? And, and how do you start to get in touch with those feelings and kind of sit with them and, and yes, it’s, there’s great power and you need to. Slowly step forward from that, but getting comfortable and the uncomfortable a little bit too, right?

Yeah. Yeah. That’s another thing that one of the teens has been saying a lot already at the start of the year. Like, I just wanna feel comfortable in discomfort because I know that there’s a lot of growth to come with new experiences this year, and I wanna start to feel okay with that. They’re so wise.

I’m, I’m like you have a very wise group of kids. I know, right? . I wish they were around when I was a teenager. . But there’s something that you shared there too that’s really like a light bulb for me too, because I think my default is probably freeze as well and, and retreat and kind of zone out and so I can end up with.

Um, dialogue of like, either, either maybe like that toxic positivity you’re talking about of like, um, you can do it, you know, you should be grateful for what you have and that sort of thing. Or this kind of, come on, like grit almost, of like, you’ve gotta push through. You shouldn’t be like, you know, that you’re frozen, you know that you don’t wanna be frozen, but then fighting against it doesn’t really help either.

Um, so to hear you talk. , giving yourself the space to unfreeze just feels so nurturing and like such a, um, such an important. Yeah, I think it’s, you know, I think one thing, even in my own life, I’ve learned a lot, you know, through my, my degree, but just, you know, practicing in my own life is how you find that.

And I don’t think there’s ever a perfect balance, but that between those energies of being in, doing, you know, the, the sitting with and the taking action. And, you know, I think again, back to the hustle culture, it’s like, okay, let’s go, let’s do, let’s get things happening. But the power in just sitting. And being, and being quiet and, and listening to how we’re feeling.

And I think naturally, most of the time, we can start to figure out when it’s time to kind of gently nudge ourselves again to say, okay, now the compassionate thing to do here is to take action and move forward. It’s, you know, mm-hmm. , I’m, now, I’m, I’ve kind of sat here a little bit too long, but yeah. I think we all have to explore that in ourselves.

But finding that balance between the, the being and the doing is, is so big too. Yeah. Yeah. And that, that moment does always come, doesn’t it like, You don’t sit there forever and so kind of trusting that you will, you will feel ready Yeah. To keep moving Exactly. To, to take action. Mm-hmm. , your framework sounds incredible and so needed and so important for young people, for adults, for everyone.

Yeah, I mean, it’s been so, you know, it’s been fun kind of going through it and [00:39:00] exploring it. And then as I’m building out kind of, um, and I’ve done some of the practical side of this, I am just, I love story, uh, and I love exploring story so much. So it’s been, you know, how can you use the power of story, um, to do this a lot?

And, and one thing I didn’t mention when you were back talking about strengths is a huge tool that I’ve used in the past that can be so helpful is, you know, finding. Story where it’s, whether it’s storybook characters, um, or movie characters and things like that, that have similar strengths to what you have or have gone through similar situations and, and watching some of those things too can be really helpful and help you kind of see your strengths more or you know, see how someone explores those.

And, and again, I’m a little bit, I kind of pushed back on some things that are, are popular things to say, and. Some people are also, you know, say things like, you know, don’t waste your time watching movies. You need to be doing this. Don’t waste your time. And I think. I understand when that can become a vice, but I also know that there’s a lot to be learned from.

There’s a lot of great movies and great books out there, and strong characters and strong, you know, role models in real life too as well, where you can see these different strengths. and really relate to them or, or think about or be motivated on, on how that could, how you could do something like that or how you could use that strength.

And there’s a lot of research around that too, about the use of, of cinema and the use of movies to help people, um, actually feel, um, that empowered to make changes in their life, um, too as well. So that’s another thing if people are feeling like. Really know my strengths and that, um, there’s actually a whole, it’s almost like a mini encyclopedia that was written where you can actually look up strengths and it will tell you, you know, here’s 10 movies you could go watch where that strength is and the character.

I love that it’s a book I’m addicted to. It’s like my mini encyclopedia. Wow. What is that book you’ll have to give us? Um, yeah, it’s called, I think it’s called Character Strengths at the movies or something. It’s written by Dr. Ryan Neek. Um, he’s a, uh, a US positive psychology. He’s really, um, Again, he’s very much involved with the VIA character strengths as well.

You’ll see his name all over the, the Via Strengths website if you go there. Um, but yeah, he did two volumes of these and they are like mini encyclopedias where once you know your character strengths, you can look them up and it will tell you to go watch these certain films. And most of ’em are quite well known films, um, but in a lot of classics and you know, it’s, um, yeah, it’s really fun.

It can be really. Wow. It also makes me think of a really great YouTube video, or it might be a TEDx talk actually, but I, I’ve definitely watched it on YouTube. Um, and it’s called The Danger of a Single Story, I think. And, and she talks a lot about the importance of, um, of opening up our awareness to all sorts of different, different stories, different characters, different ways of living, um, and making sure.

We are reading and watching from, from a diverse set of people [00:42:00] too. And experiences. Exactly. Um, so that we do, yeah. So that we can see all the things. It really does open up your, your mind to what’s possible too. Hey. Well, you, I think you say it exactly right there. And you know, we get back to about uncertainty and I talked about the, you know, the tolerance for uncertainty or your tolerance for ambiguity.

Uh, there’s proven recommendations they make for some things you can practice around that. And one of those things, some of the more fun things that I’ve, I’ve kind of incorporated are things like, um, you know, watch movies with really uncertain, ambiguous endings, you know, or go out with your friends. I hate those movies.

I know and we all do, right? We’re like, what? Or you know, the, you know, there’s not so much like it now, but we used to have, I know when I was younger, like the big cliff hangers at the end of the TV season, oh my gosh, how am I gonna wait two months to find out what happened? No. You know, we’ve had, you know, just going back to that a bit, because so much now you’ve just, everything’s on demand in real time.

Where they release shows on Netflix where you got the whole season at once, so you don’t have to wait. Um, so just. exploring that in fun ways, like, you know, is there, uh, movies or shows with those ambiguous endings? Another thing we talked about is like, um, you know, do this safely, but you know, maybe it’s a Sunday and you decide to go for a drive or go for a walk, and you don’t plan it all out.

You kind of just see where it leads you. Again, I, you know, do that safely. Tell somebody or go with a friend or make sure you have a full tank of gas if you’re driving. But you know, Not planning for everything. Finding those little, little things that you could do that just, you know, just increase your tolerance for ambu ambiguity, those little bits.

And you know, I say it because I’m practicing those things in my own life too. . I love that. Yeah. That’s beautiful. What a great way to, yeah, to to practice feeling okay with uncertainty. Yeah. And kind of doing that alongside just nurturing and comforting yourself when you need to as well. Yeah, it’s, you know, and I think it, it takes, I don’t think anyone’s perfect at it, but I think it takes a lot of practice and we talk about, you know, Holding different outcomes in your mind too, can be hard too.

Like, you know what if it goes this way or what if it goes that way? When it comes to that uncertainty and the power of starting to to know, okay, it could be either or, like how can I hold both this, you know, and both, um, you know, type. Answers in my head. And that can be really hard to do when we don’t know the way something’s gonna turn out.

Cause I think sometimes we catastrophize and we go, okay, well the worst possible thing could happen. Sometimes we can be a little bit too, um, you know, maybe overly optimistic, um, on what it is. And it’s like, how do you kind of. go in the middle there of what, you know, what could happen or kind of hold those two different outcomes.

And, and that takes a lot of practice too, and a lot of different, um, techniques. But again, you know, all these things that just kind of help us, um, you know, build that muscle for, for living in uncertainty because I think we’re [00:45:00] all, you know, the pandemic definitely exposed us to it all more than ever, but I think it’s something so many of us are just continuing to live in almost every day in different.

definitely. Yeah. And I, it’s such a big part of, of adolescent life too, regardless of what’s happening in the world, Hey. Yeah. And at a time when your brain can’t quite necessarily hold the nuance and the gray area so much, it’s still such black and white thinking. Yeah. So to have spaces to talk about this kind of stuff and to learn some of these things just.

Amazing. Magical . Yes, . Well, and I think making a fund’s important too. Right. And that’s why I just love using, you know, whether it’s existing stories or, you know, writing, you know, and creating their own types of, of media can be helpful too. But there’s just so many great examples, and I mean, and real people’s.

Stories too, right? I mean, as much as I know that there’s so much negative news out there that we try and turn off and avoid at times, there’s also some really great stories out there too. And, um, you know, some really powerful youth stories even too of just, you know, whether it’s athletes or, you know, people who’ve done other great work in this world where, you know, a lot of that’s come from very uncertain situations that they’ve been in our head to navigate.

And I think there’s power in, in reading those stories and, and just kind of exploring that. , I remember you running a class for us in the online academy that was all about characters and stories and looking at their strengths and, and, um, and opening up discussions about that too. It was wonderful. Oh, thank you.

Yeah, no, I just, I think it’s a powerful way to connect. Um, I think it’s a powerful way to connect with adults too, but, um, I think it’s, I’ve used it in the business world, um, but I think it’s a powerful way to connect with youth, um, because, you know, just popular culture and pop popular media, it’s, it’s a great way to relate and open up the conversation without coming in and just talking, you know.

Let’s talk about how we develop your psychological flexibility today. . Boring. Like, I wouldn’t want someone, like, I don’t wanna hear that. So just, yeah, exploring through, you know, through characters and movies and, and plays and all these different media forms. I’ve used art a bit too. Um, you know, and there’s just, there’s power in just, you know, exploring those different media forms, those positive media forms and, you know, and letting them really kind of embody some of those skills and start to, to build, you know, kind of model them.

Um, and once they see them in others and, and let that start to become part of who they. Oh, I love that. Yay. Well, uh, where can we, where can we find you, Sarah? How can we connect with you? Um, so ins, I’m on Instagram. Um, my, uh, handle is Sarah with an H, Sarah j found, f o u n d. Uh, so I am on Instagram. Um, I do have a, a newer website, um, so I can be found there.

So it’s, um, the positive psychology playground.com. Um, so those are probably the two best places to find me right [00:48:00] now. Um, but yeah, I have some, you know, some another new exciting online space that I’m gonna be building in the coming months that, um, that I’ll updates about. That’ll be on the, on Instagram as well too.

Um, but yeah, because I’m just, I’m all about story and media and, and how to, um, to bring that together in a, in a way that you can really relate to that too as well. Amazing. Oh, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us and, and what you’ve been learning and what you’re passionate about, and some really, really great practical tools that, that we can share with the young people in our lives and take on board for ourselves too.

It’s been wonderful. Ah, well thank you so much for having me and for all the work you do and just, you know, I learned so much through my time with you and I just think, you know, again, there. Huge value to, you know, having more and more youth mentors out there doing this work. And I think, you know, if I share one last message today, it’s just, you know, in my own journey I went back to do my degree because I just was so passionate about positive psychology.

Um, but you know, like I said towards the beginning, there is just so much need with youth out there right now. And, and it’s not all about, you know, Having therapists in one-on-one environments, it’s a lot about, you know, just creating really, you know, safe spaces like you said, for youth and, and you know, where they can openly commute and you can kind of guide different activities and discussions in that.

So I think the work you are doing and, you know, all the mentors that are coming in are just so, um, just more and more important as we have more and more uncertainty in the world. Yeah, absolutely. Oh, thanks for sharing that. Yeah, and I loved what you said at the start too, about, um, You know, feeling, getting ourselves to a point where we feel ready and confident to hold that space now, even though we’re imperfect, even though we don’t have 15 degrees.

You know, finding a way to, to get the skills we need to get started and, and, and then finding that confidence through practice. Um, obviously in a, in a safe way, of course, especially when we’re working with young people. But, um, yeah, getting out there and starting the convers. Yeah, no . Exactly. Yeah. And I think it’s just, you know, the biggest thing I’ve learned is, you know, again, it’s, it’s having that confidence, but it’s the confidence and that you’re, I reali you can read a million books.

You’re not gonna have the confidence until you’re just, if they’re in the field and doing the work. And I think, you know, for anybody that’s feeling like, you know, I’m not enough or I don’t know enough, or whatever, there are so many people out there that are waiting for you, that need your help, that need you.

Be comfortable with who you are right now, where you are. And if you show up as perfect, you’re probably not gonna be able to connect with them anyway. So youth. I know I’m the mom of a teenager too. Nobody’s looking for perfect . Yeah. My son and I have the best conversations when I’m the most imperfect version of me.

Yeah. Well, oh, it’s a beautiful reminder. Thank you,[00:51:00] . 


Amanda: How good was that? You can catch Sarah at our youth mentor conference. She’s actually joining us on the panel of what’s going on for youth around the world. Um, and I give mental conference starts on the 27th of February. It goes for three days. It’s um, all of it’s live except for one pre-recorded session. Everything else is happening. Live on zoom. 

It’s all virtual, you can join from anywhere and recordings will be provided to everyone who purchases a ticket. So you, um, yeah, whether you can actually join us live for those three days, or just want to make sure that you’ve got access to those recordings for it for one or two sessions, you can make it work for you. 

I’m so, so thrilled about this. We’ve brought together the most amazing group of experts in the youth field again. Um, yeah. So if you didn’t come to last year’s youth mentor conference, Um, if you did come you’ll know how great it is and if you didn’t come. Um, I highly highly recommend that you come and check this out. It’s kind of like three days worth of. 

Um, this amazing podcast on steroids. We’ve got so many of the guests from the, from the podcast to joining us at the conference and you’ll be able to ask them questions and really connect with them as well. Um, yeah, we’re covering all sorts of things from. This panel that Sarah is featured on with what’s going on for youth around the world. And, and Sarah is joining us from Canada. We’ve got a couple of people joining us from the us. Um, Australia last year’s panel was sort of the other end of the time zone. So we’re focusing on, on, on this other part of the world for, for this one. 

Um, one of the other highlights from the youth mentor conference last year, which we’re repeating again, this year is a panel of young people where you get to really tap in and listen to, what they need and what they’re looking for. From the adults around them, it was such a fantastic chat. And, um, a lot of them are coming back again this year, which will be great. 

And then we’ve got really potent, sessions. So, um, someone’s doing a wonderful, seminar on creating neuro affirming environments for young people. We’ve got someone, um, it’s always a mix of are those really practical skills and ways of upleveling, the way that we hold space for young people and, um, the stuff around growing a youth mentor business as well. So if you have your own business or a coach or mentor or something like that, or you’re thinking about, you know, you’re kind of sitting there dreaming about stepping away from teaching or, um, any, any other career really and you’ve just got this pool and this calling to work with young people. Then the conference is a really great way to get, um, a good overview of a bunch of different ways that you can work in this field. It’s a great way to, um, add some tools to your toolkit and, um, yeah. Get a sense of whether this is the kind of space and community that you’d love to be in. So yeah, whether you’re established and work with young people already, or whether you’re just kind of [00:54:00] feeling things out. Um, You don’t get something magical at this conference. 

So I head to youth-mentor-conference.com. To book your tickets. It’s only $125 Aussie dollars. Um, which works out to be quite a bit less in us dollars. Um, if you’re, if you’re a us listener, Uh, but yeah, come, come and check it out. Check out the lineup, even just to, just to see the sorts of amazing people that are in the world doing this work, it’s like all on one page and you can just ah, revel in the awesomeness that is this youth mentoring space and, and get a sense of, um, how much love and support and passion there is in this world. Of supporting the next generation. Okay, I’m going to stop rambling at you now. I hope you loved this episode. Um, and I look forward to being in your ears for the next one. 

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