This year my team and I are emphatically focused on leading with strategic and deliberate happiness. Focusing on happiness in every situation, every student, every classroom, every disruption, every homeless application, every everything. Let me be clear about what I mean about leading with happiness, or rather a “happiness mindset”. Its looking for the positive in situations, not ignoring what needs work, and remaining positive about the work ahead of us. Deliberately looking to what is right in every situation instead of dwelling on the negative or what is missing. This takes a lot of effort and modeling. To be honest, I have found it to be one of the most rewarding strategies thus far in my professional and personal career. It is not a strategy that I suggest anyone implement if they are not completely bought in as you will quickly be “discovered” by your staff and students and be perceived as inauthentic. In all interactions with my school family, I model my focusing on the positive.
For example, the first few days of school our bus company subcontracted our school’s bus route. We have two school shifts and this meant, that for both of my shifts, our incoming students were significantly late - upwards to 40 minutes. Lateness like this can wreak havoc on a schedule, especially when your team has worked on delivering a message to ALL, and is very strategic and deliberate. Each time I interacted with anyone, my message was focused on the positive, “Yes, the buses are late each shift, but this gives our students who don’t typically eat breakfast an opportunity to eat breakfast; What a great opportunity for us to talk to students individually regarding what they are looking forward to this year; We will not have to worry about any commuters being late and missing the message; You get a chance to relax a little longer this morning and listen to some tunes before we get started, is there anything you need for school that you have not yet picked up?” Admittedly, at first, continuous positive messages are responded with looks like, MacBury medicated??? Yet, it didn’t take long to become our norm.
Our nine year old son, Kieran plays Pokemon GO nonstop, in the car, around our house, loves road trips because he can catch Pokemon to add to his Pokedex. It is quite normal to hear him shout out from the back of the car, “Mom, can you slow down so I can hit this Pokestop?” as we are driving down an interstate. One evening he came into the bedroom and said that he can see Pokemon jumping up in thin air without his phone. Should I have confiscated his ipod immediately and put a break in his Pokemon Go game playing? Maybe. The reality of his Pokemon hallucinations is called “cognitive after imaging”, a normal optical illusion our brains play on us anytime we look at an image too long. This likely has happened to you after Prom or a birthday when multiple people were taking flash photos of you and you get those blue or green dots in your eyes for a few seconds. The after image is the residual effect of the flash that momentarily burned that image into your field of vision. When Kieran plays Pokemon GO for hours, the Pokemon literally get stuck in his field of vision causing him to involuntarily see a Pidgey, Weedle, and Caterpie. Taking it a step further, extended periods of Pokemon GO play can literally change the wiring of Kieran’s brain and change the way he perceives real life situations. (Trust me, there is a lot of scientific studies behind this, as well as concern for our children playing violent video games, but that is not the purpose of this example). The science of it is real,long and tedious and most may find boring. My point here is the science is the science; why not use the science for the power of good.
Using the power of focusing on what is positive and good, genuinely and often can have the same effect as Pokemon GO had on Kieran. Soon our brains are trained to look for what is right in a situation, what is good. When my school family is looking for what is right, instead of what is wrong in every day, school not only feels better, it functions better. In “The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?” Psychological Bulletin- Lyubomirsky, King & Diener report that the consequences of being focused on the positive is directly related to our career success relative to our ability to spot and then capitalize on opportunities. They show that “armed with positivity” the brain can stay open to possibility. This is called “predictive encoding”, preparing your brain to look for the positive in opportunities actually trains your brain to recognize positive opportunities or options when goal achievement would likely be possible. Think about that for a moment… this means we have the power to harness all that our students achieve over the course of 12 years of PreK-12 schooling to maximize every opportunity they encounter. How? By training their brains to focus on what is right, to look at the positive. That is a simple yet powerful message for me and my school family.
We are not abandoning our work with technology and our personalized learning portal. We have not given up on our Career and College Awareness initiative. We continue our vision, “Together, inspiring lifelong success through personalization.” The difference this makes for us is that every day, we look for what is right, what is positive, and we call it out. It takes diligence but it also cost nothing. It feels good, it is contagious and there are immediate rewards. Be a conduit of POSITIVE ENERGY and change the way your school community thinks. You only have positive outcomes to gain!