Changing our mental outlook

I’m generally a pretty happy person (I think. How do you measure that?), but I do often enjoy wallowing in a good b*tch session. Yesterday, for example, my classroom computer took so a half hour to load and then I couldn’t actually access the internet. It made me so angry and I spiraled into an anger cycle of increasing fury: Oh great, the internet won’t work! It probably never will! Why doesn’t our school board have better infrastructure? How am I supposed to do my job??!! Now some of these concerns are legitimate, but dwelling on them doesn’t do me or the students any good.

Then yesterday I watched the following Ted X talk at an elearning staff meeting:

Of course this message meshes very nicely with our board’s current focus on having a growth mindset. And it’s a very simple message: Success is not the road to happiness; happiness is the road to success. But that sounds a little to trite without elaboration:

Many of my students are labouring under the impression that if they just work harder and get better marks, they will be happier. But as Achor states in the video, we keep moving the goal posts, and we’re never actually satisfied. But if we instead reverse this formula and begin with a positive mental outlook, we are more productive, more creative, and more focused. The key of course is establishing that positive mindset.

Achor mentions specific strategies that, when used for 21 days, helped rewire brains to start scanning for the positive things in life, rather than the negative. The specific strategies were journaling, random acts of kindness, exercise, meditation, and gratitude.

So after watching this video and discussing this with my students, I asked if they’d mind if we gave it a shot–starting each class for the next 21 days with something that trained our brains to focus on the good. Like taking the first two minutes of class to send a nice note or text to someone, or spending two minutes just meditating. Or stretching. The cynic in me is embarrassed that I’d even consider this but the optimist in me figures, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” It costs us nothing to try.

So I’ll keep you posted!

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