Make it a Happier New Year

By Brian Disney, IPLI Mentor and Principal at Mooresville High School

If you are like me (and like most other school administrators), you are a hardworking, goal-driven leader who moves quickly from one challenge to the next.  You identify a need, develop a plan to address the need, and then implement the plan to achieve success.  Before evaluating the success of the plan, you quickly move onto the next challenge and follow the same pattern.  You are constantly working to solve problems and address challenges in management, instruction, curriculum, personnel, student behavior, etc.  You are constantly focused on the next challenge in your building while waiting for the next change from the State Board or State Legislature.  At the end of each semester, you take a little bit of time to review how well you have addressed the challenges and determine your level of success.  The amount of happiness you have is then dependent upon how successful you have been in meeting all of these challenges.

Shawn Achor (2010) states that the paradigm of productivity and success leading to happiness is backwards.  Rather, happiness comes first, and when we are happy, we are more productive and successful.  We need to focus on being happy (not based upon our success) and this will lead to better results.  Therefore, I encourage you to make it a “Happier New Year” which will lead to greater success.

When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, we often make grandiose plans to make wholesale changes to our lives.  When we do not achieve success with our resolutions, we feel like we have failed and judge ourselves harshly.  Therefore, I propose adopting a small change which can make a big difference.  One way to be happier is to focus on positives and be grateful for them.  These gratitude activities start to rewire our brains to look for the positive things happening in your school and life rather than focusing on the negatives and challenges.  Below are three strategies to help you be more grateful in 2018:

  • 3 Gratitudes: At the end or the beginning of each day, list three distinct good things for which you are grateful for that day.
  • Gratitude Journal: A variation of 3 Gratitudes is to journal daily about one good thing that happened that day. Journal in more detail about the event to relive the event in your mind.
  • Positive Notes: Write 5 more positive notes a week to staff members and students for things you have observed. This also helps with visibility in the building while looking for positive things to write about in the notes.

In addition to these gratitude ideas, Achor (2011) proposes three additional ideas in a Ted Talk.  He suggests:

  • Exercise: Daily aerobic exercise has many benefits including being happier and more productive.
  • Meditation: Quiet time to focus also has many health and work benefits. [For some, prayer might also be an alternative to meditation.]
  • Random or Intentional Acts of Kindness: Doing acts of kindness for others makes them and ourself happier.

To make these a habit, one needs to complete these activities for 3-4 weeks.  Try to find ways to make one of these a part of your routine.  By focusing on one of these small acts, you can “Make it a Happier New Year!”

Achor, S. (2010). The happiness advantage: The seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. New York: Crown Publishing Group.

Achor, S. (2011). The secret to better work. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work#t-656011).