Monday, July 29, 2013

Maybe We Are Saving Dolphins

            One of the things I’ve always looked forward to about summers is the time to get caught up on some leisurely reading. It’s been a challenge this summer with more work than normal but I’ve managed to take advantage of time on planes and in airports. A recent book that has grabbed my attention (and spawned the title of this post) is “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor. I haven’t completed it but have been inspired by the first one hundred pages.
            Achor suggests that while there are some folks for whom positivity comes more naturally, he maintains that all can reap the numerous benefits of happiness. He states, “happiness is not just a mood – it’s a work ethic”. In the seven suggestions he provides to access the happiness advantage, three resonated with me in my current and previous work roles: commit conscious acts of kindness, infuse positivity into your surroundings, and exercise a signature strength.
            Committing conscious acts of kindness involves doing this deliberately and consciously, not recalling how your week went and recording the nice things you did. This doesn’t require grand gestures and Achor cites the research of Sonja Lyubomirsky indicating that the feeling of happiness last over many days for the initiator. I don’t often go through a drive-through for my coffee but when I do, I like to pay for the coffee of the person behind me in the line. I’ve never met the driver behind me but know it feels good to contemplate a positive moment that they might be experiencing.
            Infusing positivity into your surroundings speaks to the physical environment we create in our workspace. I know longer have an office where I can display personal mementoes that share some of who I am. I do, however, make a point of having pictures of my grandchildren on my computer screensaver that routinely get displayed in advance of my sessions and generate questions about them. They also never fail to bring a smile to my face and put me in the right frame of mind in advance of sharing with colleagues.
            Exercising a signature strength reminds me that everyone has a talent. During my recent work with teachers, I was reminded of the unique skills each person possesses as we were going through a dip in energy level on our fourth day of working together. Having teachers share their work with each other highlighted some individual strengths that went beyond curriculum design.  We’ve planned a social evening next week to further tap into aspects of individuals that don’t always get revealed in the midst of our work.
            As for the title of this post? Achor shares a story of a Fortune 500 senior level executive who introduced him and the importance of the happiness message by reminding employees that ultimately, it has to be about money and uttered the line, “We’re not saving the dolphins here.” Achor suggests that the message received was around the value of the work these employees were doing. Clearly it was not important stuff but centered on generating money. Let’s be clear here – the work you are doing as educators is significant. You are saving lives and impacting not only the lives of the students in front of you but also the lives they will lead as thriving community and family leaders. The beauty of our work lies not in our ability to predict the future but to create it. And in that realm we are doing more than saving dolphins, we're following a passion. Thanks for all you do to make the future brighter!

1 comment:

  1. What an important reminder of the "soft" skills in our careers. Relationships are the most essential area we can focus on in education. Whether as a teacher or a leader, we make differences in people's lives by the things we do. To shape the future we need to remember that it is the things you mentioned that allow that to happen.

    Another thoughtful post Tom, thank you for reminding me about the difference makers.