I started this school year with a simple idea. Inspired by a TED Talk from Shawn Achor (
@shawnachor), The Happy Secret to Better Work, I worked to retrain my brain to scan for the positive by tweeting out 3 things every work day for which I was grateful. I used the hashtag #gratitude180 because there are roughly 180 days in a school year, and I liked the connotation that one could do a 180 degree turnaround in attitude by focusing on the positive.
I tweeted faithfully for 21 days. And, I will say, it was the most positive start to a school year I can remember. But, then I quit. And, I’d been feeling bad about it ever since.
That is, until I watched the Day 2 video for #DitchSummit, a free, online conference. Matt Miller (@jmattmiller) author of Ditch That Textbook interviewed Kim Strobel (@strobeled), education consultant and happiness coach about The Science of Happiness for Teachers and Students.
As I watched Kim talk about the science behind happiness, it felt like I had been on the right track. So, where did I go wrong? Then, as Kim was talking about perfection, it hit me. I realized that tweeting everyday had become more about keeping up a perfect record of gratitude tweets than the gratitude itself. As Kim pointed out in her #DitchSummit talk, “social media magnifies the pressure of being everything to everyone.” I needed to give myself permission to be imperfect. Kim suggested a technique from Brene Brown (@BreneBrown), author of The Gifts of Imperfection. Brene says you should write yourself a permission slip on a post-it, giving yourself permission to be imperfect in whatever way you need.
So, here’s mine.
I also realized that I might need to take my gratitude journal a little more private. This was part of why I had been feeling bad. I had run into a former colleague who made a comment about how much I tweet, and I had started to worry that I was clogging up my followers’ Twitter feeds with gratitude tweets that were probably only meaningful to me.
According to Kim, “The human brain has 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day and on average 80% are negative. 95% of the negative thoughts are on repeat throughout the day. We
need to find ways to break this cycle.”
I had let a negative comment about my tweeting play on repeat in my head and suddenly #gratitude180 was backfiring. I was letting cynical win.
So, I’m recommitting today to my #happinesshabit.
To Achor’s original suggestions–
- Make a list of three positive things from your workday
- Journal about one of those things in order to relive the memory
- Start your day off the next day by writing a thank you email or note expressing your gratitude to someone
I’m adding some of Kim’s ideas–
- Write yourself imperfection permission slips on post-its
- Have a phrase or mantra that affirms your values (could also be on a post-it) that you go back to throughout the day
- Take 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time in your day that is just for you
- Be mindful to keep your cup overflowing and only give away “the excess” so you don’t deplete yourself
- Scale back and play more
I’m also going to start using the hashtag #gratitude180 again, but this time I will use it a little more selectively. I’ll share my progress in my journey toward a #happinesshabit and share great ideas I hear to extend the gratitude. I invite you to join me! And, I encourage you to checkout #DitchSummit for more info about this topic and the rest of the great PJ PD you’ll find!