Imagine a world where humans walk around with light bulbs attached to the tops of their heads. The light bulbs are an indicator of the person's happiness, contentment and positive mindset. In a perfect world, everyone’s bulbs would be glowing brightly. Doesn’t that sound fabulous? The whole world would be lit up, full of energy, calm and cheerful. But what would it be like if everyone simultaneously let fear, worry, anger, pain, and pessimism consume them? The bulbs would quickly lose energy and lose power at the same time. The doom and gloom of darkness would feel extremely unsettling because no one wants to live in a world of darkness. But this isn’t a perfect world, we can’t avoid struggles, and life happens. Therefore, it would be unrealistic for everyone’s light bulbs to stay glowing brightly forever. There will be moments when even the most optimistic person’s bulb dims. The key question is, how can we give our light bulbs just a little more energy and boost the glow?
Recently, New York had a massive power outage that resulted in 70,000 customers without power that included major landmarks such as Rockefeller Center and Times Square. The sudden darkness left civilians and tourists feeling uneasy, sad, and maybe even angry that their vacations, date nights, and performances were canceled. Interestingly, people naturally brought a bit of light to this darkness. Civilians volunteered to direct traffic, The cast of Hamilton sang loud and proud out the windows of the Richard Rodgers Theater after the show was canceled, and the Millennial Choir and Orchestra held an impromptu concert outside of Carnegie Hall. Instead of focusing on the loss occurring from the power outage, these groups had a positive mindset and declared that the show must still go on. As a result, people experienced music in a unique and profound way that moved them to tears. There was light among the darkness.
I work in education and it is the time of year when school employees are preparing for a brand new school year. School staff return with their light bulbs glowing so brightly you can feel the positive energy in the school. Staff walk through the doors at the end of summer vacation renewed, refreshed, and highly motivated to start the year with a positive mindset. The extra time off creates a surge in the brain chemical dopamine which brings feelings of deep satisfaction, reduced stress, increased motivation, and cheerful alertness.
The sobering reality in education is that it doesn’t take long for the optimism to quickly change to worry, pessimism, and fear. Educators begin to worry about what kind of year it is going to be and if they will be able to handle the huge responsibility they have to serve their students, families and the school. The light bulbs start to dim. Next comes long meetings, creating new strategies for a challenging caseload, a never ending back to school to-do list, new curriculum and programs to learn, and building relationships with new colleagues. Falling into this trap of negative thinking results in quick burn out and a very long, dark, school year.
Even the ultimate optimist is human and will struggle with maintaining a positive mindset. It takes more than just happy thoughts to carry you through a potentially stressful year. So how can educators whose lights are shining brightly after summer keep their glow all year long?
This is a question that goes beyond the field of education. It applies to anyone who feels their light bulb might be dimming and worries it might burn out for good.
I love studying psychology so in the next few weeks I would like to explore this topic a little deeper through a book study. The timing is perfect for me personally, but I invite anyone whose light bulb may have already burned out from worry, fear, anger, and pessimism, or those whose bulbs are burning brightly from a positive mindset and just want to keep their bulb glowing to read the book with me.
The book I am going to read is The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. It is an international bestseller and ranks high on various top-ten psychology or self-development lists. The book is about believing in yourself, breaking the habit of worry, taking control of your thoughts and changing your attitude. It is important to mention that Peale is a clergyman who writes from a Christian perspective and weaves faith, science, modern medicine, philosophy and psychology together. He includes spiritual techniques as a method of teaching. I would like to encourage anyone, spiritual believer or not, to give it a shot. I haven’t read the book cover to cover yet, but I am predicting that readers will walk away learning a few new practical strategies to apply in life. Peale says his book “teaches a hard, disciplinary way of life, but one which offers great joy to the person who achieve victory over himself and the difficult circumstances of the world.”
Sounds like a great book to study to me! Will you join me?
The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter Sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised. - Peale