Tag Archives: sept2011

The Happiness Advantage – We Do Make Our Own Day!

It is amazing to me how often I am reminded that we each make our own day!

As a parent, I have often pointed out to our three daughters while they were growing up that they in fact “made their own day”.  I wanted them to know that, at least from my perspective, we do “make our own days” – that the attitudes we hold are our own.  And that they are a choice.   I would make the point that they could choose to have a good day or a not so good day. that they were, to a very large extent, in charge of their own day.  I  would of course encourage them to choose to frame their world with a ‘positive frame.”  I am all for choosing to have good days.

Shawn Acher in his book, The Happiness Advantage , (2010) makes the point that we can influence ourselves to be more positive and more productive in our lives both at work and at home.  He doesn’t preach in the book.  He shares scientific findings.  I like that!

Here are some important scientific findings he presents in the book (pages 76 -78): 

More important than believing in your own abilities is believing that you can improve these abilities. Few people have proven this theory more convincingly than Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck whose studies show that whether or not someone believes their intelligence is changeable directly affects their achievement.  Dweck found that people can be split into two categories:  Those with a “fixed mindset” believe that their capabilities are already set, while those with a “growth mindset” believe that they can enhance their basic qualities through effort.   A growth mindset is not dismissive of innate ability; it merely recognizes, as Dweck explains, that “although people may differ in every which way – in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments – everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”  Her research has shown that people with fixed mindsets miss choice opportunities for improvement and consistently underperform, while those with “growth mindsets” watch their abilities move ever upward.


Once we realize how much our reality depends on how we view it, it comes as less of a surprise that our external circumstances predict only about 10 percent of our total happiness.  This is why Sonja Lyubomirsky, a leader in the scientific study of well-being, has written that she prefers the phrase “creation or construction of happiness” to the more popular “pursuit,” since “research shows that it’s in our power to fashion it for ourselves.”   As all these mindset studies have shown, this is true for positive outcomes and success in any other domain.  By changing the way we perceive ourselves and our work, we can dramatically improve our results.

Shawn Archer provides a clear picture of how we do, in fact: Make our own day. The book is loaded with great information.  He shares the Seven Principals of Positive Psychology that fuel success and performance at he has taught at Harvard’s famed Happiness Course and to companies worldwide.

It is an important topic and a terrific book.     






We must invest in education, infrastructure, and research and development, as well as open our society more widely to talented immigrants


The authors of: That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind In The World Is Invented And How We Can Come Back, Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum (pages 9 and 10) have framed the time we Americans live in.  They see possibility.  They have hope.  They acknowledge we have serious work to do.  They have a focus.  What follows are some of their thoughts.

In the last decade especially, we have spent so much of our time and energy–and the next generations money–fighting terrorism and indulging ourselves with tax cuts and she credit that we now have no reserves. We are driving now without a bumper, without a spare tire, and with the gas gauge nearing empty.

Our sense of urgency also derives from the fact that our political system is not properly framing, let alone addressing, our ultimate challenge. Our goal should not be merely to solve America’s debt and deficit problems. That is far too narrow period coping with these problems is important–indeed necessary and urgent–but it is only a means to an end. The goal is for America to remain a great country.

This means that while reducing our deficits, we must also invest in education, infrastructure, and research and development, as well as open our society more widely to talented immigrants and fix the regulations that govern our economy. Immigration, education, and sensible regulation are traditional ingredients of America’s formula for greatness. They are more vital than ever if we hope to realize the full potential of the American people in the coming decades, to generate the resources to sustain our prosperity and to remain the global leader that we have been and that the world needs us to be. We, the authors of this book, don’t want simply to restore American solvency. We want to maintain American greatness.  We are not green-eyeshade guys. We’re Fourth of July guys.

As citizens we need to be willing to see the value of the country being clearly focused. Investing in education, infrastructure, and research and development, as well as opening our society more widely to talented immigrants are all potential political challenges.  Now is the time for citizens to demand that their politicians not fight but work together.  We need people who are willing to have “Thought Through” rather than “Fought Through” the challenges Friedman and Mandelbaum are laying out for us.

Adjusting during the first days of school

Transition is a reality in schools and families with children this time of year.  A new school year means students move from grade to grade.  This time of year, there is a lot of transition going on in the lives of our students. 

Young people face many new situations: the changes of teachers, the changes in buildings, the new role as an upperclassperson, the new role as an underclassperson, a new student to district, siblings in different buildings, siblings left at home or whatever the change. 

These changes are healthy and natural. They provide our young people with new experiences that build upon their established backgrounds. Because this happens every year, it is possible we may not notice how important a growth opportunity it is for young people.

Our world and the world of tomorrow will be full of systems in varying states of change and transition.

As caring parents and adults we need to be willing to provide opportunities for the young people to experience change. We need to celebrate change when it occurs. Successful adaptations to change are to be celebrated and appreciated.

As you talk with your child this fall – talk about the newness of the school year. We can observe.  We can gently probe. We can acknowledge the adjustment they are going through. We can ask how he or she is handling it.

We can have any or all of the following conversations. We can reinforce the acceptance of the struggles change might bring. We can acknowledge the reality that change isn’t necessarily easy or smooth. We need to be sure to point out how well the young person is doing with the new challenges and realities of their new year of school. And of course, we need to celebrate the successful adaptations to change.

Transition and the adjustment to it – is healthy and part of our world. We adults can help young people to move with confidence through an ever-changing world. We can support them and encourage them as they gain their autonomy and independence.



Image by methal_lives via flickr  

Contemplating Schooling in Our Demcratic Society

I Used To Think . . . And Now I Think . . . edited by Richard F. Elmore (2011) is a book that is causing me to ponder and reflect.  Whenever we consider things we might have thought about before yet over time may need to rethink – contemplation occurs. 

The quotes that follow are from Chapter 2 “Metis and the Metrics of Success” by Ernesto J. Cortes, Jr.. All of the content that follows until the questions at the end are the thoughts of Ernesto J. Cotes Jr. 

Cortes goes on to write: Part of the difficulty is that our strategy (Cortes envisioned and launched the Alliance Schools) takes time, or what we refer to as a patient capital. It takes time to develop leaders, to develop relationships, to develop the social knowledge necessary to understand what we know and what we’re learning. It takes time to develop trust.


Another part of the difficulty lies in recognizing the value of work: in our strategy, school reform is never finished. Constant evaluation an annotation is required. Why?  Because conditions change. Populations shift. Technologies emerge. Facilities deteriorate. Resources come and go. Economics falter. Families come under different kinds of pressures all the time–and those are the same families were sending their children to the school. They are the same families whose adults are the parents, the teachers, and the classified workers at the school.


The circumstances alter, and unless the culture of the school is one of ongoing learning and adaptation, one that constantly supports the development of new leaders, then the ability to respond to new and different stimuli is lost.


I would go so far as to suggest that there is no democratic culture without public education–for both our present and our future. As far back as the 1830s, free public education had been promoted as a “crucible of democracy, a blending of all children to function from a common set of values.”1 If we don’t understand how to make our public schools more centers of democratic culture, our way of life as a self-governing people is at risk.


1Jean Anyon, Radical Possibilities: Public Policy, Urban Education, and a New Social Movement (New York: Rutledge, 2005)


What are your reactions?  Do you see schooling as complex or pretty straight forward?  Is having a public school system that attempts to teach everyone crucial to a democratic society?  Does it make sense that public schools and those working in and associoated with public schools would need to be committed to learning and adaptation?




Remembering 9/11

After 9/11 Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Litvin wrote Land Of The Living.  Here are the lyrics and a link to listens to her sing it. 

(Lyrics by Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Litvin,
Music by Lucy Kaplansky)

Land Of The Living

Late afternoon back in New York town
Waking up as the wheels touch down
Pick up my guitar and walk away
Wish I was going home to stay

Line of taxis, I wait my turn
Tar and asphalt, exhaust and fumes
Beside the road on a patch of ground
Taxi drivers are kneeling down

Beneath the concrete sky I watch them pray
While the people of the world hurry on their way
I think they’re praying for us all today
And the stories that fell from the sky that day

This is the land of the living
This is the land that’s mine
She still watches over Manhattan
She’s still holding onto that torch for life

Back home fire’s still burning, I can see it in the air
Pictures of faces posted everywhere
They say “hazel eyes, chestnut hair
Mother of two missing down there”

I pass the firemen on duty tonight
Carpets of flowers in candlelight
And thank you in a child’s scrawl
Taped to the Third Street firehouse wall

There’s shadows of the lost on the faces I see
Brothers and strangers on this island of grief
There’s death in the air but there’s life on this street
There’s life on this street

This is the land of the living
This is the land that’s mine
She still watches over Manhattan
She’s still holding onto that torch for life

Then I got in a taxi, said “Hudson Street please”
He started the meter and he looked at me
I glanced at his name on the back of his seat
And I looked out the window at the ghost filled streets

I noticed cuts on his hand and his face
And I said “You’re bleeding, are you okay?”
He said “I’m not so good, got beat up today
And I’m not one of them no matter what they say

I’m just worried about my family
My wife’s in the house and she’s scared to leave”
And I didn’t know what to say
I didn’t know what to say
But I said a prayer for him anyway

This is the land of the living
This is the land that’s mine
She still watches over Manhattan
She’s still holding onto that torch for life 

Listen and and watch a visual tribute on You Tube by clicking here.   


Collectively we need to act in the interest of our countries common good!

I have just started Thomas L. Friedman’s and Michael Mandelbaum’s new book: That Used To Be Us, (2011).  Wow! I am enjoying it.  Not becaue it is a ‘happy read’ but because it is an intelligent call to action!

Here is are quotes from page 7.  “We are optimists because American society, with its freewheeling spirit, its diversity of opinions and taltnets, its flexible economy, its work ethis and penchant for innovation, is in fact ideally suited to thrive in the tremendously challenging world we are living in.  We are optimists because American political and economic systems, when functioning properly, canharness the nation’s talents and energy to meet the challenges the country faces.  We are optimists because Americans have plenty of experience in doing big, hard things together.  And we are optimists because our track record of national achievement gives ample grounds for believing we can overcome our present difficulties.”

They are also frusterated!

“But that’s also why we’re frusted.  Optimism or pessimism about America’s future cannnot simply be a function of our capacity to do great things or our history of having doone great things.  It also has to be a function of our will actually to do those things agian.  So many American are doing great things today, but on a small scale.  Philanthropy, volunteerism, individual initiative: they’re all impressive, but what the country needs most is collective action on a large scale.”