1 Helpful Way to Be Happy as a Teacher

Most of us on one day or another wonder why happiness is so difficult to hold on to.

In a fascinating TED talk, Dan Gilbert said some things on the science of happiness that have really stuck with me. 

Gilbert shared a story about a study where participants were asked to paint two pictures. All of the participants were told they could choose only one painting to take home. Some of the participants were told that if they changed their minds, they could come back and exchange. The other participants were told they would not be able to exchange pictures. Their decision was final. 

Researchers followed up with participants and discovered that those who were not allowed to exchange their pictures reported being happier about their decision.

Then the study got even more interesting. Researchers interviewed students on a university campus about who they thought would be happier: those who could exchange or those who couldn’t. 

Almost everyone who participated in the survey said they believed that those who could exchange their pictures would be happier. 

We are pretty bad about knowing what actually makes us happy.

We often think that keeping our options open will make us happy because we are less likely to miss out on better opportunities. What happens instead is that we constantly second-guess everything, search for flaws, compare…and make ourselves unhappy.

Surprisingly—or maybe not so surprisingly—it’s when we make a decision and stick with it wholeheartedly—seeing it through, refusing to give up—that brings the most satisfaction, happiness, joy.

Basically, missing out on some greener grass will not make you unhappy, but always searching for it will.

Nothing really worth doing comes easily, not good marriages, not good finances, and, since this is a teaching blog, not good teachers. 

When you are dealing with difficult children, or handling angry parents, or slugging through administrative busy-work, and you are tempted to compare, or to second-guess, remember that every job has its ups and downs, its frustrations and difficulties. 

If we are finding happiness—joy—hard to hold on to, it may not be because things are too difficult or we would be happier doing something else, it might be because we still have one foot in the exit.

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