8 positive psychology tips for education administrators

Principals and superintendents are leaders and role models for their community, for other administrators, for staff, and for parents. Often, they are parents themselves. A December 2016 Gallup poll found that 46% of teachers feel high daily stress - the same percentage as nurses and physicians - and the numbers might be higher for administrators. This career is not without great responsibility and long hours, and it is natural to occasionally falter in direction or motivation, getting caught up in the difficulties of the job.

As a science, positive psychology relies on empirically tested, proven theories and interventions that are best for wellbeing. Positive psychology exists to answer the question: “How can I achieve my full potential while finding more happiness?” It focuses more on the positive aspects of life - wellness, joy, creativity, and hope - than on using psychology as a reaction to pathology.

Here are 8 practices that will help you become more resilient, confident, and aware in the workplace

  1. Schedule time for unscheduled time to avoid Friday’s “It’s the weekend…. Now, what?” feeling, to avoid "relaxation guilt," and to stop making excuses for why you should just keep working. Pack away a few hours of the week to hike, enjoy your hobbies, or try something new - avoid staying in bed for too long or you might feel like you have wasted your free time on a non-activity.
  2. Start your day by remembering 5 things you are grateful for. Why are you grateful for your job? Take this time to get in touch with the deeper personal meaning that you tie to your work. Do you help improve the lives of others or solving interesting social or organizational puzzles on a daily basis?
  3. A big aspect of workplace happiness is “flow,” which refers to a state of productivity or being “in the zone.” What gets you into a state of flow at work? When do you forget that hours have passed, and emerge from a task feeling refreshed and proud of your work? To maximize time for what you most enjoy and are best at, make a list of ideas of how you might be able to delegate anti-flow tasks that leave you drained.
  4. Happiness in the workplace is often dependent on mutual harmony and successful communication with coworkers, staff, and community members, so find ways to be more positive and understanding in your interaction. Remember that most people who disagree with you simply have a different way of tackling ideas. Build your community by offering to help others solve problems.
  5. Also, remember that you are not alone. Make sure you are not taking too much upon your own shoulders - know how much of a workload you can handle and ask for help.                                                          
  6. When you come up against unsurpassable obstacles, political or otherwise, you don’t have to be unrealistically optimistic, but it is important to fall forward and look to how you are influencing the next week, month, and year, right now.
  7. Mindfulness meditation can help you work through negative thoughts, focus on solutions, deal with stress, sleep better, and much more. We write about it here.
  8. If you are feeling overwhelmed, partner these steps with mindfulness techniques:
  9. Accept your anxiety or other negative feelings. Do this within a space set aside for meditation. Let emotions pass through you without further consideration. Instead, focus on the present moment and get in tune with your body and mind.
  • Lower your heart rate through the focus on your breath.
  • Recognize the thought patterns that make you feel overwhelmed, and try to forge new mental connections in relation to your tasks. Think of the best possible outcomes.
  • Who can you lean on that has been through similar problems? Find a mentor.
  • Recognize if you are unnecessarily worrying about something you can’t control.
  • Focus on one responsibility at a time. Multitasking makes you less effective.
  • Make a list of 5-10 ways you could solve your most pressing problem, and take a first-step action. It can, and often should be one small step in the right direction. People most often feel overwhelmed by a huge, looming goal, so break it down into bite-size pieces for today.

The idea may not be expressed often enough, but your happiness is more important to your success than any other factor because fulfillment drives the greatest accomplishments. After all, a leader cannot be at their most effective if they are weighed down psychologically, or the negativity will bleed into their community, magnifying existing problems.

As a leader in your community, are you refining your leadership skills on a regular basis and reaching out to other leaders regarding best practices? ACSA’s personal development programs and other excellent educational services, such as conferences and training sessions, are designed for administrative leaders to discover new perspectives and implement solutions to some of today's most important educational issues. ACSA also offers a one-on-one mentorship program that is free to members.
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