Friday, April 15, 2011

Silver Lining

All of us will face hard times. Leaders, teachers, students, and families will all encounter setbacks, disappointments, even - disaster. As a school leader, we need to first manage ourselves in the midst of struggles and setbacks, then assist our staff and students to do the same.

Recently I've come across a couple resources that provide excellent tips on getting through hard times healthier on the other side. The Harvard Business Review Ideacast recently interviewed Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He has done some fascinating work with the military to test out his hypothesis about optimism and resiliency. Many of us our familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its devastating consequences. But, have you heard of Post Traumatic Growth Syndrome? It turns out an equal number of people come through great trauma actually stronger than when they started. Furthermore, the vast majority of people in between the two extremes are resilient and survive their trauma by returning to a state equally as good as before the trauma. The major difference between the first group and the the last two is optimism. Those that have a sense that things will eventually turn out better, tend to be correct. It's a self fulfilling prophecy with significant lifetime effects.

This idea was also covered by Michael Hyatt who came up with seven questions to ask yourself when facing adversity. One of his questions was:
What does this experience make possible?
There are so many examples in life where great discoveries and accomplishments were born out of loss, failure, and defeat. I read recently an article in The Week magazine about a gentleman who was mugged and hit over the head. He subsequently went to the doctor, where a brain scan found a previously undetected tumor that was removed. Basically, those muggers saved his life. For the rest of us, we can build resiliency in ourselves and those we work with and live with by modeling and teaching a positive response to challenges. I'm definitely keeping this in mind as we face the end of a school year with many teachers facing job uncertainty because of our continuing budget reductions.

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