Thursday, July 11, 2013

Happiness

One of my favorite summer time activities is sitting outside on my back patio (actually, it's really a little concrete slab, but I call it my patio) and reading. While my summer selections dabble in a bit of everything I am definitely a fiction person, and I tend to lean towards realistic fiction stories and fantasies.

But this summer I'm seeing a different trend. To say that the last year has been challenging for us (see here and here just to highlight two) is a little bit of an understatement. Even though there were many successes, like this one and this one, I've having a hard time seeing the forest through the trees. Prior to this year if you had asked me to describe myself I would have said I was a happy, positive person who always tried to look for the bright side of the situation. Now, I'm not sure I would say that about myself.

Sadly, the many challenging experiences of the past 13 months have changed the way I react to the world around me, and I do not like the person I've become. While I was in school I was able to "fake it 'til I make it" and I could put on a happy face for my students and most coworkers. Unfortunately that meant that those closest to me, my husband and closest friends, usually got me not faking it. I know that I haven't been the best person to them, and I know I have not been the best person to myself.

All of this has really had me thinking since school got out, and while I started off with my usual fun fiction reading, I've shifted gears this past week. My book selections now are nonfiction and deal with mindset and happiness. I know I've changed as a person, I can see the areas where I've changed, and I'm wondering what I can do to move beyond these situations that I cannot change.

I started with Carol Dweck's book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. I've read articles by Dr. Dweck, mentioned her many times here on the blog, and I've had the book since Christmas break, but I never made the time to read it. Now that I'm working my way through it I'm realizing how much of a growth mindset I have when it comes to my students and my role as a teacher and how much of a fixed mindset I have when it comes to my personal life. I'm often too scared to try new things because I'm afraid of failing or what people will think of me, and failures in my personal life often cause me to react with an "I can't do it so why bother" response. Now that this has slapped me in the face, my goal is to be more mindful of how I am responding to situations and try to approach them with the same growth mindset I would use when I'm approaching the classroom.

The more I read, the more I realize that the fixed mindset I have in my personal life, combined with some of the things that have happened, has lead me to blame outside circumstances and feel and act helpless. As I type that statement, as I SEE it written in words, I realize exactly how ridiculous it is. While I certainly can't prevent others' actions, I have complete control over how I respond to every thing that happens. But that's not how I've been acting. It's taken me a LONG time to realize (admit?) this "poor me" attitude, but now that I have I know it's up to me to do something about it.

With that thought in mind, I've also been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I'm not usually one to read two books at the same time, but these two really seem to be complimenting each other given my current situation and realizations. While my situation is certainly nothing like Gretchen's, it's just interesting to get other people's perspectives on what makes a person happy. I'm starting to come up with my own list as I read, and I'm already thinking about how my own personal happiness project can help me get to where I want to be.

So why did I write this? I guess it was mostly because it was time for me to admit what was going on. Kinda like GI Joe used to say at the end of his cartoons when I was little: "And knowing is half the battle!"

I know. I've put it out there for the world to see. Now it's time to act.

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