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To achieve happiness in our position, we need to look no further than ourselves. Happiness is an inside job. It starts with our perspective. Happy school leaders create their own experiences and outcomes. They realize if they wait for things to “calm down” to feel better, they may be waiting a long time.

While it’s tempting to blame environmental factors on our disappointment or frustration, an absence of challenging circumstances is no guarantee for a happy work life.

Consider 10 tips to working happy.

1. Avoid the bad trap. While it’s okay to have a bad day every now and again, a bad week or bad month is unacceptable. When something unpleasant happens, look for the silver lining.

2. Bounce forward. When we spend too much time mulling over an unpopular decision or lamenting a mistake, we create a downward spiral from which recovery can be difficult. Bouncing forward means growing a little leather. Recovering quickly from adversity moves us into more pleasant encounters.

3. Let go of grudges and jealousy. Success is a limitless commodity. Wishing we had more of it than someone else is emotionally taxing. Put the happy cart before the grudge cart, and success will come before you know it.

4. Stop searching for greener pastures. Happiness remains elusive for people who maintain the “grass is greener” syndrome. Searching for greener pastures causes restlessness. Rather than wonder if there’s something better out there, happy school leaders spend their time and energy focusing on what they have where there are.

5. Go with the flow. If you’re always swimming upstream, eventually you’ll drown. Rather than push against prevailing behavior and attitudes, turn around once in awhile. Let reality take you where it takes you. You may end up in an invigorating place.

6. Keep learning. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Research shows that the brain never stops learning. Our own learning can be a huge lever for motivating the rest of the work culture.

7. Less is more. “Busyness” is the number one reason leaders give for not taking care of the most vital work in schools: learning. If the “acceleration trap” is forcing you to focus on the urgent rather than the important, reclaim your priorities immediately.

8. Duck into a classroom. You can be having the worst day in the world, but if you hang out with students for a few minutes, a terrible day becomes a not-so-bad day in a matter of seconds.

9. Hang out with other happy people. Although we may not have a choice about the staff we work with, we do have a choice about how much time we spend with happy vs. unhappy staff members. Happiness is contagious. Catch it and spread it like a cold!

10. Practice. Better habits and skills come with practice. Don’t try to become happy overnight. Take baby steps to build stamina. Keep track of your progress in a happiness journal.


Free Resource: Demonstrating Your Leadership from the First Day

A Principal’s Guide to Making Every Day Count Whether this is your first year as a principal or your twenty-first, A Principal’s Guide to Making Every Day Count is the perfect all-purpose resource for helping you stay focused on your priorities and specific actions for running your school smoothly and efficiently. Each chapter of this 233-page book focuses on a different area of a principal’s work and also contains tips for communication and leadership, a checklist to help you organize your efforts, and reflection questions.



Allison, E. (2011/2012). The resilient leader. Educational Leadership, 69(4), 79-82.

Thought for the Week

When we understand another person’s perspective, what they are thinking and feeling, we are better able to relate to them and understand their needs.

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