- Robert Dunlop
Taking Control of My Happiness
Updated: Mar 20, 2020
I just spent the last four years of my life trying to recapture my happiness in education. And guess what, it worked! I can honestly say that I am as happy now as I was when I entered the profession, but man, this has been a journey!
I gave up being a Personal Trainer for a millionaire to become a teacher. In my early 20s, I lived a jet setting lifestyle flying all over the world living in the richest areas and eating the best food. However, it was not fulfilling enough. I knew I wanted to have a greater impact, a life of greater meaning.
So when I entered this profession, I was pumped and ready to go. I loved everything about teaching. I especially loved learning about the students. I lov
ed how everyday was different. I loved the challenge. I loved it all.
Fast forward 11 years and I was frustrated and ready to try something new. I was actively pursuing a job outside of the profession and ready to pack it all in. I was one signature away from it being official, and I could not do it. I knew this was my calling and decided to reevaluate.
I want to be clear that my love for my students never changed. They were amazing year after year and I truly enjoyed being apart of their lives. What changed was the way that I began to see the profession. My focus began to shift away from what brought me joy to the aspects of the profession that frustrated me. I became increasingly negative and toxic. I began to look for faults in the system and in other educators. I deeply regret my actions during this period in my career, however, I do not regret going through it.
For in this valley, I learned lessons that have reshaped my career and led me to a more sustainable level of happiness in all aspects of my life. Although these were tough times in my career, I am extremely grateful for them.
A pivotal moment in my journey occurred while reading Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. He quoted a study that said, “Our external circumstances predict only about 10% of our happiness.”
Based on my experiences at that time, that number seemed extremely low. I looked up the rest of the study and it said that 50% of happiness was determined by genetics and 40% was determined by stuff we control. Surely all of the negative stuff I was focussed on was valued at more than 10%. Turns out it was not.
My greatest revelations always occur in the shower for some reason. This one was a game changer. With this stat in my head, I began to think about why others on my team were not reacting the way that I was to some of the decisions that were made which set me off. They were not threatening to quit their jobs and spreading the level of toxicity that I was. Then, I got it. It was not the circumstances that made me so unhappy, it was every decision I made after that which put me into this negative space. This was the moment where I realized that I could be in control of my happiness again.
My first step was to take an honest look at the situation and self reflect on my actions. I needed to own the decisions I was making that were taking away from my love of teaching. It became evident to me that I needed to make changes to both my mindset and behaviours.
In Before Happiness by Shawn Achor, he says that happy and successful people can create multiple realities of the same situation and choose the one that has the most positive outcome. I never saw reality as subjective until this day. I learned that we create our reality by selecting what we focus on. It was at that moment that I decided to create a reality that would help me reconnect to my love of teaching.
I shifted my focus back to students, my amazing team, learning and helping others. The more I focussed on this, the less I ruminated on the negative aspects that I was fixated on before. I loved the way this felt, I had more energy and work was becoming fun again.
The idea of being happier became not only a goal but a passion. I started reading about positive psychology, writing down my thoughts, and engaging in conversations with teachers who were well into their careers and still very happy.
Eventually I wanted to share what I was learning to all that would listen. Whether that was over a drink, running a workshop or keynoting a conference, I just wanted other educators to know that they have more control over their happiness than they might realize.
To amplify my message, I recently published a book called STRIVE for Happiness in Education with Edumatch. Writing this book was the best form of self-therapy I could have invested my time into. It helped me engage deeply in this area of study for three years. I lived each chapter and learned so much about myself.
Even though the book is published now, I do not want this journey to end. That is why I have committed to a continuation of learning and reflection through blogging. I hope you join me on this journey through my blog (motivatEDU.com). I hope we can connect, learn together and help other educators find the happiness in education that they deserve.