Recently I had one of “those mornings.” I seemingly woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I just knew it wasn’t going to be a good day.
When I took the dog out for a morning walk, it started to rain. It was going to be a rough day.
I was tired and didn’t want to do my workout. It was the start of, as Judith Viorst shared in a children’s book about Alexander, a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
When I started my swim workout, I began to think about everything on my calendar – all the meetings and obligations ahead of me. It was going to be a long day.
While swimming, I became aware of my negative self-talk – my defeatist attitude. I needed to fix my mindset. It didn’t need to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I had the power to make it a good day.
Whether a teacher or a superintendent, your mindset impacts dozens, potentially hundreds, or even thousands of children daily. My negative mood changes conversations, decisions, and culture if I am undisciplined or lazy in my mindset.
I get to choose my mindset each morning – so do you. We make every interaction better when we are intentional in our self-talk and live with a positive attitude.
Our Culture Playbook in Dublin outlines our three core values. The Latin noun core means heart. Our core values are at the heart of our vision and mission in the Dublin City School District. Our values guide each decision; our values guide our daily behavior.
- Take Responsiveness – Own your Attitude & Action
- Always Growing – Embrace the Journey
- Better Together – Think Team
As educators, we strive to both model and teach these values. Our VBO and Culture Playbook provide clarity and alignment for everyone in our district.
When we live with Active Hope, we have a vision for the future AND the discipline to make that vision a reality. We understand that the idea alone isn’t enough. Our Active Hope gives us focus.
Talent alone isn’t enough; education isn’t enough. There are many educated, talented individuals who are unsuccessful. Active hope is a North Star; active hope provides the discipline to remain focused on the vision.
We all have dreams – visions of what we want in the future. Some of our goals are simply wishes, and that’s natural. It’s natural to dream of winning the Mega Millions and owning your island in the Caribbean. Having a vision for your future and embracing the discipline needed to make that hope a reality is also natural.
As educators, we cultivate a vision of endless possibilities for our students, teach them that discipline is required for future success, and instill in each student the understanding that earning success requires work and focus.
My friend and mentor Tim Kight recently shared a distinction between passive hope and active hope by saying, “Passive hope wishes for something and then waits to see what happens. It wants, but it doesn’t work. Active hope, on the other hand, clarifies a desired future, and then takes disciplined action to achieve that future.”
As school leaders, we must teach students that “wanting” something doesn’t make it happen. If a student “wants” to attend Ohio State or “wants” to become a cyber security expert, the vision is excellent, but more is required to make the wish a reality.
We teach students to “do the work.” Making dreams come true doesn’t happen with pixie dust. Dreams come true when we have the vision, do the work, and live with active hope. Active hope provides the energy and confidence to embrace the journey, learn from failures, and gain skills through experiences.
Leading with hope is challenging. I don’t believe there are “hopeful” and “pessimistic people.” Each of us gets to choose our mindset; we decide how we view the world. Our mindset isn’t fixed; we can choose to improve our approach to how we think, feel, and live.
With mindset being an individual choice, each of us is accountable for our own life’s work. Of course, it is easier to be an optimistic leader when things are going well. When our own experiences are negative, when bad things happen to us that are out of our control, maintaining a positive mindset is much more difficult.
One of my life’s mentors is battling stage four cancer. For most, a terminal diagnosis is not only the cause, but permission, to be negative. But for Tim, this battle is what he’s been training for his entire life. His mindset during experimental treatments – when he is physically pushed to a breaking point – is inspirational. Each day is a gift for Tim – an opportunity to do the work.
Without a doubt, life isn’t easy. Bad things happen in our lives – many events we can’t control. Being Hopeful requires practice and repetition; it requires being disciplined. Doing the work is the only path to success.
I live my life with a mindset of hope.
Hope = Possibility + Faith
Hope is having a vision for the future – a picture in your mind’s eye of what tomorrow can be – with the faith that you can make it happen. Faith, defined as trust or confidence without evidence, is critical for optimistic leaders.
We are all leaders. When we envision a better future with the faith that we can collectively make that vision a reality, we lead with hope.
This work is challenging; it isn’t natural. There are days and moments every day when I have negative thoughts and feelings. There are days and moments in every day that I need to be more disciplined in my mindset. Optimistic leadership requires practice; the work demands repetition. The most critical work is difficult; we build these skills over time. It is the slow, daily work that makes us better as leaders.
Do the work.
Optimistic leaders are often criticized for having rose-colored glasses. I’ve worked with people who refer to themselves as realists; they embrace negativity under the guise of just being honest. Realists accept set limits; they seem to embrace the status quo.
I purposefully strive to model optimistic leadership. Some may ask, “Why?” For me, there isn’t an alternative.
Many leaders in our world today lead from a negative space. Some leaders seek to tear down others rather than lift themselves. Some leaders live to lament the current situation, seemingly enjoying the opportunity to suck others into their misery. And yes, misery loves company.
My mindset is my choice – and I choose to be optimistic. I believe that joy cometh in the morning. I have faith that each day is a new opportunity to create the future; each day is filled with possibilities to make a new reality.
Now, more than ever in recent history, education requires optimistic leaders. Teachers get to go to work every day knowing that they are providing the foundation for our student’s future success. As a school superintendent, I get to come to work every morning knowing that I play a small role in creating a better future.
As a school community, we get to inspire our students to dream of all the possibilities for their futures. With each dream, our students are creating that mindset of possibilities.
We will all face obstacles; we will learn to persist. We will inevitably fail often along the way; we learn that failures teach us through experience. When we are optimistic and hopeful, we endure with faith and hope.
As you go about your work today, strive to be a beacon of optimism. Be the light, the energy for others in the room.
Leaders inspire others to reach higher and take action. None of us can harness the possibilities of the future alone; we are always stronger and better together. For our students, it requires families, educators, and the community to prepare our students for all the possibilities for the future.
Leaders don’t create plans for the future. Leaders inspire others to unite, find common ground and build a collective vision. Leaders build consensus, facilitate compromises to complex dilemmas, and inspire others to action.
Be intentional in your actions today – be a facilitator of possibility.
Influential leaders know how much better we can be in the future; they inspire a true sense of possibility. To foster the “possibility of who we can be,” leaders encourage us to envision a limitless future. Exceptional leaders inspire us to imagine collective dreams for a better tomorrow.
When we envision our short- and long-term future, we cultivate a mindset of possibilities. Our visions create mental roadmaps; the images are mental plans for reaching a goal. Mentally mapping what is possible creates a process to achieve a goal, to make a dream a reality.
You are a leader . . . be intentional in your actions and words. Be purposeful to inspire the possibilities in those with whom you serve.