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Speak kindly, thoughtfully, and wisely to yourself

Today, I begin my 25th year of teaching. Summer has come to a close, which isn’t easy. As much as I love my job, I admittedly enjoy the long, relatively relaxing summer days more.

Yes, I wrote a book this summer and did a great deal of consulting, public speaking, performing, and the like, but in all of those occupations, I control my schedule. I work when I want to work, which is delightful.

Teaching is much less flexible in this regard.

Lying in my bed at 4:30 this morning, preparing to say goodbye to another summer vacation, I prepared myself. In my mind – not aloud because Elysha was sleeping about three inches from me – I said to myself:

When I was a boy, I wanted to be a teacher, but I never thought it would ever be possible.

“Teaching elementary school is literally a dream come true for me.”

“There was a time in my life when college seemed impossible.”

“There was a time when awful, evil people tried like hell to take my teaching job from me, but today, I am still standing, teaching, doing what I love. They lost, and I won because today, I get to be a teacher again.”

“I was once homeless, penniless, and awaiting trial for a crime I did not commit. I had no future and had nearly given up hope. Today, I get to be a teacher again. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

“I met my beautiful, brilliant, hilarious wife while teaching. I met some of my closest friends while teaching. Teaching has been a gift to me. Every year it brings more unexpected, unbelievable gifts.”

I said all of those things while lying in bed. I couldn’t wait to get out of bed when I was done. Yes, I would still prefer a few more weeks of summer, but I felt incredible as I rose from bed.

Our brains are always listening to what we are thinking and saying aloud. Our minds are constantly looking for clues about how we should be feeling. We must do everything possible to put ourselves in the right frame of mind to be happy and prosperous.

We must defeat recency bias. Remind ourselves of our accomplishments. Remember why we chose this path. Celebrate our victories. Play the long game. Get ourselves excited about the next challenge. Stomp out negative thinking. Find gratitude. Choose positivity.

Quote Lewis Carroll once more:

“O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!””

I’m following that moment in bed with a round of golf this morning before driving over to the high school to attend our school district’s convocation at 8:30. A quick nine holes to suck out all the marrow (Henry David Thoreau) from the summer. Squeeze out every bit of joy from another blissful, joyous vacation.

Then, after convocation, I’ll walk over to the golf course adjacent to the parking lot of the high school. There is a short par 3 on the other side of the fence – part of an 18-hole course – that I’ve played hundreds of times over the years. I’ll take a 7-iron, a wedge, and a putter, and I’ll play that hole two or three times before heading over to school and unlocking my classroom door for the first time this year.

A little more marrow before getting down to business.

Take care of yourself today and always. Take care of your spirit. Seek positivity. Strive for happiness. Remind yourself about what is good and right in your life. Take action to ensure that every day contains a little bit of heaven, whatever that might mean for you.

Last year, while walking the halls of my school, a colleague asked me, with an interesting blend of sincerity and irritation, why I always seemed so happy.

The answer, which was too long to provide on that day, was all of this. All these little things that I say to myself, remind myself, and do for myself to ensure I have as much joy and positivity in my heart as I can muster.

Not every day can be a good day, but I can try to make every day as good as it can possibly be, and it doesn’t take much. A little bit of positive self-talk. A splash of kindness for oneself. An indulgence or two whenever possible.

Our brains are always listening to what we say and think. You get to choose – every minute of every day – what it hears. Be thoughtful, be kind, and choose wisely, and people may wonder why you’re always so damn happy.

Happy school year to all of my fellow teachers. You’re doing one of the most important jobs in the world.

Congratulations. I hope this year is your best yet.