- Ugh. Summer went by too quickly. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped. I’m swamped with meetings, etc., etc., etc.
- I’m excited for a new opportunity! I can’t wait to get started!
Where does negativity come from?
It’s only natural that we may feel a bit overwhelmed as we begin a new slate of classes, committee meetings and the myriad other responsibilities we deal with day to day. As institutions of higher education are under increasing pressure from all angles, it’s no wonder that we don’t all see rainbows and unicorns wherever we look.
Many of the stresses and challenges we feel are real. We are bombarded with calls for increasing enrollments, entrepreneurial activities, recruiting and development efforts – all just to keep the lights on. There’s no doubt that more is asked of us in higher education these days. In some cases, we can also be our own worst enemies. We also may choose to take on more than is reasonable or healthy. We may feel like we’re on our own to figure things out. Under these circumstances, how can we avoid the trap of pessimism and try to regain some of the positivity that is so important to thriving and appreciating the amazing vocation we share?
Five ways to start the semester off on the right foot
- Practice gratitude.
Despite the very real challenges we encounter, perhaps on a daily basis, working in higher education is a pretty good gig. To a greater degree than many other careers, we often have pretty substantial control over the conditions of our work (what we research, the kinds of projects we choose, the content (or at least the methods) of our courses, and more. Be thankful. Many others would trade their problems and challenges for ours in a minute.
- Remember why you’re here.
It’s easy to focus on the aspects of our work that we don’t necessarily enjoy. Administrative work, faculty meetings, etc. are all a part of our work life. This isn’t what drew us to academia, however. For you, maybe it’s the rush you get when you meet your students for the first time and pique their interest in the first class. It might be the curiosity that leads you into a new research project. It might be collaborating with colleagues on course design or revision. Whatever it is that you enjoy, be sure to tune into that part of your work.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
We all know who the department or office Eeyore is. The pessimists and perpetual critics can really drain you. I’m sure you’ve experienced the “air out of the balloon” feeling you get when interacting with some of your colleagues. When you’re trying to focus on the positive, try as best you can to give Eeyore some space. Actively seek out those who project a positive attitude. Surround yourself with colleagues who look for solutions rather than problems. Positivity can be contagious.
- Consume positivity.
In addition to people and responsibilities at work, we are often surrounded by negative messages all the time. All you have to do is turn on your cable news channel of choice, listen to a little political commentary, and your mood is sure to be soured. To counteract this, seek out positivity around you. Smile and appreciate the return smiles you receive. Read posts from a positive blog, listen to some inspirational music, or even read the cartoons in the newspaper (just not the political ones). Actively bringing in a little positivity will work wonders for your mood.
- Fake it.
If ideas 1-4 fail, you can always resort to faking it. If you’re like me, on occasion you’ve had to “manufacture enthusiasm” to begin a class. Some days, you may just not be as excited as you’d like. Fake it. Trust me, fake it. I’ve experienced a significant shift in my attitude as I just work to express even false enthusiasm. Sometimes you can trick yourself into changing your outlook.
I hope these ideas help you to manufacture a positive start to the new semester. We really are lucky to be working in an “industry” where the development of knowledge, growth of individuals, and contribution to the greater good is the core focus of our work.
What do you do to start off the semester on the right foot?
Please post your comments below.