It used to be enough to just run some positive programs. Simply hire a specialist, implement some wellbeing interventions and measure the results.
But no longer. Because what our Positive School pioneers are discovering is that it’s not enough to promote the potential of human flourishing through surface level interventions alone.
Our ability to flourish comes from something much deeper than well-intentioned interventions. To realise the enduring potential of a positive program, schools need to be willing, and able, to fundamentally shift the mindsets of their students, teachers and parents.
Mindset: The source of everyday wellbeing
Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits drive the potential of your positive school’s program
Wellbeing – on both an individual and a collective level – must come from the inside out. It needs to be true to who your school is and authentically reflect why your students and teachers show up every day.
Treating wellbeing as a problem that can be solved using expertise and generic interventions won’t get you very far. Because, below the surface of any program are a number of uniquely human elements that are critical for promoting whole school and whole community wellbeing. In this article we will focus on one of these human elements – our mindsets.
Mindsets – our deeply held beliefs, attitudes and values – are integral to everyday wellbeing. In the words of Donella Meadows, “mindsets are the sources of systems”. They drive the lives we lead and the actions we take, which in turn drives the potential for wellbeing on both an individual and a collective level.
What is a mindset? The different mindset’s we can choose to adopt for ourselves can broadly be grouped into 3 categories:
Which mindset does your school regularly adopt?
What our positive school pioneers are realising is that you can’t just implement a few surface level wellbeing interventions, because what’s going on in our inner lives – our deeply held beliefs, attitudes and values – will always find a way through. Unless whole schools, together with their community of parents, are authentically aligned, inside and out, the potential of any positive school’s program will fade. This means that regardless of how well intentioned the interventions are, the school needs to be genuinely and consciously working on their mindsets every day.
In particular, whole school and whole community flourishing requires a culture of everyday leadership – people who purposefully come to school every day to be well and do good. Schools where education is about more than the marks – education that is an integral part of everyone’s personal wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of their community and local ecosystems.
These features are the hallmarks of a Benefit Mindset. Anything less is simply insufficient for sustaining the long term potential of a positive school’s program.
The benefit mindset gets to the heart of who we need to be and how we need to relate with each other in order to promote whole person and whole planet flourishing.
How can you cultivate a culture of everyday leadership? The simple answer is that we need to regularly talk about our mindsets in well facilitated ways. We need to talk about who we are – our authentic attitudes, beliefs and values – and who we want to become. Does our school simply want to achieve high levels of wellbeing and marks or is there a deeper, more unique and nuanced purpose driving us?
Initial exploration is best done using group facilitation techniques such as Appreciative Inquiry. But really, cultivating a Benefit Mindset is a lifelong pursuit When we look at the individuals who are leading our way, what we see is everyday stewardship – schools and communities that commit to being true to who they are, discovering what they stand for, and how they can be a pulse of hope in the world.
Therefore, if you’re in the business of being a positive school – guess what, you are also in the business of developing mindsets. It’s where the leverage lies for infusing a culture of wellbeing in your school.