“Have a great day!” This phrase is uttered countless times throughout countless homes across our country every morning. It is a nice expression, a sweet little sentiment wishing an individual a great day ahead of them. Unfortunately these four little words have morphed into more of an expectation than a hope, and now we are all in a heap of trouble because of it.
Every morning my fifth grade class comes together as a group to, well, come together as a group. Morning meeting, morning circle…whatever you want to call it. Some days we focus on class business, or a particular goal we might be working on. But on some days we discuss a precept. What’s a precept?
According to R.J. Palacio’s character, Mr. Browne, in her award-winning book Wonder, a precept is defined as being, “Like a motto! Like a famous quote. Like a line from a fortune cookie. Any saying or ground rule that can motivate you. Basically, a precept is anything that helps guide us when making decisions about really important things.”
Recently our fifth grade class discussed this precept:
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
After some reflection and then discussion between partners, classmates shared out their thoughts on the meaning of this quote. Some students expressed that you can’t expect people to make you happy. Others brought up the idea that what you do will make you happy, not what other people do. Another shared reflection was that some people will let you down, and you can’t let their behavior get you down. These were all wonderful insights about this particular precept.
I then posed the following questions to my students:
- If you don’t get something that you really want, what is your next action?
- If someone doesn’t treat you the way you want, what is your next action?
- If things become more difficult than expected, what is your next action?
These questions were asked to reflect upon, not to discuss. We’ll discuss them as a class later. But from the looks on many of the students’ faces, you could tell they were wondering whether or not their insights were actually being played out in their own lives.
Because many technologies, businesses, and yes, politicians, are dedicated to providing us with what satisfies our desires as quickly as possible, we tend to want every aspect of our life to be like that – instant gratification. And there’s nothing necessarily bad with wanting something nice to happen quickly.
No, the problem occurs when we don’t get what we want immediately. And this is a growing struggle I see in my classroom each year, as well as in local grocery stores, during town meetings, in post offices, on social media, and sometimes in my own home.
These days people want to have a great day, but if they don’t get it, they pout. They cry foul. They complain. They blame. They give up. A lot of different actions, but often not the right ones.
But what are the right ones? How about actions that are productive, not destructive? Actions that are encouraging, not discouraging? Actions that are resilient, not belligerent? We need to practice patience, endurance, kindness, and determination. And in doing so, we need to help others do the same.
We all need to take more time to help our students, our families, and ourselves work on making great days, and helping each other know what to do if we come across a bad one. We need to stop expecting our happiness to be “ready made.”