Having worked in education for over 30 years, I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people on the planet, and I look forward to continuing my work until I am in my 70s.
What is it about what I am doing that gives me such joy? How does one achieve this kind of professional satisfaction?
Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal may have found the answer in her study of positive empathy, which is basically sharing other people’s good feelings.
As a teacher, this is actually very easy to do. Children are full of joy, laughter, and curiosity. When we share these with them, we feel happy as well.
One of the greatest satisfactions in teaching is running into former students who tell me about what they are doing in life and about their accomplishments.
In addition, I witness the good in my students on a regular basis, and I have learned to point it out. They do so many kind things for each other. They admit when they make mistakes. They persevere when dealing with challenges. They are truly inspirational, and I allow myself to be inspired.
McGonigal points out that “positive empathy” generally needs to be cultivated.
We can do so by enjoying the playfulness of children and even of animals. We can appreciate the beauty of art and athletics. We can allow others to do nice things for us because this brings joy to them. Finally, we can make a conscious effort to see good in people. Giving compliments also makes us feel good.
As the English proverb states, “A joy that is shared is a joy made double.”