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Better Isn't Cutting It Anymore

In my book, The Happy Manifesto: Three Rules For Happier Students, I introduce three very simple rules for both parents and teachers to instill in their homes and classrooms to help children and students thrive. The first rule was simple:

Always Be Better Than Good

When speaking to full classrooms during the day or libraries filled with parents during Literacy Night events, I stressed on how the first rule was really all about attitude and how the word good was just another word for average. We'd talk about how 99.9% of the time when someone asks us how we're doing, the default, I don't even have to think about it answer is: Good.

So given that Good = Average, we focused on the word "good" and I'd challenge students and parents to think about better responses, better words, than the typical, average response. And boy did they do an excellent, outstanding, stupendous job with that exercise!

So much has happened since The Happy Manifesto was written. From a pandemic to war in Europe (and all of the political strife here in the US), it seems like the hits keep coming. I don't know of any group who has taken on more stress, heartache, burnout, mental anguish and even physical violence than teachers and healthcare professionals have over the last several years. In fact, more and more teachers are looking to leave the profession, according to this brilliant piece from NPR's Morning Edition (2/22/22):

And so I ask myself, Do these rules still apply in this new reality we find ourselves in?

I think they can. But like anything in this life (especially over the past several years), we must adapt. So let's start with that first rule again: Always Be Better Than Good. Instead of focusing on the word Good, let's take this exercise to the next level and focus on the word Better. And what's better than, well, better? Naturally, the first word that comes to mind is Greater. Greater than Good.

I want to be clear about something first: we're stepping it up a notch with this rule because the time warrants it. The attitude behind being better than average is still there. But right now, in order to rise above the adversity each and everyone of us is facing right now, we have to turn up the heat a little. Better now has to become Greater. And so, naturally, we (students, parents, teachers, community leaders, etc.) have to start asking ourselves:

What do I want to be greater than?

For some of us that might be an easy question to answer. Some of you are reading this and have already started filling in the blanks, rattling off several examples in your mind, such as:

  • Greater than Cancer

  • Greater than a state-mandated test

  • Greater than a bully

  • Greater than apathy

  • Greater than my depression

  • Greater than a virus

Keep in mind that you don't have to have an answer right now. You have time to think about that. Just know that we can just start by trying to be greater versions of ourselves today than we were yesterday. Little by little, day by day, we can go from good to great at our very own pace. and the cool thing is that great doesn't have to equal perfection. This is a message that's especially important to convey to our children and students in our homes and classrooms.

First thing's first, though. Now that the bar has been raised, the first order of business is to do something great for yourself this weekend. Sleep in if you can. Treat yourself to a good massage or indulge in your favorite comfort food. Slow the world down around you. Being greater for other people can't happen unless we're great to ourselves.


(c) 2022 Phillip D. Cortez


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