Happiness is a Discipline

Suzanne DaileyBlog, Connect Better, Teach Happier


  • We must dedicate ourselves to happiness like we dedicate ourselves to anything: with discipline.
  • An activity to help you define and discipline your happiness.

How are you always so happy?

I get asked this often.  Maybe 3 times a week.  Well dear reader, let me pull back the curtain and let you in on a little secret.  I’m not happy all of the time – that’s just not realistic.  But, I do believe I experience happiness and joy more often than most, and that’s because I treat it like a discipline.

A discipline?

For happiness?

Kind of takes the fun right out of it, right?

Maybe, but it should seem logical.  If I want to be a stronger runner, I need to run more.  If I want to be a better baker, I need to bake more. You see where this is going.

So if I want to be a happier person, I need to treat it like any other skill and practice what positive psychologists tell us.  In this space of Teach Happier, we are learning that it is the smallest shifts, practiced over time, that bring significant, positive energy into our lives.

Right now in the world, there is so much out of our control. Yet, we have tremendous influence on our happiness within our smaller world. Click To Tweet

Prioritize Happiness

There are some natural times in the school year where we need to be more disciplined about our own happiness and stay in control of our morale.  Now is one of those times.  Many of us are teaching virtually for the first time while managing our own families and trying to keep up with constant updates and announcements.   Because of that, taking care of our own sanity may fall towards the end of our never ending lists of never before completed tasks.

So let’s get disciplined about prioritizing our happiness during this unsettling time. In 3 minutes or less!

Start By Defining Your Happiness

I’d like to invite you to do something that my dear friend Melissa Brevic, author of Connect Four, does with 6th grade students. I have this done with hundreds of adults during workshop sessions (including Teach Better 2019!)l

It begins by asking yourself: What makes me happy?

  • Grab an index card or any piece of paper and jot down 10 things that make you happy. (My list includes my family, reading, writing, catching up with friends, running, nature, music, laughter, traveling, and animals).
  • Pick one of those things on your list that really contributes to your overall happiness and balance. For me, it’s reading at night.  It quiets my mind and puts the day behind me as I get into someone else’s story.  It also helps me fall asleep!
  • Now this is where it gets fun. Shape one pipe cleaner so it represents that one thing. Here are some examples of what people have made in workshops to show what makes them happy: Time with their pet, nature, music, or reading.

Didn’t grab a pipe cleaner before you hurriedly left your classroom last week?  Not to worry – just draw it on a small piece of paper.

  • Now, put this pipe cleaner or drawing somewhere you look often (my pipe cleaner that looks like a book hangs on the corner of my bathroom mirror so I see it multiple times a day.) Seeing this will overtly remind you to make the time and space for this interest or activity, thereby proactively protecting your happiness.

For When You Get Overwhelmed…

When things get overwhelming, logistically or emotionally, I can find myself thinking, “I’ll just finish that before I go to bed,” and skip nighttime reading.  But those 15 minutes of reading bring me more peace and quiet and rest than any other 15 minutes of the day.

Therefore, I have to get disciplined and protect this activity.  Fiercely.  Seeing my little pipe cleaner book in the mirror multiple times a day encourages me to make the time for the things that contribute to my peace and happiness.  It’s just another small, short term shift that will bring immeasurable gifts in the long run.  And we need that more than ever right now.

As these uncertain weeks carry on, someone will certainly ask, “Suzanne, how can you be so happy at a time like this?

And I will respond: “Especially at a time like this, how can I not be? Our joy has never been needed more!

At this unprecedented and challenging time while we continue to care for our family at home and at school, let’s make our happiness a priority and protect it fiercely.  Right now in the world, there is so much out of our control. Yet, we have tremendous influence on our happiness within our smaller world.

Let’s get disciplined about it and let’s get happy!


Suzanne Dailey is proud member of the Teach Better Family! She is an instructional coach in the Central Bucks School District where she has the honor and joy of working with elementary teachers and students in 15 buildings. Suzanne is Nationally Board Certified, a Fellow of the National Writing Project, and has a Masters Degree in Reading. She is dedicated to nurturing and developing the whole child and teacher. Suzanne lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.