I CAN Believe It’s Not Butter (and whatever else I want)!

I just spent a couple of hours with my good friend and mentor Jim Lalik (follow @jimlalik for education leadership insights).  Jim is a veteran principal, a student of Positive Psychology, and a serial learner.  The guy wastes a lot of my time causing me to think…and I truly appreciate it!  This morning Jim told me about a case study in which a group of researchers lied to a bunch of teachers.  They identified clusters of students in these teachers’ classrooms as “kids on the cusp.”  They told these teachers that the students in question showed, through data, that they had incredible potential.  They exacerbated the lie by fabricating an in-depth analysis of those data, which revealed that these students would have an explosive growth year, laden with monumental achievement (very sneaky).

As I mentioned, this band of crafty researchers was lying.  They had no data, they selected the students at random, and they did it because they wanted to see what would happen if the teachers believed them…which they did (the teachers that is).  Turns out, each of the student’s fulfilled the researchers’ prediction.  They shined, they soared, and they exploded with achievement.  The teachers didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.  They didn’t redesign their instruction or offer the selected students opportunities above and beyond those of their peers.  They simply believed.  The message:  believe…it just might work!

Believing Just Might Work

I recently spread “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” on a piece of toast and realized that I actually can believe it’s not butter.  It’s not that the product is a bad one, and it’s not that I don’t think it tastes like butter.  It’s that I can believe whatever I want.  There are so many possibilities!  That fact coupled with the fact that I’m right about some things and wrong about others, brings Jim’s message home in a really meaningful way.  People do have potential.  Our students have it, our teachers have it, our community partners, parents, and our supervisors have it.  Heck…we have it!  Why not believe?

Besides, in my experience, believing feels good.  It fuels hopefulness and perpetuates optimism, which are both relatives of positivity, and that’s a close cousin of joy, which one of the best, and arguably most productive feelings around!  Also, if believing causes us to act in ways that help those we serve to achieve stuff – how cool is that?  And you can call me a dreamer, but I happen to believe that it does.  Furthermore, I love when people believe in me, especially during moments when I have trouble believing in myself.  When they do, it reminds me that I can too…and when I do, I remember that the road is long, and that outcomes unfold over time.

If you’re on the fence about believing, and interested in exploring it’s benefits further, take 12 minutes and 46 seconds to watch this awe inspiring video featuring the happiness philosophy of Sam Berns.  Sam is an incredible young man (high school junior) who knows what it means to believe!  Be advised, if you do press “play,” you won’t be able to move for the duration of the clip, you will be energized to make happiness a priority, and you’ll get to see life through an awesome lens!

Believing helps me remember that bumps along that road are opportunities for growth.  It helps me understand the parts that purpose and reason seem to play in my personal journey, and how each of us is charged with important individual roles along our collective path.  So, in the wise words of the Shrek franchise’s ever-insightful Donkey, “I believe, I believe, I believe…!”  I never imagined that I would proudly write these words, but here goes…I’m with Donkey!  Join me if you’d like.  It just might work!


Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

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