This past summer, I had a whole day set aside for just writing and research. I was so excited. I went to one of my writing hideouts with a stack of books, and I already knew the first article I was going to write. I fired up my computer, opened up my website editor, and keyed in a working title.
And then, the phone rang.
It turned out to be an unpleasant conversation. I went from that to my email inbox — just kind of on autopilot. In my inbox, I saw all of these messages that needed answering. I then switched over to check out how These 6 Things was doing on Amazon, and I noticed that it was stuck at “temporarily out of stock” for the third week in a row. I started drafting an email to my publisher to see what was going on. At some point I probably checked the news. (Always a mood improver, that one.)
As the morning hours dwindled away, I found myself increasingly led toward overwhelming projects — like cleaning up the back room that connects my classroom with another one — or time-wasting bad habits — like reading the news. At the end of the day, I reflected back on how remarkably my day had shifted, starting with one unpleasant phone call. The phone call didn't necessitate the shift, but it made the shift possible through altering my mood.
It seems likely that the kinds of people who build flourishing and impactful teaching careers tend to have a handle on their moods. A lot of this, I think, is a skill. They're able to see what kind of mood they're in and then do something about it in order to not allow a mood to steer them away from important work. They're also able to build good habits that make good moods more likely — like starting the day right, getting enough sleep, avoiding avoidable negative situations (like copy room gossip), and maybe even sometimes watching puppies.
Perhaps a start to developing this skill is just reflecting on how your bad moods develop — as I did at the start of this post — and then brainstorming how to avoid grump-triggering situations.