Dear Parents,

Our students had their prestigious Year 12 Ball at an ideal location (Fraser’s Restaurant), with perfectly supportive weather. Positive emotions were unavoidably contagious. It was an evening that reflected approximately 6 hours of great satisfaction with life.

It’s been said that if you value something, you’ll measure it. Expressed differently; ‘if you treasure it, you’ll measure it.’ Fair to say that often the things that are most important to us are not easily measurable. For example, how do you measure the love you feel for your children? Can you imagine your partner giving you a success-rating for preparing dinner, or rating your children on the present they give you for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day? It seems obvious; their presence is priceless!

Given incoming school reports, you may be interest in the below ‘Satisfaction-With-Life-Scale’. It’s a kind of happiness related, self-report-card. It was created by academics in the field of Positive Psychology, and is designed to help people gain insight to their level of life-satisfaction. If you are interested, you may want to do the quiz and reflectively contemplate the results.

In her book on ‘Grit’, Psychologist Angela Duckworth (2017) shares a very encouraging insight. She refers to ‘psychological assets’ as things that help facilitate excellence. Experiencing excellence is a form of life-satisfaction. Excellence happens where there is ‘interest’, ‘practice’, ‘purpose’ and ‘hope’. These commodities are enablers that are directly related to being successful. Dr Duckworth clarifies these are behaviours can be learnt. They are not birth-rights, rather they are enabling-behaviours that can be acquired and mastered.

Dr Robert Emmons is one of the academics that helped to create the above ‘Satisfaction With Life Scale’. It may be of interest for you to know that he is also a committed Christian, leading in the study field of gratitude. Expressing gratitude is widely recognised as a means of increasing wellbeing. In a previous Newsletter article (2018), I shared with you research relating to having an authentic faith. It is linked to increased wellbeing. It’s not by chance that our Christian faith at South Coast Baptist College is understood to be an essential part of who we are. Believing in a loving God arguably has a positive effect of elevating positive emotions and consequently, improving wellbeing. If we feel well, we can arguably achieve more.  

Easter is a time in the year that reminds us that unconditional love is priceless and beyond the cleverness of scientific measurement. If unfamiliar with the story, the Bible tells us that the Creator of the universe is a loving God, who loved us so much, that He gave His only Son to die for our sins (John 3:16). The first four books of the Bible’s New Testament inform us how Jesus was arrested, judged, and then sentenced to be crucified by the Romans. Christ’s death and resurrection, evidenced by those who saw Jesus alive again, is a life-changing story of profound hope and optimism.

Educationally, it invites the question: ‘Why does it matter’? The below research may help contribute to our understanding of why optimism and hope are helpfully important.


  • Leads people ‘to believe that good rather than bad things will happen.’ (Scheier & Carver, 1985)  i.e. moving towards desirable goals and moving away from undesirable goals.
  • Learned optimism is modelled by parents.
  • Divorce and television can undermine learned optimism.
  • Can be measured in adults using the Attribution Style Questionnaire (ASQ), and in children using the Children’s Attribution Style Questionnaire (CASQ).
  • Research from ‘learned optimism’ (Carr, 2004).
    • Better academic performances
    • Superior athletic performances
    • More productive work records
    • Greater satisfaction in interpersonal relationships
    • More effective coping with life stressors
    • Less vulnerability to depression
    • Superior physical health
    • Greater life satisfaction
  • Optimism predicts 
    • Starting tertiary education is more likely than pessimists.
    • Optimists perform better in work situations.
    • Endure attacks (threats) better.
    • More likely to care for Alzheimer’s and cancer patients.
    • Cope better in general and with cancer.
    • Deal better with health issues later in life.
  • Optimism may be a buffer against racism and discrimination with the African American community.
  • There is variation of optimism between cultures (e.g. Asian and Caucasian Americans are similar, whereas Chinese mainland student were less optimistic (Chang, 2010).
  •  There is also variation between genders. Men score higher on comparative and personal optimism.
  • Neurobiology: Brain structure may influence a person’s ability to be optimistic. i.e. called ‘optimism bias’.


  • High hopers have:
    • Positive emotional sets.
    • Sense of zest that stems from their histories of successes.
    • High hopers find a way to achieve the goal. Low hopers become stuck.
    • Hope theory proposes the successful pursuit of desired goals results in positive emotions, and continued goal pursuit (i.e. positive reinforcement). The reverse is true too.
  • Low hopers have:
    • Negative emotional sets.
    • Sense of emotional flatness that stems from failed goals.
  • Snyder (1997) proposes hope has no hereditary contributions, rather is a learned cognitive set about goal directed thinking.
  • Strong attachment by caregivers is crucial for imparting hope.
  • Neurobiology:
    • Hope, purpose and determination are not merely mental states. They have electrochemical connections to play a large part in the workings of the immune system, and indeed the entire economy of the total human organism.
  • Hope can be measured e.g. Children’s Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1997).
  • Hope Scale scores have predicted outcomes in academics, sports, physical health, adjustment, and psychotherapy.
  • In adjustment, hope scores have related to indices of elevated happiness, satisfaction, positive emotions, and getting along with others.

Reference – (Lopez, S. J. & Pedrotti, J. T., & Synder, C. R. (2015). (3rd Ed.) Positive Psychology: The scientific and practical explorations of human strengths. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

It’s not by chance our students are frequently observed to be hopeful and optimistic. I believe their positive outlook is a reflection of our faith-related DNA. Christianity can draw us into an increased sense of personal connection with a loving God. It also encourages purposefulness, promotes hopefulness and can consequently lead towards increased life satisfaction.

Blessings to you, the people you love, and our Rockingham community this Easter.

Des Mitchell