Welcome back to Term 3. At SCBC, our motto is rigorous minds, and compassionate hearts.

We are committed to being a thriving Christian community that inspires learning as a means of transforming and empowering lives.

Education can be a gift that keeps on giving. It’s our intention to help educate your children to experience a deep sense of satisfaction with their life. During the holidays, I attended an international conference in Melbourne, focussing on research associated with wellbeing. Motivating my interest is a commitment to helping our students at SCBC thrive. We love to see them succeed. The conference was a combination of both intellectual rigor, and compassion. It resonated with our school motto of rigorous minds and compassionate hearts.

One of the speakers at the conference (Research Psychologist – Sonja Lyubomirsky) had written a book called the ‘How of Happiness’. Over 20 years ago, she used a scientific research approach to investigate behaviour patterns of the happiest participants in her study.

In summary, she noted the happiest people …   

  • ‘Devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
  • They are comfortable expressing gratitude for what they have.
  • They are often the first to offer a helping hand to coworkers and passersby.
  • They practice optimism when imaging their futures.
  • They savour life’s simple pleasures and try to live in the present moment.
  • They make physical exercise a weekly and even daily habit.
  • They are deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions (e.g. fighting fraud, building cabinets, or teaching their children deeply held values).
  • Last but not least, the happiest people do have their share of stresses, crises, and even tragedies. They may become just as distressed and emotional in such circumstances as you or I, however, they respond to difficulty with poise and strength.’

Also attending the wellbeing conference was a past President of the American Psychological Association, Martin Seligman. In his opening address, he used example after example to propose that the world has never had it so good, evidenced by overall improved living conditions, including the reduction of infectious diseases. He suggested material wealth has never been better in human history. Following this comment, Seligman reflected to ask then why is it that we are increasingly materially wealthy, and yet experiencing increased psychological poverty, evidenced by upward trends of mental illness, including anxiety and depression.

Motivated to help make a positive difference, he wrote a popular book called ‘Flourish’. In it, he made reference to a theoretical model called PERMA. In short, his research interests had lead him to propose that wellbeing is optimised when we experience Positive emotions and Engagement. Relationships too are suggested to be directly linked to our wellbeing, as is having a sense of Meaning (purpose) in life, as well as a related experience of Achievement. Seligman’s model has been applied in all areas of school life at Geelong Grammar in Victoria, and at St Peters school in South Australia. Schools worldwide are increasingly applying principles of Seligman’s PERMA model.

Another international speaker at the conference (Organisational Psychologist – Kim Cameron) is one of the western world’s leading researchers in people’s behaviour within organisations. He shared multiple examples of organisations (i.e. organised groups of people) that had prospered from behaving in a virtuous way (i.e. by acting morally with wisdom). In earlier research in the area of ‘organisational virtuousness and performance’, he concludes:

‘Virtuousness in organisations represents a set of activities, values, emotions, and consequences that are positively deviant (i.e. positively vary from the average). It focuses on the enabling and uplifting aspects of the human condition more than on achieving effectiveness, profitability, or notoriety. Virtous tendencies are intrinsically motivated, oriented toward the betterment of human beings, and extend beyond the immediate concerns of self-interest. Virtuousness … tends to amplify positive outcomes and buffer organisations from negative outcomes.’

Chris Peterson was a known colleague of Martin Seligman, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Kim Cameron. He was most commonly quoted for his favourite saying: ‘Other people matter.’ As a side note, Peterson and Seligman co-wrote a book called ‘Character Strengths & Virtues’. Ironically, their book largely draws precepts from the Christian-Judaic tradition. From their book came a world-wide framework is known as ‘Values In Action’. Subsequent research suggests when people activate their character strengths (values), they are likely to be happier and consequently experience improved wellbeing.  

When writing in an academic way, authors typically summarise their findings with a ‘so what’ paragraph. Here’s mine.

We want to help your children experience happiness; both the immediate pleasure of experiencing reward for doing something good (e.g. being grateful or respectful), but more importantly to experience the deep satisfaction of knowing that their life is purposeful. It’s been said that virtue is its own reward. Education is a means of helping our young people discover their gifts and talents, enabling them to be transformed and empowered, to help make their world a better place for others.  

At SCBC we are inspired by the source of wellbeing, an unchanging, loving God, evidenced in His Son, Jesus. More than giving academic glances to the Christian Judaic tradition, we want to be more like Jesus in all areas of our life.    

God’s love and His blessings to you and your family,

Des Mitchell