My 1st Day of School

At the age of 33 and 3/4’s, I’m having another first day of school.  When we were talking about moving to Philly, and knowing that I couldn’t work, we always looked at school as an option.  I didn’t want to just ‘fill my time’, but ‘do something meaningful’ that would lead me to the mysterious next step.  After mulling over programs at UPENN, and Princeton, I found the Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) facilitated by the Flourishing Center.  It excited me like no school has done before, so I trusted my gut and I applied.  And today, here I am beginning my 8 month journey.  And to kick things off, I have 16 hours of class over a Saturday and Sunday.


Like parents dropping off their child for the first day of kindergarten, my partner Derrick and dog Prim walk me to the building where my class will take place.  I adjust my glasses (which I usually wear when I first meet people and I’m a little nervous), give them a big hug, and take a deep grounding breath.  Even after all this time, I still have those first day of school jitters.

I walk in.  It’s a beautiful modern conference style space with about 40 seats making a horseshoe shape.  I find a seat near the back, fiddle with my glasses, and scan the room full of my 40 new classmates.  What I love about post post secondary, is how the classes are just so diverse.  Age wise, experience wise, everything wise.  I make small chat with the people next to me, and finger though the 575 page textbook.  I get the feeling that this program will be a really good thing, and subconsciously I remove my glasses.  Our instructor welcomes us, and begins with the inventible first question: Share with the class what brought you here.  I’m about in the middle, so it’s just enough time to get lost in the other people’s introductions, and overthink my own response.  When it’s my turn, I realize that I don’t actually know, and I blurt out, “I’m Mike.  I’m Canadian.  I’m retired… sort of. Uh, yeah”.  I’m also the person who said if I could spend a day with anyone, I would hang out with Britney Spears and she could teach me how to dance.  Uh, can I answer that question again please?  Luckily, I’m in room full of people who are looking for potential in people, and who are studying happiness, and one of the first things we learn is to let go of judgement.  I think I’m in the right class.

As the day progressed, I was feeling more and more present in the moment, and more and more engaged with the content.  I thought I knew what positivity was, but having the opportunity to learn the science behind it, I realize that I have quite a lot to learn.   I still am not sure on why I’m here, or where it’s taking me, but it feels like I’m in the right spot for right now.


So what is Positive Psychology all about?  It’s about putting on a lens of hope and optimism, and seeing what’s right.   It focuses on wellbeing, happiness, flow, personal strengths, wisdom, creativity, imagination, and characteristics of positive groups and institutions (Hefferon & Boniwell, 2011.  Is that APA? 🙂 ).  For example, research shows that happiness can be measured like pie.  50% is our genetic set point: What we’re born with.  10% is life conditions.  What’s stunning about this is that typically this is what we’re told to put 100% of our efforts into.  This includes thoughts like “I will be happier with that promotion”, “If only I could win the lottery”, “These new clothes will make me feel better”, or “I will be happier once I retire”.  Research shows that the things we spend most of our time stressing about will never bring us the happiness that we think they will.

Here’s the good part.  40% of happiness is voluntary intentional actions: what do we think, feel, and do.  40% is up to you.  How do I choose to react?  What goals aim I working towards, or do I have any goals at all?   Am I judging and complaining, or growing and learning?   What choices am I making?  We can all learn, and live the habits of a happy person.   It’s up to you to pursue new understandings and new achievements, and learn to control your thoughts and feelings. img_3326

So I made it through my first weekend of classes loving it.  This room is full of 40 people actively engaging in dialogue, fostering wellbeing, and gaining tools to actually make the world a better place.  This is the first slice of real direction that I have found since arriving in Philly.


On Monday morning, as Prim and I see Derrick off for the day, he seems stressed.  He listed off a ton of things he worked on this weekend while I was in class, and how he didn’t finish everything he wanted to.  I pause, think about everything I learned this weekend, and decide to test some of it out. “It sounds like you did a lot this weekend.  You told me what you didn’t do, but what about telling me about how much you did right”.   He looks at me, pauses… and smiles.   So going back to that initial questions of what brought me here? Maybe it’s moments like these, where I can make a positive change in the world around me in a practical way, and that happiness, for all of us, can be a reality.

Class dismissed!


What’s right in your life today?   Are you practicing gratitude, acts of kindness, nurturing relationships, or anything else that is increasing your happiness?   Interested in learning more, or talking about happiness?  Sound off below, or message me and we can chat!  🙂  Stay well friends! 

Learn More about the CAPP program by clicking here.

Song of the Day: That’s My Girl (Fifth Harmony)


4 comments on “My 1st Day of School

  1. That is so true. Looking at what the positive is vs always looking at the negative will make a huge impact. That’s my lesson today. Thanks!


  2. Oh I love this!!! I’m so proud of you for taking on this new adventure. I think positive psychology has Mike Plumton written all over it!!!

    The way your wrote the end of this post I can completely hear the conversation with you and Derrick – made me smile.

    I had a rough day overloaded with work… As I sat here watching the Jays and looking st my to do list I kept thinking about how much I didn’t accomplish during my day… Then I reflected…. Thought about your post and realized I should be celebrating what I DID get done — like working with a struggling student who I had not seen in awhile…

    Thanks for encouraging the positive outlook 🙂 – xox


  3. Mike, you’re a perfect fit for this! I love the shortened version of the prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) that AA and other 12-Step groups have adopted and call The Serenity Prayer. Attitude certainly falls under “The things I can” and it always makes a difference!

    GOD, grant me the serenity
    to accept the things
    I cannot change,
    Courage to change the
    things I can, and the
    wisdom to know the difference.


  4. Loved your post Mike. It is easy to look at the negative but optimism is what makes a wonderful day. I had a colleague once who was a counsellor and he talked about making choices when life presents challenges – he said you can become bitter or get better. I think of his words often and I enjoyed your words this morning too! Have a great one!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s