The New GPA: A Healthier Way to Success

You’ve heard of having a GPA, I’m sure. What does GPA stand for? Why, Grade Point Average, of course. Whenever I’ve spoken to student groups they always get this answer right. They know very well what GPA means. It’s very important to a lot of students.

Some know exactly what their GPA is. But, if you would’ve asked me when I was in high school, I would’ve said, “I have no idea.” My GPA was not something I was concerned about. I don’t say this to brag. The reason for this was twofold. For one, the expectation in my household growing up was not very high. Basically, as long as I was getting passing grades, a C or better, that was sufficient.

Primarily, though, it was because I figured that, once I was done with high school, I was done with school…period. I had no intentions of going to college or trade school. I wanted nothing to do with education. I was primarily interested in being a rock star and getting away from any kind of formal training of any sort.

I just have to laugh now as I think about all the formal training I’ve had since high school, how I’ve even taught at the high school level and how I love to continue to learn new things.

I understand the importance of a GPA. Grade Point Averages are important and valuable in the proper context. They are certainly helpful for getting a pulse on how a student is doing academically. Sometimes, they can even be an indication of how a student may possibly be doing mentally or emotionally.

Measuring performance has its place. When it comes to cars, for example, I want to know how a vehicle performs before I make a purchasing decision. Similarly, when I launch a social media campaign or release a new song or video, I want to know how it’s performing.

But, when it comes to people, I like to think that we are more than just machines or campaigns that produce at a certain level. I like to think that we are human beings and not human doings. What, after all, is the point of having a GPA? It has little to do with the present moment. The point of having a GPA is what it will mean for your continuing education in the future.

In his book DRiVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink describes what he calls Motivation 3.0…

In the first iteration of motivation you have survival. In Motivation 2.0 you have “carrots and sticks” – those external motivations: perform at a certain level to get the results you want or avoid the pain of punishment.

Of Motivation 2.0 he says, “It still serves some purposes well. It is just deeply unreliable. Sometimes it works; many times it doesn’t.”

Motivation 2.0 is fueled by extrinsic desires. Motivation 3.0 focuses on internal motivation or intrinsic desires – doing things simply for the joy and satisfaction that they bring you.

With all this in mind, I would like to introduce you to what I call The New GPA, or GPA 2.0. This is not a system of measuring your performance. Rather, it’s a formula for helping you develop a healthy state of mind that will enable you to be successful in whatever you do, both now and in the future. The three components of The New GPA are Gratitude, Positivity and Affirmation.

Though you can focus on any one of these elements at any point during your day, I suggest the following structure to begin implementing this formula…

Gratitude in the Morning

Begin the day by getting into a healthy frame of mind with a gratitude practice. This will generate positive energy that will have a ripple effect throughout your day.

Bring to mind, and preferably write down, at least three specific things that you are grateful for. For example, I have a wife and two daughters. There’s my three things! However, to make my practice effective I need to think about some unique reason why I am grateful for them each day.

You can keep a separate journal for this or use on of a myriad of free mobile apps. Another idea is to write it on a post it note or piece of paper you can carry in your pocket.

Positivity Throughout the Day

Fueled with gratitude you can then head out into the world with a positive attitude, focused on what you’re grateful for rather than all those things you want to complain about.

When you meet somebody at the water cooler, and all they want to do is complain about the weather, a teacher, an assignment, a family member, their kids, a boss or a coworker, you can say, “Uh-oh! Sounds like someone hasn’t done their morning gratitude practice!” 😀

Of course, you wouldn’t say that out loud. What you might actually want to do is gently redirect the course of the conversation to something more positive. For example, “It sure is hot! It’s great weather for running through a sprinkler! When was the last time you did that? I have some pictures of my kids running through a sprinkler. Wanna see? They’re totally adorable!”

The challenge with positivity is that you will often stand alone, and that is not comfortable. You may come across as weird, unrelatable or out of touch. Eventually, though, people will see and appreciate what you’re doing.

Being positive is a skill that’s worth mastering.

Affirmation to End the Day

I don’t know about you, but it seems that no matter how many things went well during my day, the easiest things to remember are the things that didn’t go well or fell apart. What’s more, I usually find some kind of personal character flaw to blame it all on.

That’s why I find it indispensable to have an affirmation practice at the end of the day. I need to affirm the things that went well and the fact that, no matter how things went or how I performed, I am still an amazing human. A lot of people outright reject that notion. “I’m not amazing! I’m…(fill in the blank with self-abasement.)”

As with the gratitude practice, it’s beneficial to write this stuff down. A journal or a mobile app is a great option. I use a free mobile app called 3 Good Things (the one with the smiley face).

Now, I don’t think The New GPA is going to solve all the world’s problems, but it’s a start. It’s acknowledging the human side of who we are and saying it’s at least as important as all the other stuff. Focusing on performance alone is very unhealthy.

Obviously this concept goes beyond academia. Consider how this could be beneficial in the fields of athletics, business, religion, community and family.

How about this as a preschool curriculum? What if, at the beginning of each school day, in addition to saying the pledge of allegiance (for example), children are given time to journal about 3 things they are grateful for, set an intention for being positive and then, at the end of the day, given a few moments to journal about their successes for the day?

This might help create an even greater environment or condition for accelerating in their grades. Imagine how it might increase your performance at work! Instead of beating yourself up at the end of the day for not meeting your quota or all the things that went wrong, give yourself unconditional positive regard!

I did a podcast interview on this topic with my daughter who is going to be a senior in high school. Listen to that podcast here.

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