At the start of the year I can look back over the first term of teaching in the academic year, and this year I am very appreciative of an unexpected experience I had.

In the autumn term I write references for my students who are applying to university. This is a time consuming and cognitively demanding job to which I always give my all. However, this year I experienced a completely new dimension to it. After many years of doing this I found myself aware that I had been in a state of flow.

Feeling Great

I had been working on a student’s reference in a break and then returned to the classroom to start teaching and I felt extremely uplifted, the feeling appeared to come out of nowhere. I didn’t think too much about it and just passed the mood on to my students.

When the same thing happened again I stopped to consider where did this mood come from, and I realised that it resulted from writing the reference.

When I write student references I focus my full attention on each individual student; reminding myself of their character strengths, drawing out their attributes that make then unique. My aim is to reflect their true nature and potential, relating the particular skills and characteristics they have to those required on the degree. I enjoy putting together a full picture of the student; combining academic qualities with the student’s often busy home life, integrating their work, sports, caring and other commitments.

Deliberate Reflection

This process gives me the chance to slow down and reflect in a conscious and deliberate way, in a way that I often don’t get time for in the everyday college calendar. At the start of the reference I aim to write a short pen portrait of the person, this takes quite a few drafts, it is a process of honing my first thoughts, carefully considering does this accurately reflect the student? Are their personal qualities apparent? Have I done them justice?

Although I have written these references for many years, this is the first time I was aware of receiving positive benefits. Writing the references now leaves me feeling uplifted and serene. I wonder if I received these benefits in previous years? If I had, it was not so striking. I wonder if this is this the result of being more mindful, more able to savour things?

Whatever it is I am thankful for it.

Let me know if you have experienced anything similar. Has a familiar task been transformed? Do you now find flow in something that was difficult?

About the author: To find out more about Bryony Shaw MAPP, please click here.


‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’

Find out more about positive psychology courses and training at 

Share This