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Mindset Matters

South Christian High School teacher Curt Copeland explores how approaching relationships with a +1 mindset will create community in your school and lead to deeper connections with those around you.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

When Satan wants to attack you, he’ll often utilize lies and condemnation whispered into your mind until you start to believe them and then react negatively. His goal is to separate you from the love of God. In this verse, Paul provides a way to defend against Satan’s efforts. We are to feed our minds with blessings from God and think about the good things we can find in all situations. We are instructed to seek God’s truths rather than Satan’s lies.

Seeking God’s truths is something I have been working on lately. This was triggered when I recently heard a speaker at a conference in 2021. In his talk, he spoke about his approach to all aspects of his life using the “+1 Mindset.” He broke down this theory like this: every day, every encounter, every meal, and every thought comes down to either a positive (+1) or negative (-1) experience. This uncomplicated approach can be applied to all aspects of a person’s life. He stresses that being a +1 to every person you encounter and, most importantly, a +1 to yourself, will positively impact every person with whom you come in contact.

As a teacher and coach, the +1 Mindset has been something that has completely recalibrated my approach to every student, athlete, colleague, class, practice, opponent, and contest. As a husband and a father, my home life continues to see a paradigm shift in the most important part of my life’s responsibilities. I have learned to anticipate and prepare for specific encounters and execute a game plan for positive interactions that can be incredibly impactful. This approach takes intentionality and accountability.
As a result, my ability to stack +1’s every hour of every day is not only something that I savor, but it’s something that motivates me. I will be the first one to tell you that I experience my fair share of -1’s every single day—definitely more than I desire. Quite often my own children will say to me, “Dad, are you being a +1 right now?” But I have begun to recognize those instances when they happen, and I am even more motivated to turn those specific -1’s into future +1’s.
In all the different areas of my life where I have specific leadership responsibilities and opportunities, the +1 Mindset approach simplified and focused my approach to relationship establishment, development, and maintenance. This focus can assure that I will be surrounded by people who can support and encourage me with their positive attitudes and outlook. As a result of mutual respect, we can constantly build each other up, hold each other accountable and celebrate our victories together. In this way, we are working together to think about the things that are “excellent and worthy of praise.” Just the other day, one of my student athletes approached me and asked for some advice in an off the field situation. I think he sought me out because he was aware of my ability to see things with a positive outlook, and he knew that I would not judge him. At the end of the day, the student knew what he had to do to rectify the situation, but he needed some encouragement and validation from someone he trusted who has real life experience in a similar situation.
I find it most encouraging that creating +1 encounters requires zero talent. However, it does take effort, intentionality, and discomfort. This might get us out of our comfort zones, but it does not require us to be strong in a certain discipline. Starter or role player. Captain or underclassman. Veteran or rookie. It does not matter where you are in your organization. What does matter is your approach to your role and how you can excel in that position by fostering positive experiences in all your encounters. How we fix our thoughts on the qualities listed in Philippians makes all of the difference in our life, the lives of others, and brings glory to God.
Life is extremely fragile. Perspectives are easily misconstrued and manipulated. Groups of people with differing opinions can be divisive and dangerous. Now, more than ever, our mindset matters; it is important to our own health and well-being. It is vital to the people with whom we do life. I firmly believe if we all focus our thoughts on being true and honorable, right and pure, and lovely and admirable, the more impactful we can be to our students, colleagues, and community.
I challenge you to do something like this with a small group of peers. Make a commitment to be an intentionally positive, +1 person, and see how God will use that to create community in your school. Please share your success or other ways in which you are making a difference in this way. Your many small achievements will lead to deeper connections with those around you. This is what God desires for his Kingdom.

Curt Copeland is currently a member of the teaching faculty at South Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition to teaching in the Physical Education department, he serves as an assistant coach on the varsity football staff for the Sailors. He recently served as the school's director of athletics from 2013–2020. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Hope College (2003) as well as a Master’s degree from Western Michigan University (2012).

Teacher with students in classroom

Being a +1 to every person you encounter and, most importantly, a +1 to yourself, will positively impact every person with whom you come in contact.

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