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The People Teaching People Podcast Episode 22: Rethinking Happiness & Well-Being with Dana Fulwiler Volk

022: Rethinking Happiness & Well-Being with Dana Fulwiler Volk

In this episode, Dana Fulwiler Volk joins me to talk about positive psychology, well-being, and transforming the narrative in our minds and lives.

Dana and I connected in a community for female entrepreneurs and I am so grateful that our paths have crossed. In our conversation, I appreciated Dana’s openness in sharing her own personal well-being journey and her “Ah-ha” moments along the way. She has a wealth of knowledge and strategies that you will be able to easily implement into your day-to-day without having it be something extra that you need to check off before you head to sleep at night. This episode will inspire you to be more curious, both inwardly and outwardly, and will get you thinking about purpose, hope-mongering, positive disruption and how these ideas fit into your own life and journey. 

Dana is dedicated to helping people and communities thrive. Dana is the founder of Well Ed, an initiative supporting well-being in education, and co-founder/host of the Teacher Fan Club, a well-being hub and podcast. Dana holds a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) from the University of Pennsylvania where she studied with global leaders in well-being science, and a Master of Education from the University of Saskatchewan where she conducted award-nominated research on sustainable whole-school well-being. She has served as an Assistant Instructor in the MAPP program at UPenn, and is an Instructor in the first mandatory school well-being course in a Canadian Bachelor of Education program at the University of Calgary. Dana has also co-authored book chapters on well-being and anti-racism in education and served as an expert consultant with the government. Dana applies her expertise in well-being science across different industries, including as an advisor for a tech start-up and consultant for local and global clients, like the International Coaching Federation’s Thought Leadership Institute. Dana’s previous career seasons include classroom teacher, international student coordinator, and mental health specialist.


Listen in as we talk about:

  • Finding comfort in change and transformation. Dana shares how we can approach big life changes with a different perspective, as well as some tools to help during that transition.
  • The power of language when it comes to well-being. We discuss the buzzwords used nowadays, and what well-being means in real life terms.
  • The curation of happiness. Dana talks about the curation of your ‘best life’ and challenging the focus of what happiness should really look like.
  • Finding freedom and humanity in self-compassion. We talk about what self-compassion means, and how to find freedom and acceptance in our challenges.
  • How to shift from negativity. Dana gives us her best tips to avoid getting sucked into the negativity that may surround us.


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Dana explains that her decision to leave teaching was not due to unhappiness, but rather a desire for change and adventure. She emphasizes her love for learning and how it led her to explore positive psychology. She clarifies that positive psychology is not about constant positivity or minimizing suffering but focuses on building what goes right and proactively fostering well-being. Dana believes these principles are applicable in various fields, including education and organizations, and can help individuals thrive by cultivating positive relationships, flow experiences, meaning, and goal-oriented habits.

When you find comfort in change, you can spark a new curiosity and passion for learning, as well as the connection between teaching skills and other endeavors. The best aspects of education involve connecting with people, helping them grow, and recognizing their strengths. We also talk about how we both see elements of teaching present in our current careers or “career seasons” and value the courage required to embrace change.

Dana shares how the phrase “Be Do Have” has been one of her most recent significant “ah-has” along her journey. We often live in the reverse of this phrase which is “Have Do Be”. This is where we think if we ‘have’ this thing (car, house, relationship) then we can ‘do’ things and then we can ‘be’ happy, fulfilled, or at peace. Instead, if we are focused on ‘being’ who we are at our core then we are enabled to ‘do’ things that light us up and fill us up. Ultimately, this allows us to ‘have’ meaning and meaningful things in our world.


Dana Fulwiler Volk standing in a field at sunset


Dana and I talk about the power of language and the meaning of well-being amidst the abundance of buzzwords in today’s health and wellness discussions. As a self-proclaimed research nerd, she values practicality and actionable approaches that can be implemented in real life. For instance, she acknowledges the challenge of practicing self-compassion amid difficulty, despite understanding its scientific benefits in building resilience and connection with others.

To Dana, well-being translates to feeling good and functioning optimally throughout life’s ebbs and flows. It involves developing skills, behaviours, and mindsets that empower her to navigate challenging moments. She shares a personal awakening on her well-being journey, realizing that true transformation occurs when she embodies these principles in the present moment. Dana emphasizes the importance of practice and embodiment, creating new neural pathways and fostering a self-compassionate identity, even when it feels uncomfortable.

Recognizing the overwhelming amount of noise and buzzwords surrounding well-being, Dana encourages individuals to define what it means to them personally. For her, it’s about embracing the full emotional spectrum and being able to navigate and accept emotions like guilt, seeking the underlying message they convey. She suggests finding reminders and incorporating practices into existing routines such as leveraging habit stacking to ensure consistent growth. Ultimately, Dana highlights that well-being is an individual journey, urging others to discover their interpretations rather than conforming to external definitions.


Dana Fulwiler Volk says, “We live in a world that's constantly telling us messages that we're not enough in some way. Accepting and loving ourselves is a real act of rebellion in that type of world, and it's hard to do.”

“We live in a world that’s constantly telling us messages that we’re not enough in some way. Accepting and loving ourselves is a real act of rebellion in that type of world, and it’s hard to do.”

Dana dispels the misconception that being well equates to constant happiness. She emphasizes the importance of fulfillment, purpose, and feeling alive in one’s life. Dana encourages individuals to identify their strengths and incorporate them into daily life, using tools like the free survey at to discover their top character strengths and infuse them for a natural boost. Self-awareness is crucial in making well-being practical, as it helps combat the pervasive culture of comparison and reminds people that no one has it all figured out.

The conversation touches on the analogy of being an adult is like folding a fitted sheet, symbolizing the shared experience of uncertainty and not having all the answers. Dana finds it a comforting reminder that everyone is navigating life to the best of their abilities.



Dana discusses the common experience of thinking that one is alone in their struggles, only to discover that many others have gone through similar situations. She highlights the concept of common humanity as a key aspect of self-compassion, emphasizing that suffering is a universal part of life. Additionally, she emphasizes the importance of connection as a resilience resource, noting that vulnerability allows others to support and contribute to our well-being.

Dana mentions the negativity bias, a cognitive tendency to focus on and remember negative experiences more strongly than positive ones. Understanding this bias as a survival instinct inherited from our ancestors helps her accept herself with more calmness. She acknowledges that while being attuned to danger is useful, it can hinder well-being and the ability to embrace opportunities and notice the good things. By recognizing and labelling the negativity bias, Dana cultivates self-compassion and grants herself grace when negative experiences overshadow positive ones.

Through these insights, Dana highlights the importance of recognizing our shared humanity, seeking connection, and understanding our cognitive biases to foster well-being and navigate life’s challenges with greater resilience.


Dana suggests shifting our approach towards hope mongering and positive disruption, challenging the status quo for honourable reasons. She emphasizes the power of curiosity in replacing judgment and encourages asking questions and exploring our reactions. Dana shares her personal experience of taking a social media break and experimenting with different habits to create friction and prevent negative spirals. Building self-acceptance and self-compassion acts as armour against negative energy, enabling quicker detachment from unhelpful emotions.

Setting boundaries, aligning with personal values, and understanding the why behind our actions are key strategies for positive change. Dana mentions the insights from Susan David’s book Emotional Agility, which emphasizes embracing the full spectrum of emotions and depersonalizing oneself from emotions to gain curiosity about their underlying messages. These approaches help us detach from unhelpful patterns and explore the lessons emotions can teach us.

  • What is something that you would love to learn about or something that you would love to learn how to do? Pottery

  • What is a place that is at the top of your travel bucket list? Greece

  • What is a book, podcast, or TV show that you have enjoyed recently? Book: Awe by Dacher Keltner 

  • If you could sit down and have a conversation with someone that you would love to learn from, who would it be? Her ancestors


1:00 Meet Dana

4:00 Dana’s story

15:45 Dana talks about well-being can mean in real life 

22:50 Dana shares some “aha” moments from her journey with well-being, hope, and purpose 

33:40 Dana discusses how can we shift to an approach of hope-mongering and positive disruption in the world of education

39:30 Dana explains how job crafting and the power of purpose can contribute to our well-being in the field of education and beyond

48:45 Dana reflects on her favourite teacher

51:50 What Dana is most proud of looking back on her journey so far

54:30 Dana answers some rapid fire questions

58:00 Dana shares her words of wisdom



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