On Friday this week, I was in the company of 35 teenagers, all on the brink of taking final exams and making huge decisions about whether to continue with further education or enter the workplace. I am aware that whichever choice they make they will face many challenges. It seems to me that being a teenager is a harder job today than it was in my time.
My business partner, Dan Collinson and I hoped to inspire them by sharing some of the tenets of positive psychology. We talked about the theories of mindset, hope, resilience and how it may be applied in daily life. We wanted them to know that they are much more capable than they may realise and help to put them in touch with their strengths instead of their perceived weaknesses. Did we succeed? Were seeds planted? Did anyone’s thoughts change from why, to why not? I hope so.
Twenty-four hours later, I was in the company of teenagers again. This time though, I was in the audience and it was teenagers who had the job to inspire, educate and share their message. I was a guest at the TEDxTeen conference held at the O2 in London.
I was amazed, and I mean this in the true meaning of the word – greatly surprised; astounded; suddenly filled with wonder. I wish the teenagers we spoke to on Friday could have been there too because then they would have seen what we described in words, demonstrated through action. They would have seen what explored potential looks like and heard what it feels like. They would have seen the thrill and joy on the faces of these young people who have engaged with their sense of curiosity, creativity, imagination and love of learning. A perfect demonstration of what intrinsic motivation looks like; doing something for no other reason than the desire to want to.
They would also have heard stories of overcoming adversity and thriving and flourishing in defiance of circumstances that might have caused many others to give up or not even try. There was a common thread of a passion to make change, to resist, to succeed, whatever that might take. We were told how important it is to be authentic, to stay true to self and adopt an attitude of determination to succeed regardless of barriers, challenges and setbacks. Few, are as qualified to offer such wise advice at any age.
It was a Masterclass of how to find meaning and purpose in life. Happiness borne as an outcome, not as a goal.
Did these young people come from privileged backgrounds, cosseted, supported and encouraged? In some cases it was the opposite. What I noticed they all shared in common, was spirit, tenacity and grit. It wasn’t all about thinking, experimenting and developing novel ideas either. There was dance and singing and writing and each performer was linked by energetic creativity.
I won’t attempt to tell their stories, they belong to them and no-one can say them better. Soon you will be able to hear them too on the TEDxTeen website. Here, in order of appearance are the performers.
Shaadow, Makundu Angulo, Meltem Avcil, Mahalia, Rob Greenfield, Zak Abel, Konstantin Avdienko, Safeerah Mughal, Scott Crouch, Ciara Judge, Kash Gaines, Bgirl Terra, Mariah Idrissi, Ann Makosinski, Connor Grooms, Rudimental.
My thanks to them and the organisers of this wonderful event.
Creating positive change through the application of science based processes