Listening to a recent conversation with Ryan Daniel Moran and JP Newman, I found myself pondering a powerful question:
What’s your ‘why’ that makes you cry?
I know what I want.
It’s the only ‘non-question’ on my question board.
“I want to teach my then 9th graders how to write the greatest story ever told...their lives.”
The ‘reason’ question then is, “Why do I want to empower these young people to write and rewrite their stories?”
Said differently...‘Why do I do what I do?’
A Growing Culture of Desperation
I’ve witnessed far too many young people tragically end their own lives by their own hands due to despair.
These heartbreaking situations often occur despite the presence of resources and support. And in every instance, the decision came from the disempowering narrative they’ve played on repeat in their mind.
The stories unfolding within youthful thoughts can become overwhelming.
Though not outwardly expressed, in this generation of fractured attention, many youth feel devoid of hope.
I’ve read it in their journals.
As an educator, it is my responsibility to create a context where learning can thrive. And as a collective society, it is our shared duty to establish conditions and environments where everyone, especially young people, can find solace, strength, and inspiration— ideally, within themselves.
So how do we go about creating this culture?
How can we help these individuals rewrite their narratives and discover the resilience within?
The Power of Empowering Stories
Desperation often arises when a person feels trapped in a critical narrative that tells them they are powerless or unworthy. This is especially true for young people grappling with their shifting identity and facing life’s challenges.
To combat desperation, it's crucial to help young people develop empowering self-narratives.
These narratives should focus on highlighting their strengths, potential, and capacity for growth. By doing so, we can provide them with beacons of hope amidst darkness. We can give them the motivation and skills needed to overcome their challenges.
And...it’s important where these stories come from.
Finding Inspiration Within
Yes, we can look to external sources for inspiration, such as books or movies.
However, rather than relying solely on these sources, we need to guide youth towards discovering evidence and examples of strength within their own lives as well.
By developing their character strengths - qualities like resilience, kindness, determination - they can tap into an inner wellspring of inspiration that’ll fuel their journey towards personal growth, now and for a lifetime.
Building Supportive Communities: Surrounded by Words of Well-being
Yet, we can leverage their narrative even more.
The communities young people find themselves in, play a crucial role in shaping their beliefs and world views.
It is imperative that these communities surround youth with words of well-being — messages that uplift, validate, and encourage self-belief.
By fostering environments where positivity thrives, we can counteract negative narratives that contribute to feelings of desperation.
So What’s the Call to Action?
To prevent youth despair, we must create empowering environments.
Why? Because where there is life, a good life is possible.
And it is my belief we are here to have life, and have it more abundantly.
By developing the skill in young people to tell themselves empowering stories rooted in evidence from their own lives while fostering supportive communities filled with words of well-being.
Remember, you shape the human operating system with language. By giving them this skill, we provide them with the tools they need to navigate life's challenges.
This is my ‘Divine calling.’
I’ll be working to this end...until my end.
I invite you as a collaborator.
And together, let us work towards a future where every young person feels inspired, hopeful, and resilient — a future where we are certain of our character; a future where the spirit of desperation is replaced by inspiration and empowerment.