Recently I have been learning about positive psychology. Defined by UPenn as, “The scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.” It has been a keystone to the work I have been doing with City Year, Los Angeles. We think about the work of Carol Dweck who is a leading researcher in growth mindset- the belief that ones effort can lead to improvement (watch this 3:25min video of how this plays out with children), Angela Duckworth who has been looking at how characters like grit, optimism, self control, and gratitude are more predictive of personal and professional success than IQ, socio-economic status, race, talent and to my horror- even good looks (watch this 6 min Ted Talk video). Now that your world has been turned on it’s head, well, be encouraged.
Just when we were all about to surrender to being cut throat and looking out only for ourselves, we have figured out that being a better human increases our likelihood of success. This is an essential mindset to internalize when working within a system that has been behind the curve in serving the needs of the communities I have worked with for 12 years. I recently looked at a list of LA schools that have the highest rate of arrests and incarcerations and a good majority are schools that City Year partners with. I am perplexed that a physical location can be a predictor of anything- a child can’t choose where they are raised.
So, I know some of you may have come from a rough background and didn’t have it so easy- that sucks. Does it need to suck for everyone for the rest of time? Is this life hazing we mandate/encourage/allow/turn a blind eye to need to continue? I know you may have made it. I am telling you it wasn’t right that you had to go through all you did, and it still isn’t right. I’m not asking anyone to be nice, by all means I’m not nice, but I will never go out of my way to be mean. If you go out of your way to be mean, we can’t be friends. If you are friends with people who go out of their way to be mean, we can’t be friends. I mean, we may not even be friends right now, yet I’m asking you to consider how your everyday decisions cause ripples whether you want to recognize it or not. What would you like your ripples produce?