Re-examining our assumptions about our lives can be difficult, scary, and even life-altering. So when a friend asks you to do that, one could either choose to view that request as a gift or challenge.
The request wasn’t so much of a request but a statement suggesting that positive psychology tends to address First World Problems. This particular statement is sticky: I can’t seem to answer it without feeling somewhat defensive. That reaction of defending the status quo is probably not all that unusual. Actually, my entire life has been spent on First World Issues, because, well I live in the First World. It’s not such a great excuse at my age, or any age for that matter given the globalization of the economy and social media.
Though I’ve been feeling defensive, I also was not able to let go of the guilt and the question itself until I brought it up in class. Fortunately for me, the collective wisdom is vast, especially in this program. Of course there is the “you can’t solve all of the world’s problems, so pick the ones that matter most to you,” or “I’ll help elevate everyone including those that are passionate about Third World problems.” My personal solution at that time was that I should spend my energy on things that I’m passionate about and spend my money on those areas that need the most help.
I shouldn’t be surprised any more regarding how the universe works because the next day a potential opportunity arose for me to directly help those that are helping the impoverished. For one course, we completed service learning projects for nonprofit organizations. All of the presentations and projects were creative, impactful and inspiring. One group worked with an organization based in New York who raised money to build schools in areas of need in Africa. The organization needed a Do It Yourself strengths training program, and they chose Gallup StrengthsFinders instead of VIA (Values in Action; authentichappiness.com). I volunteered to go train them in person (my sister lives in NY), but only just now realized that helping nonprofits is how I can give to Third World citizens in my own unique way without having to travel to Africa.
Our own service learning project served an equally inspiring organization: a nearby chapter of the Boys & Girls Club of America. We developed a strengths training program too, but this training was designed to train the trainer: the staff will help the use find the best way to use their strengths. The goal is to help their 2300 participating youth to maintain their authenticity by intentionally and optimally using their strengths in their own unique way. It was truly an honor to work with such talented, dedicated and loving people who have devoted their lives to helping the at-risk youth in their community. I have also decided to volunteer to help them with the next phase of the project.
Honestly, I did not notice the link to the earlier conversation until I sat down to write. But it speaks to the power of asking the question and being receptive to the answer. For me, processing ideas through writing is an important tool to help me process and understand what that answer is.
I would love a business or practice that focused only on helping nonprofits, schools and universities become positive organizations, not only for their staff but for those that they serve. While I don’t believe that business plan is financially viable, I can always do what I can, where I can. But perhaps I should be instead asking, “how do I make this a viable business plan?” Maybe I should figure that out in my next blog.