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Author: Asheesh Advani, President and Chief Executive Officer, JA Worldwide
The best educational experiences not only build skillsets but also develop a mindset that encourages optimism, innovation, and empowerment. In such a learning environment:
· Students discover that failure is a natural part of the learning process, not an embarrassment to avoid;
· Youth learn that consistent practice and hard work—rather than innate talent only—lead to positive outcomes;
· Thanks to role models from similar backgrounds, young people envision a future in which they have the agency to make a positive impact on their families, communities, and the broader world.
In spite of educational institutions and youth-serving non-governmental organizations (NGOs) demonstrating success in building this mindset, research shows us that optimism peaks in late youth and diminishes for the rest of our lives. In particular, UNICEF’s recently published The Changing Childhood Project, highlights this finding:
Does fading optimism come naturally from life experiences? Do frustrations with life’s challenges overpower the optimism of youth? Given the number of adults who maintain their optimistic mindset in spite of life’s frustrations and failures, it’s far more likely that optimism is a practice that some people choose to maintain.
As the CEO of one of the world’s largest youth-serving NGOs, I’m eager to test whether we can design learning experiences that not only build an optimistic mindset but also teach a practice of optimism for students to hone and develop throughout their lives. Here are five topics that such a curriculum might offer:
1) Learned optimism without toxic positivity
In the 1960s,Martin Seligman coined the terms “learned helplessness” and “learned optimism”. Applied in the context of schools, young people who believe their adversity or failure is: temporary and fleeting (“I made a mistake, but this problem won’t last forever”), specific (“I made a mistake in this project” versus “I’m too incompetent to manage projects of this scale”), and the result of a number of factors (“The problem is because of multiple factors, not just me”) are far less likely to develop learned helplessness about their abilities and prospects.
Tools for moving away from learned helplessness—and toward learned optimism—are just as important in students’ lives and careers as, say, trigonometry.
Building the muscle of learned optimism can be achieved without lapsing into the trap of breeding toxic positivity – but how? By focusing on immersive, experiential learning, through which young people have the opportunity to test their skills, learn from failures, and try again, all in a supportive environment.
“Tools for moving away from learned helplessness—and toward learned optimism—are just as important in students’ lives and careers as, say, trigonometry.”—Asheesh Advani, JA Worldwide
Cognitive reframing focuses on skill-building instead of self-worth. “I’m terrible at public speaking so I’ll never get financing for my startup” becomes “I haven’t prioritized public speaking so far in my life, but now that it’s something I want to master for my growing business, I have no doubt that I’ll learn this new skill in the same way I’ve learned so many others.”
Just as young people can master a musical instrument with the help of a good teacher and plenty of practice, students can also master reframing. Imagine a classroom in which educators are empowered to teach a practice of reframing so that, when a student proclaims: “I’m hopeless at mathematics”, the teacher immediately begins the reframing process. This could bypass a lifetime belief in mathematics ineptitude on the part of the student.
3) Moving from vision to action
How many times have you daydreamed about a different life, job, or situation? Nothing wrong with that! No one is born knowing how to move from vision to action, however. That’s why all students would benefit from instruction in how to pluck their vision out of the clouds, make it so concrete that it would rival a business plan for specificity, and then begin to turn it into small, actionable steps.
At JA, we’ve introduced a micro-credential for high school students to demonstrate competence in starting a business — not just in a pitch deck or business plan, but a real business with revenue and shareholders. It has now been earned by high school students in more than 45 countries across Europe, the Middle East, South America and Africa.
A recent JA/EY survey of young people aged 16-24 years old – also known as Generation Z – showed that, although Gen Z has confidence in a number of skillsets, the ability to problem-solve—that is, to act in support of a solution—isn’t one of them. This is simply because they haven’t had enough practice. Let’s update school curriculums to include projects with a bias for action, not just for analysis.
“If we can teach young people how to write a powerful thesis statement for a term paper, we can teach them how to journal daily gratitude and practice mindfulness.”—Asheesh Advani, JA Worldwide
4) Developing a practice of gratitude, mindfulness, and journaling
Research shows that regularly writing down what we’re grateful for significantly increases life satisfaction. In particular: “gratitude in youth is associated with positivity, optimism, satisfaction with social relationships, and lower levels of symptomatology”.
How does journalizing gratitude work? Recent research not only looked at the positive effects of journaling gratitude on mental health but also examined the factors behind this improvement. Firstly, the journaling activity removed negative-emotion words from the practitioner’s vocabulary. And secondly, gratitude actually changes how the brain processes information. In difficult times, practising gratitude and mindfulness together helps maintain perspective, avoiding traps that lead to pessimism.
If we can teach young people how to write a powerful thesis statement for a term paper, we can teach them how to journal daily gratitude and practice mindfulness. Jobs
The World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit brings together leaders from business, government, civil society, media and the broader public to shape a new agenda for growth, jobs, skills and equity.
The two-day virtual event, being held on 1-2 June 2021, will address the most critical areas of debate, articulate pathways for action, and mobilize the most influential leaders and organizations to work together to accelerate progress.
The Summit will develop new frameworks, shape innovative solutions and accelerate action on four thematic pillars: Economic Growth, Revival and Transformation; Work, Wages and Job Creation; Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning; and Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice.
5) Maintaining a sense of child-like optimism
Starting early matters. Gregory Buchanan and Martin Seligman pioneered the concept of human “explanatory style”, which they defined as “our tendency to offer similar explanations for different events” or, in layperson’s terms, whether we explain events from an optimistic or pessimistic point of view.
Their research in the mid-1990s showed that explanatory style is quite fluid in pre-school and early kindergarten, but is largely fixed by about age eight. After that, only an intentional decision to rework one’s explanatory style will cause it to change; it will not happen naturally. And young peoples’ explanatory style is directly linked to their ability to unlearn learned helplessness, reframe, and more.
Optimism doesn’t have to decline with age. We can halt the decline for the next generation by building optimism muscles at an early age.
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The Rise of Online Businesses: A Comprehensive Guide to Success
In a world increasingly connected through the internet, the possibilities for starting and growing online businesses have expanded exponentially. Whether you’re looking to escape the traditional nine-to-five grind, want to tap into a global market, or are simply passionate about a niche interest, launching an online business is a promising venture. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key steps to success in the dynamic world of online entrepreneurship.
1. Choose Your Niche
The first crucial step in starting an online business is selecting the right niche. Identify your passions, expertise, and market demand. Research the competition and look for gaps that your business can fill. A well-defined niche will help you target the right audience and stand out in the crowded online marketplace.
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Just like traditional businesses, online ventures require a solid business plan. Your plan should outline your business goals, strategies, financial projections, and marketing tactics. It’s a roadmap that will keep you focused and serve as a valuable reference point as your business grows.
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Choose a legal structure for your online business, such as a sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation. Register your business with the necessary authorities and obtain any required licenses or permits. This step is vital to ensure your business operates legally and efficiently.
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Your website is the heart of your online business. Create a professional, user-friendly website that reflects your brand and offers a seamless customer experience browse around this site. Ensure your site is mobile-responsive and optimized for search engines (SEO) to maximize your online visibility.
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Build a strong brand identity that differentiates your online business. This includes designing a captivating logo, crafting a unique value proposition, and maintaining a consistent visual style and tone across all your online platforms.
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If your online business involves selling products or services, choose a reliable e-commerce platform and payment gateway. Offer various payment options to cater to your customers’ preferences and ensure secure transactions.
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High-quality content is key to attracting and engaging your target audience. Develop a content strategy that includes blog posts, videos, and other relevant content that provides value to your audience. Consistent and relevant content can drive traffic and establish your authority in your niche.
8. Digital Marketing
Promote your online business through various digital marketing channels. These may include social media marketing, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and search engine optimization. Tailor your marketing efforts to reach your specific target audience.
9. Customer Service
Deliver excellent customer service to build trust and loyalty. Respond promptly to inquiries, resolve issues, and seek feedback to continually improve your products or services. Happy customers are more likely to become repeat buyers and refer others.
10. Data Analysis and Adaptation
Regularly monitor your online business’s performance through analytics tools. Analyze the data to make informed decisions and adapt your strategies accordingly. The online landscape evolves quickly, so staying agile and open to change is essential.
11. Legal and Tax Compliance
Stay informed about legal and tax obligations relevant to your online business. Compliance is vital to avoid legal issues and financial penalties. Consider consulting with a professional accountant or attorney to navigate the complexities of online business regulations and taxation.
12. Scale and Diversify
Once your online business is thriving, explore opportunities for growth. This might involve expanding your product or service range, reaching new markets, or diversifying your income streams. Continual innovation is key to long-term success.
In conclusion, the world of online businesses offers endless possibilities for aspiring entrepreneurs. By following these essential steps, you can increase your chances of creating a successful online venture. Remember that persistence, adaptability, and a commitment to providing value to your audience are fundamental qualities of a thriving online business owner.
The internet has revolutionized the way we do business. If you have a unique idea, a passion, or a solution to a problem, there’s never been a better time to start your online business. So, why wait? Take the plunge and embark on your journey to online business success today.