Thinking beyond yourself

The younger generation can often be criticised by their elders for being selfish, disrespectful, unengaged, or entitled.

While these may sound like modern day complaints, these same criticisms were allegedly made by the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates almost 3,000 years ago. Clearly the generational differences continue to exist.

Yet in every generation, young people need to be taught how to think beyond themselves. This is to ensure they do not remain egocentric, so they feel part of something bigger than themselves and have a sense of belonging in their community. This is critically important not only for a safe, healthy, and compassionate society, but it is also vital for a strong and positive wellbeing for us as individuals.

We are all created and survive as social creatures. The success of human beings is not just because of our superior problem-solving brain (neocortex) but also our remarkable ability to cooperate. Part of finding your purpose is connecting and contributing to something larger than yourself. Biologically, chemicals in our body are released to reward and encourage us to work together and develop feelings of trust and loyalty. For example, serotonin rewards us for making social connections, such as when we gain approval from others or feel valuable for doing good for others, while our body produces the feel-good chemical of oxytocin when we build bonds of trust, friendship, and love.

Teaching young people to think beyond themselves is a key focus of what we do at Kristin School. This aims to help teach our young people to see beyond themselves and start to create a sense of purpose, as the ability to think about other people is developmentally linked with a sense of purpose. This then creates the desire to seek to make a positive difference in the world. The social and community projects that form part of Kristin’s International Baccalaureate (IB) programme develops such international thinking and mindsets.

At Kristin this includes helping young people develop beyond their self-interests: providing new experiences, like joining clubs, planting trees, caring for animals, or identifying causes they want to support; providing a diverse range of co-curricular activities, like sports and the performing arts, to enable collaboration to achieve as a team; promoting strong values to help shape good character, providing a curriculum, such as IB, that fosters diverse perspectives; then ultimately having a safe school environment that models empathy and positive social behaviours.

As many of our young people metaphorically stand at the foot of a mountain, they see what they want – the summit. Our challenge as a school is to help them also see the mountain and equip them with the skills to enable them to climb to that summit.

Issue 125 November 2021