Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, widely viewed as the ‘father of positive psychology’, asserts that human flourishing is about five things: experiencing positive emotions, being engaged with what you do, having strong social connections, feeling that your life has meaning beyond yourself, and having a sense of personal achievement.
In the last decade of working in the field of social entrepreneurship, I’ve realized that starting a purpose-driven organization is a concrete way to take this powerful understanding of ‘happiness theory’ and actually live it. It all started back in 2001, when I took a life-changing course at Harvard Business School titled, ‘Effective Leadership of the Social Enterprise’. In this case-based class, we studied the stories of individuals who have taken an idea they were passionate about and built financially sustainable organizations that positively transformed people’s lives. The founders of these organizations, many of whom were guest speakers in the course, exuded an energy that I have come to notice in people who are living their calling.
That was over ten years ago. Today, a course in ‘social entrepreneurship’ is no longer an anomaly in an undergraduate business program. However, very few high school students have an opportunity to think about these three questions in a structured way: i) What am I passionate about? ii) What are my signature strengths? iii) How can I take my passion and my strengths in order to start a project that will positively impact society?
Next week, I will be co-facilitating a course at the United World College in Costa Rica titled ‘Leaders for Change: How to be a social entrepreneur before you are 20?’ A group of twelve international participants will not only learn about how to write a business plan for starting their own organization or project, but more importantly will be exposed to real-life social entrepreneurs who’ve converted their passions into a reality. I can’t think of a better age to embark on such a journey as one high school years, and a more stimulating environment to do this than in Costa Rica!
Mohit Mukherjee is the founding Director of the UPEACE Centre for Executive Education.