What Is Your Spark?
What is something that makes you excited to get up in the morning and gives you energy? Whatever that vision is, that is your "spark." Young people may not know what their spark is today, and it may change many times over their lives, but we can start today to explore how generosity could spark meaning in one's day and life.
Identify one's spark and seek opportunities to find purpose in service.
In his TED talk, Peter L. Benson - president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Search Institute and author and editor of more than a dozen books on child and adolescent development and social change - inspires us to have conversations with young people about their "spark."
An individual's spark illuminates their life and the lives of those they come into contact with. Our spark helps to define who we are and gives us the confidence to be givers and doers for the common good. But what is it? How do you find it? Start by asking these three simple questions:
- What is something that gets you up in the morning eager to take on the day?
- What gives you joy and energy?
- What gives you hope and purpose?
These questions may seem difficult to answer at first, but with conversation, experience, and self-reflection, the sparks will come to light.
“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.” ― Oprah Winfrey
Developing and nurturing one's spark is the result of a three-part formula: First, you have to know your spark. Second, you need three champions (such as family, school, and community) who help you develop your spark. Third, you must have the opportunity and the freedom to develop your spark. When you facilitate youth to follow this formula, they not only find their spark, they thrive with it and experience personal and school success, engagement, compassion, and a sense of purpose.
- Identify your spark.
- Enlist three champions.
- Seek opportunities to explore your spark and get permission for freedom to work toward the spark.
In most cases, innovation comes from a spark: a lightbulb moment, an experience, or a passion that drives research and reflection. With innovation comes change. With curiosity and openness to innovative change, our communities become more inclusive, healthy places.
Use the handout below to lead discussion and help youth identify and nurture their own spark!
In this TED talk young Hannah Alper inspires us to keep our dreams alive through finding our spark. This video, featuring a nine-year-old's impressive spark, will light a fire in kids to explore their own journey. After the video clip, youth can partner up and discuss how they will explore and practice their spark using the prompts above. Then, follow up regularly over time with additional spark questions:
- What is your spark?
- Did it change?
- How do you express it?
- Who knows about it?
- What gets in the way of you sharing your spark?
- How can others help?
As sharing and reflection are often vulnerable experiences, be prepared to share your own spark, trials and doubts with youth!