The Gift of Self-Leadership

Anyone who is working or living with youth in this time knows first-hand the past two years have placed an unprecedented draw on their resilience.  Life is challenging enough being a teenager and the continuous reel of global crises puts additional strains on their well-being and sense of identity in the world. As adults, we have experience to draw on when the world around us is uncertain or complex; our youth are not only lacking experience but also facing unprecedented times.

Compounding this issue is the fact that young people have had limited opportunity to develop the very strategies and skills they need to navigate these challenges. Many youth have lost opportunities to connect with the world around them in a meaningful way through extra-curricular activities, interactions with extended family and the community, along with reduced face-to-face social interaction in the classroom. This lack of connection is impacting them emotionally, psychologically, and socially. Fifteen-year-old Jo captures the current experience of youth in our mini-documentary video:

Myself and young people everywhere are overwhelmed by just everything happening in the world. I’ve been exposed to like everything on social media. So, the Poet is sort of all those feelings of pain and hopelessness.  You know, it’s awful to feel that way but it definitely can inspire change in the Captain.

Captains & Poets is a curriculum designed to nurture an inner compass to help young people navigate the world around them. This Kindergarten to Grade 12 program supports critical conversations around self-awareness, well-being, self-leadership, connection and belonging, and having a positive sense of agency in the world. The premise of the program is that there is a unique Captain and Poet in each one of us that, in partnership, enable us to be our best selves and better able to navigate what is in front of us.  

The gift of the past two years has been the ability to better understand what is important to us and how we show up in the world. It is often when the storm is raging around us that we know most who we are and where we want to go. During this time, we have had the opportunity to question and refocus our priorities, fine tune our values and dig deep on what is important to us. For many, learning how to lead ourselves and those around us has been the silver lining of it all. 

If we want to ask our young people to lead from within we need to help them connect with themselves first. Self-leadership is a critical skill and it is our duty to teach young people how to develop an inner compass that will help them to show up in the world and navigate their daily life in positive ways.  By nurturing self-awareness, we teach them to draw on what is innately inside of them and to develop a healthier sense of well-being. In a sense, we need to drive connection and agency in the world from kids themselves. 

So, what can we as educators and parents do? We can create safe and supportive environments to help foster that sense of connection to self and others – and the language of Captain and Poet goes a long way in this effort. How is your Poet today? What is your Captain yearning to do? How are they showing up and how do they need to show up differently?

The partnership between the Captain and the Poet gives us access to a powerful combination of strength and vulnerability in ourselves. In the words of Jo, this could be the magic formula for living from a place of emotional courage and inspired action.

If everyone was their best Captain and Poet, I think that we would see true change in the world. We wouldn’t just see, you know, superficial change or performative action. It would be a really true understanding of each other and the world.

Through everyday lived experiences, we can invite our young people to cultivate their innate ability to lead themselves, reflect on their personal journey, and forge a pathway that develops a sense of agency and purpose in the world. 

Guest Blog: Captains & Poets is on a mission to ignite self-awareness, well-being and connection by supporting educators with tools that give young people the skills they need to help them thrive in an ever-changing world. Captains & Poets offers K-12 school and home resources that provide young people with simple strategies to help them become their best, authentic selves and to embrace others in the same spirit.