david rossiDavid Rossi has been actively involved teaching, counselling and mentoring youth for the past 17 years. His award winning approach has led dedicated teams to achieve national recognition and a high level of success working with hundreds of priority youth. Teaching common sense and critical thinking, he couples his training with a variety of workshops to develop essential skills.

David has worked in all the major industries and hired, mentored and trained hundreds of staff. He has taught and presented worldwide, built and sailed a boat across the pacific with his children, developed adventure outdoor programs for people with disabilities, climbed mountains, taught skiing internationally and cycled extensively. He is currently producing a documentary about teaching critical thinking to youth.

During our personal conversation, I began to understand why David is so successful in the work that he does – his passion and his lifelong experience go hand in hand and it was such a pleasure to speak with him.

Soul Love: How do we teach youth to live a happy and fulfilled life?

David: As parents, teachers or people involved with youth we are faced with the demands of making our youth happy. Often we hear parents excuse a youth’s non constructive behaviour by saying “Whatever makes them happy”. We use creative tactics to entertain them, we feed them ‘treats’, cloth them with the latest fashions and give them what they want so that we can be sure that they are happy. We work hard at our tasks and take our job of ‘making them happy’ serious. We often find however that the youth are still wanting more and all that we have provided is not enough. Taking the responsibility on ourselves we then try to up our efforts. New TVs, more computer time, pizza nights…. the list goes on.

The search for happiness is a quest that people are constantly pursuing and is often fraught with disappointment and dissatisfaction. This quest for happiness can lead us to continuously chase more and more material possessions, new fashions, fads or trends.  We work out more, make more money, have more holidays, want more rooms in our house, desire more property, more cars, more food, more exercise, more sports, more consumption and more fun. Through our own quest we hard wire our youth to expect happiness through the same process of acquisition – we have modelled behaviours that our youth can copy.

We often find that ‘having more’ doesn’t relate directly to being happier. Often the happiness we find is only fleeting and gone as quickly as it arrived. Working long hours to buy a new car or acquire a new possession does not often bring lasting happiness.

The latest happiness studies have given us great insight into how to be happy. The findings parallel many of the ancient teaching and show that a reflective, meditative (mindful) lived life can bring lasting happiness. These teachings go against much of our materialistic upbringings. Our capitalist/growth society says that we want more – bigger – better.

We are bombarded by messages that urge us to constantly have more. When we look at media depicting happy people we see someone smiling in the ad when they have a certain product. The popular culture leads us to believe that acquiring possessions will lead us to the land of “Happy”. Imagine if it was that easy! We would only have to possess the depicted product and then – voila – Happy!

When we teach youth to work and tell them to pursue their dreams are we including the concepts that will make them truly fulfilled and happy in their future? Are we providing the youth with the tools that can bring them happiness in life? Are we providing the tools they need to learn the skills to bring them real success. The lessons within lessons. The tools that compliment their life education. The leading question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” could be answered with “I want to be happy when I grow up.”

There are ways we can assist our youth find their definition of happy. As guides and mentors we can encourage thought that will give the youth working tools to find their truth. The list is not conclusive. It does not include obvious like exercise, diet and contributing to the community. The list is meant to stimulate thought, conversation and ultimately promote learning.

Here are 4 ways to teach youth how to obtain happiness:
1. Help them to be clear to their purpose
2. Encourage them to choose worthy friends
3. Teach them the skills to live frugally
4. Show them how to find seclusion for inner peace

“Each experience should be savoured and appreciated for what it is, not just with the eyes but with all the senses.”

SL: So the main message that you want to bring across is to be clear to your purpose?

Yes! And defining a life purpose will take careful study and reflection. Coming up with a clear definition – one that can be consistent through life’s stages – can be tailored to the individual. Living a virtuous life, living with honour, compassion, generosity, kindness, openminded-ness, thoughtfulness and reflection are goals that can be worthy of pursuing, goals that will take effort and dedication to achieve.

Everything that we do, every activity that we engage in should be in keeping with our intended life’s purpose. Defining our meaning and working toward that end should be inherent in every activity that we pursue. Understand that every moment you experience is only fleeting. Each experience should be savoured and appreciated for what it is not just with the eyes but with all the senses.

When we make a meal there is often many different ingredients that make the whole. Life can be viewed the same way – full of many unique flavours.  To really experience all that life has to offer will be to taste each experience not just with the tip of the tongue but with all the senses. Youth are taught the importance of understanding that this is the only time that they will be where they are now in time experiencing this moment. Each moment is unique and special. Success would be to live and experience life fully. To fully appreciate every moment, every breath and every feeling. Helping youth stay clear to their purpose will assist with defining meaning even when things are not moving forward like they expect. This quest is a life long and challenging pursuit.

In Part 2 of our interview with David Rossi, we will speak more about his beautiful book “Have you ever been to Sea?” which is an inspiration for both youth and parents.


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