Dr Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, joined a team of 55 international researchers in 2001, to research the question: “How can we help young people realise their full potential?” This led to research into what makes life worth living, how we experience a richer life, how we reach optimal well-being, and how we can become the best version of ourselves. Thus followed three years of research, which resulted in the identification of the 24 character strengths used by mankind.

This series of blogs helps you understand the 24 scientifically proven character strengths, which help mankind’s wellbeing and quality of life across the globe.

Strength #7 Zest

  • They're full of energy and always busy with projects
  • They easily get absorbed by projects and they always finish
  • They are always eager to get started
  • They like being active and for them, life is an adventure

Last week I attended the Nexus Blog Awards, given to people working in education and making a difference by sharing their work and ideas. Everyone who came on the stage had one thing in common, an energy, a passion, a love for what they were doing, a drive. They showed zest. All of these people were making a positive difference in children’s lives, by their work in different areas of education. One of the people who received an award really stood out for me.

He was a teacher who was talking about the positive impact of social media. He shot to fame after he posted a video of his students teaching him the moves of ‘The Floss’ dance craze on his Facebook page and it quickly gained thousands of views. He used that as an opportunity to engage his students in the classroom. Bringing in a poet to write about the dance and getting everyone involved. Since then he has gone even further, doing a project about Killer Whales in captivity (following their interest in the Netflix documentary ‘Blackfish’), and getting so much notice from social media platforms that he and his class were invited to the European Parliament to discuss the problem!

Talking to him after the awards ceremony, I congratulated him on his amazing teaching skills and told him how much I admired him for the way he was inspiring the children. He summed it up like this, “It’s them. They have so much energy, and it’s using that energy by capturing their interest in something – and using that interest to further their learning.”

Inspiring huh? When children are truly interested and passionate about what they’re doing, they just get so eager to do things, find out, learn more. When children have zest, it makes life and learning an adventure, a joy. It’s such an important strength to have, it is life-enhancing and really helps foster a growth mindset and positivity.

Here are ways to fuel the strength of zest in your child.

1. Connect to your child’s interests
If your child is interested in something, use that to motivate their learning. If they love insects or dinosaurs, they will be far more interested in activities based around those things: “Let’s count the spider’s legs.” “What colour is the ladybird?” – and as they get older, you can expand on this “How do you spell stegosaurus?” “Let’s find out how tall a T-Rex was” “What does a brachiosaur eat?”

2. Be enthusiastic yourself
Enthusiasm can be contagious! If your child sees you getting excited about your own projects and interests, they are much more likely to follow suit. Also, when doing an activity with them show that you are really interested too, ask questions, use motivating language “Wow, that’s incredible!” “How fantastic is that?” “I’m so excited about this”

3. Do new things
It’s not always easy to find excitement when we do the same things again and again. We can change things up with very little effort to keep things new and interesting, from jazzing up a sandwich – “Let’s cut it into different shapes!” Going down the slide backwards, wearing odd coloured socks “That’s SO cool!” Finding new books in the library … to going away for a day to a new destination, trying a new sport or game, visiting a gallery or museum … The possibilities are endless, and every new experience is an adventure to be enjoyed.

Learning is more about the ride than the destination and when we have a zest for learning, we have motivation and curiosity for the new, the unexplored, the unknown. It not only furthers our life experience, but it also enhances it too.

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