Belonging, Reflection & Joy at Home, School & Work

I have always been struck by just how many similarities there are between the elements that allow children to thrive at school, and those that allow adults to thrive at work. When I first engaged with the fundamental research behind organizational design and organizational psychology, I saw all the same themes that have come up in my work with children and educators. And the longer I parent, the more clearly I see the same ideas come through at home as well, for all ages.

So here I want to share a few thoughts about three concepts that are critical in cultivating spaces for learning and flourishing, across home, school, work, and wherever life is happening:




Belonging always needs to come first when people are building a strong and healthy group, especially one that will be together for a sustained period of time. At home, children and adults alike must feel trusted and safe to express who they are and what they believe in, and confident that they can push back and rebel at times because their family will be there no matter what. At school, students will be their best selves when they know it is okay to make mistakes, and that their classmates and teachers will celebrate the good days with them, and also support them through the challenges. Without that foundation, they will be too afraid of failure to learn openly and abundantly. And at work, employees need this assurance from their employers as well, or else they will hold back on their new ideas, hide mistakes in fear, and stay under the radar instead of fully engaging.

Reflection can be tough to prioritize. There is always another deadline to meet, meal to prepare, piece of content to read, view, or create. Reflection requires spaciousness. And here I mean reflection in its many forms. One version of reflection is taking time for the consideration of new ideas, such as discussing a read aloud text with your child or students, or writing a thoughtful essay, or even taking the time to share a book review on Instagram, some form of letting your mind, body, and soul digest before taking in something new. Another meaning reflection can take on is seeing your inner and outer selves reflected around you, represented in the stories you read and the people who have written them, as well as the people you interact with on a regular basis, which is critical in cultivating an understanding of ourselves and our communities. And the last version of reflection I will mention here is self-reflection, because the better we know ourselves, the better we will be at building strong and safe communities for ourselves and everyone around us.

Joy makes it all worthwhile. Humans are designed to find joy. Children are the best teachers and role models in this arena. Far too often as we get older, we internalize a false idea that joy is frivolous, or that seeking joy is self-indulgent, but it is essential to our survival. This does not mean that anyone will be happy all the time, but we naturally want to be in community with people who make us feel good, and we are liberated when we are in places where we can laugh. In my time working with children and families all around the globe with LitWorld, we talked a lot about “Serious Joy,” and the fact that it actually takes a lot of intentional hard work to create joy, and when joy bursts forth, it can be an unstoppable force. Feeling joy requires a certain level of vulnerability, which is why it comes last in this list. Joy in a group can only come once belonging is there, and joy on your own can come once you make the time and space for self-reflection and self-love.

So, let’s do what we can to cultivate spaces of Belonging, Reflection, and Joy wherever we go, for family, students, colleagues, newcomers in our communities, and for ourselves. I guarantee the effort will create a ripple effect of love and generosity that we can all use more in our lives.