Orenda Week 2 Happiness and Eulogy Virtues

Orenda’s first group session focused on helping students explore one of the most important questions: What sort of life do they want to live? We helped students explicitly verbalize what makes them feel happy and motivated. During this first session, students defined, described and defended what’s important to them.

Students happily play an improv game to begin off the session

Students happily play an improv game to begin off the session

What is “happiness”?

When we were growing up, we heard a lot about how the purpose of life was to be “happy”. However, is this true? And what does it mean to be “happy,” anyways? These are some of the questions we hoped our workshop would shed light on for our students through two activities.

First, we asked students to read and reflect on an online comic that dissected the topic of happiness. Students read the comic, and then formed small groups to discuss the ideas in the comic. Each group was facilitated by one of our trained Orenda coaches to help guide the conversation towards a deeper understanding of happiness.

Throughout the session, students unpacked the word “happiness.” Through this activity, students concluded that when people use the word “happiness” they use it to refer to many other ideas that may be related, but not exactly the same. For example, students identified other goals they aspire towards, such as feeling satisfied, meaningful, passionate, joyful, interested, or engaged.

One student pointed out how “brittle the definition of words can be,” and that by breaking a word apart, we can better understand the components that make up the word.

Pictured Left: “Breaking apart” the idea of happiness so that students can better understand it.

What type of life do you want to live?

In his book The Road to Character, author David Brooks describes the difference between two types of virtues. The first he describes as resume virtues. These are qualities that “you bring to the marketplace.” These are virtues that you would brag about on a resume. They may include things like being a skilled negotiator, a persuasive salesperson, or a careful engineer. These are qualities that our society urges people to cultivate to become a better employee, employer, student, or craftsperson. Resume virtues extol career success.

David Brooks then mentions another type of virtues: eulogy virtues. These are qualities that will be spoken about you at your funeral. Your friends, families and loved ones will not dwell on how accomplished of a salesperson you were. They will instead remember how lovingly you treated your friends, how charitable you were towards strangers and how honest you were with yourself. These are qualities that, for many people, are what is truly important. Yet comparatively little resources are out there to help give a blueprint for how to develop these eulogy virtues. As David Brooks sums it up, “Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

As a result, in our second activity we asked students to describe how they want to be remembered when they die. Though our students are young, we wanted to help them think intentionally about how they want to lead their lives. What type of life do they wish to have lived? What sort of person do they want to become? What accomplishments, internal and external, do they hope to have claimed?

Pictured Below: Students thinking about the life they want to live.

Students self-reflected, wrote down their answers and then shared in their small groups. One student talked about the sort of legacy they wanted to leave through their artistic work, another student described how she wants to be remembered as having treated other people kindly, and another expressed wanting to have left a positive impact on others. Each of the facilitators also wrote their own reflections to this question, and some shared their life goals as well.

We closed the workshop by asking students to reflect on how their life current actions align (or don’t align) with their stated life goals. If they want to live the type of life they want their eulogy to describe, are they putting that into practice today?

We will build upon this theme of understanding what your true priorities are next week when we cover the topic of what students deeply value and why. Many students shared with us after this weekend’s activities that the questions we shared were ones they had never thought about. A few students described how “deep” our questions felt. We feel grateful that students experienced deeper reflection during our workshop and hope to continue to provide thought-provoking activities that challenge our students to develop their own perspectives.


If you are interested in learning more about participating in Orenda Academy, please fill out this link: Spring 2018 Interest Form.

We are also holding a limited number of spots for Spring 2018 virtual coaching where coaches work online with students not in the Bay Area. Please indicate if you are interested. You can also email us at carl@orendaacademy.com.