By Tanuka Gordon
Often when we think of “product design” or “service design” we think of designing tangible goods or services that people use. What if helping our children be more compassionate, be more mindful could also be viewed as a service; and what if it was not just a service but an experience that our children could have? Could we shift our lens as educators to not only teach our youth but create a spark in them to “really feel” what it means to be compassionate?
There are entire fields of study and careers dedicated to user experience and design. In fact, I spent my whole career in this world and helping companies create and build products and services that users would love and use. While the work was fascinating and I met some great people, I always felt there was something different that I was supposed to be doing with my life. What I didn’t realize at the time was that that “different thing” would be working with children in mindfulness and community service and that this “different thing” would become my life’s true purpose. I also didn’t realize how important my user experience background would be in shaping my future work with children.
In 2016 I founded a nonprofit called Mindful Littles – focused on inspiring children to be more compassionate through mindful community service and creative educational programs. My own two young daughters, my greatest teachers, were the reason I stepped into this path. Not only was it difficult to find community service projects for young children, but when I did find the opportunities, my girls and I left the experiences feeling uninspired. And so the idea of Mindful Littles was born.
The concept behind Mindful Littles is to not just organize service and community projects for children and families, but to design experiences where families understand why they are giving back, the mindful intention behind it. Mindfulness, heartfulness is at the core of everything we do. We also want children to feel good about doing work for the community. And the feel good buzz we strive for is not just the high we get from being altruistic, but the buzz we get by having fun, feeling creative, letting ourselves flow. In the user experience world, this “feel good buzz” is called delight or even the WOW effect. By focusing on that WOW effect, we focus on opening hearts.
After our very first pilot project for Mindful Littles, we received a ton of positive feedback from community members. One testimonial specifically stood out to me, “That was a really great event. I held more doors open for people in the last few days than I think I have in my life. Your words were heard.” I knew at that moment that we had created a spark of change.
And the further I dove into the Mindful Littles journey, the more it became clear that I was back in the user experience and design world. But this time I was designing experiences for the most important people in our world — our children, our future leaders. And with each new event we organize, the more I continue to apply the skills I had gained from several years in the user experience world; and the more we get to WOW our community members.
Sometimes on life’s journey it isn’t always clear why we are on the path that we are on. For many years I wondered about my “dream job,” and if I ever would find it. I was fortunate enough to find it and now I’m living it. And with each passing day on this Mindful Littles adventure, it becomes more and more clear how my life’s puzzle pieces fit together so brilliantly to lead me to the exact right place at the exact right time.
And so the journey continues.