purpose and damon 2…

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Relaxing Music for the month: Healing Hands: Liquid Mind (12:01) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hdwGhA4l50

So, this is the second part of purpose exploration through William Damon. My focus for this post is the Philosophers Notes, “The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life” (https://www.optimize.me/pn/the-path-to-purpose-william-damon) by William Damon. In this note, and why I’m extremely interested in it, is that he shares how we can help young people explore purpose. And it’s been something I’ve been helping college students explore and express in my 32+ years in higher education.

Before I share my thoughts from Notes from The Path to Purpose, I’m going to share my MY definition of Purpose:

“A sustained, fully-engaged, intentional commitment to future-directed goals and activities that empower you to explore, cultivate, and express an ever-evolving best version of yourself, where you use your gifts in service to something bigger than yourself to make the world a better place.”

This book provides insights and ideas on how we can help young people find purpose. Why it’s not required reading is beyond me, knowing that most young people (according to his research, about 80%) don’t have purpose. And we wonder why there’s an increase in mental health struggles? Really? I am convinced if we help people commit to goals and activities centered around them becoming their best selves in service to something bigger than themselves to make the world a better place, the world would indeed be a better place. And yet, it’s a challenge to implement purpose work in education because it can’t be measured, at least in the traditional sense of measurement. Stupid, if you ask me.

Anyway, here are a few thoughts that you might find useful in exploring purpose. In this book, here’s how he views purpose:

“What exactly do I mean by a ‘life purpose’? A purpose is an ultimate concern. It is the final answer to the question WhyWhy are you doing this? Why is it important? A purpose is a deeper reason for the immediate goals and motives that drive most daily behavior. A person can change purposes, or add new ones, over the years; but it is in the nature of purposes to endure at least long enough that a serious commitment is made and some progress toward that aim is achieved. A purpose can organize an entire life, imparting not only meaning but also inspiration and motivation for ongoing learning and achievement.”

He then makes the distinction between four different type of people:

  • The disengaged drift. They’re not passionate about anything beyond themselves and their own enjoyment.
  • The dreamers may aspire to create a life of meaning but they haven’t grounded those dreams into a practical, realistic plan to bring it to fruition.
  • The dabblers jump from thing to thing without sustained commitment—an essential aspect of being on purpose.
  • The purposeful are those who have found something meaningful to dedicate themselves to, who have sustained this interest over a period of time, and who express a clear sense of what they are trying to accomplish in the world and why. They have found a cause or ultimate goal that inspires their efforts from day to day and helps them fashion a coherent future agenda. They know what they want to accomplish and why, and they have taken concerted steps to achieve their ambitions.

William tells us that, in his research, about 25% were disengaged; 25% were dreamers and 30% were dabblers. 20% met this description of being purposeful. Which best describes your purpose-seeking journey? In my experience, very few students could be labeled as “purposeful,” which is why I’m obsessed with helping students gain clarity about their purpose. He also adds this bit of wisdom:

To qualify as a worthy purpose, the how of a course of action, as well as its why, must be guided by a strong moral sense. Finding noble purpose means both devoting oneself to something worth doing and doing it in an honorable manner. For this reason, a telling way to distinguish between ignoble and noble purposes is to analyze whether both the means and the ends are honorable.”

I love this! Amen!

There are two favorite sections in the Note (and the book) that I absolutely LOVED. The first section is titled, Parenting for Purpose, which he shares:

“I am entirely confident in asserting that the urgent project for parents today, in this world of increasing economic, cultural, and social uncertainty, is to help their children gain a wholesome sense of direction that will carry them through the minefields of drift, confusion, apathy, anxiety, fear, and self-absorption that threaten their generation. I am also convinced that the key to this sense of direction is finding a life purpose. While a parent cannot simply give a purpose to a child, and indeed any too forceful or controlling effort to do so is likely to have adverse repercussions, nonetheless there is much that a parent can do.”

There are nine things he shares that parents (and adults) can do to cultivate purpose in the lives of our young people:

  1. “Listen closely for the spark, then fan the flames.”
  2. “Take advantage of regular opportunities to open a dialogue.”
  3. “Be open-minded and supportive of the sparks of interest expressed.”
  4. “Convey your own sense of purpose and the meaning you derive from your work.”
  5. “Impart wisdom about the practicalities in life.”
  6. “Introduce children to potential mentors.”
  7. “Encourage an entrepreneurial attitude.”
  8. “Nurture a positive outlook.”
  9. “Instill in children a feeling of agency, linked to responsibility.”

The second section is where he addresses the key to success for young people. Not good grades, but cultivating the “entrepreneurial spirit,” which includes a description and the seven ingredients to encourage this spirit:

“One of the defining features of highly purposeful youth is their entrepreneurial manner of pursuing objectives. For the highly purposeful…, entrepreneurship was a stronger common factor than usual measures of success such as school achievement. Although these youngsters generally did well enough in school, few of them were valedictorians or all-A students; but virtually all were superb entrepreneurs. As a predictor of later success in life, I would place my bet on strong entrepreneurial capacities. Cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit means encouraging the following attitudes or dispositions:

    1. The ability to set clear goals and make realistic plans to accomplish them.
    2. An optimistic, can-do attitude.
    3. Persistence in the face of obstacles and difficulties.
    4. A tolerance—or more, even an appetite—for risk.
    5. Resilience in the face of failure.
    6. Determination to achieve measurable results.
    7. Resourcefulness and inventiveness in devising the means to achieve those results.”

Again, this Note and the book is a wealth a wisdom to cultivate purpose in young people today. And it has been the foundation for the courses I’m teaching this semester:

  • HHS125: What Could I Do With My Life (serving something bigger than yourself)
  • HHS135: Redesign a Life You’ll Love (becoming the best version of yourself)
  • HHS250: Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurship/Side Hustle 101 (developing the entrepreneurial spirit)

I would argue that it’s in the TOP TEN of ALL the books I have in my collection – and I have more than 3,000 hardcopy and 1,000 kindle books. If you’re into purpose exploration, especially with young people, it’s a must read!


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