People whose sense of purpose stops at “getting ahead” make unpleasant company. They’re overly busy, overly competitive, and overly suspicious. They’re tense, irritable, and pessimistic. They put expediency ahead of integrity and self-respect. Often they wind up chronically depressed or even suicidal.
Sadly, it’s not just middle-aged CEOs who get into this condition. It happens to kids of high school age—and even younger.
Presumably, you’d rather have your kids at the top of the happiness curve than the top of the grade curve. Yet you may have fallen into the trap of emphasizing “achievement”—and never had a serious talk with your children about purpose.
At any age, a sense of individual purpose means:
Helping Your Kids Find Their Purpose
If you want that for your children, the rules of helping them build a purpose-centered mindset are:
For serious long-term planning, a detailed self-evaluation is in order. One popular template was created by Rick Warren (author of The Purpose-Driven Life) and uses the acronym SHAPE:
Spiritual Gifts (a concept from Christian theology, but those from other traditions may apply it to insight-based and relational skills): What sorts of things do you know instinctively? How well do you relate to others? In what ways do you find it natural to help others?
Heart, or passions: What can you get completely lost in? What topics fascinate you?
Abilities: Are you an athlete or an artist? What topics do you get high grades in? What do people compliment you for? What do others ask you to help with “because you’re so good at it”?
Personality: Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Detail-focused or broadly imaginative? Logical or emotional? Spontaneous or a planner? (There are several tests, notably the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, for evaluating personality traits more thoroughly.)
Experience: Which past activities brought you the most joy? Which produced the most satisfactory results?
Helping your children find their purpose—and respecting whatever purposes they find—is a gift even more valuable than formal education.