As we move toward the end of another year, I begin to think more about endings and new beginnings. From kindergarten graduation to celebrating our courageous, soon-to-be high school freshman, we get to be a part of our children’s next steps as they make plans with excitement and purpose.
How does one find purpose? We know adolescents experience more well-being and hope when they have a sense of purpose.
"Purpose is an abiding aim that directs your behavior, provides a sense of meaning in life and matters to the world beyond yourself.” - Mary Abdulah, Greater Good Berkeley.
We may think of finding purpose related to young adults as exploring life, interests, and values but research indicates that some foundations of purpose are developed during childhood on both positive and negative experiences.
For example, some research has shown us that adversity during childhood (abuse, poverty, health disadvantages, conflict between parents) can influence the development of a decreased sense of purpose. For some, hard times in childhood can create even greater clarity on goals in life providing direction because of challenging childhood experiences. Adversity can also inspire children to find purpose in making a positive difference when they grow up.
Exposure to diverse activities, recognizing and exploring nature and its beauty, and taking an active role in modeling service that contributes to solutions also provides a backdrop for children and adolescents to find purpose in their larger world.