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Discovering Your Young Person’s Sense of Purpose

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Is your young person feeling lost, wondering what the point of it all is?

It’s all too common for young people to feel like life is just an endless cycle of meaningless tasks: going to work, doing boring work, coming home to pay bills, and then doing it all over again. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Many worried parents tell me they fear their child or teen might miss out on learning important morals and a purpose in life without a religious background. This episode will show you that plugging into a sense of purpose can be done with or without a religious framework. Whether your family is connected to a religious community or not, there are powerful, actionable strategies you can use to guide your young person toward a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Understanding Purpose and Its Importance

To help your young person find their purpose, it’s essential to first understand what purpose means and why it’s so important. Purpose gives life meaning and direction. It’s different from just having goals or hobbies; it’s about understanding that our unique strengths and interests have value and can make a difference in the world.

When teens have a sense of purpose, they are more motivated, resilient, and generally happier. Without it, they can feel lost, unmotivated, and even fall into depression or anxiety. Addressing this now, before they become adults, can set them up for a happier and more fulfilling life.

Why Modern Teens Struggle with Purpose

Now that you understand what purpose is, why it’s so important for your young person to develop, and that YOU play a big role in its development, you might be wondering why modern kids seem to have more difficulty with this than previous generations. Let’s explore some key reasons:

Lack of Role Models: Many teens might not have positive role models in their lives who demonstrate a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment in their careers and contributions. When young people don’t see adults around them who are passionate about their work and lives, they can struggle to envision what a purposeful life looks like.

Social Media and Peer Influence: The impact of social media on teens’ perceptions of success and purpose can’t be overstated. Teens are constantly bombarded with images and stories of what success should look like – glamorous lifestyles, instant fame, and superficial achievements. This can lead to unrealistic expectations and a sense of inadequacy when their own lives don’t measure up.

Balancing Act: As parents, we want to guide and support our kids and teens, but it’s easy to tip the balance into doing too much for them. If we solve all their problems or push them too hard in certain directions, they might not develop the independence and resilience needed to discover their own purpose. It’s a delicate balance of offering support while giving them the space to explore and make their own decisions.

Resilience and Setbacks: Life is full of challenges, and building resilience helps young people cope with these challenges and keep moving forward. When your young person encounters setbacks, it’s important to help them see these moments as opportunities for growth rather than insurmountable obstacles.

Real-Life Examples

To bring these concepts to life, let’s look at some examples:

Imagine a teen named Alex who loves drawing and is incredibly talented. But Alex’s parents are always busy with work and rarely show enthusiasm for their own jobs. Alex might think that having a job is just something you do to pay bills and not something you can be passionate about. This lack of a positive role model in the career space can dim Alex’s excitement about turning their passion for art into a career.

Or consider another teen, Mia, who spends hours on social media. She sees influencers living seemingly perfect lives and starts to feel that her own achievements are insignificant. Mia might think that unless she’s living a life worthy of social media fame, her efforts don’t matter. This distorted view of success can prevent her from appreciating her unique strengths and contributions.

Balancing Support and Independence: If you’ve ever caught yourself doing too much for your young person, you’re not alone. It’s natural to want to help them avoid mistakes, but sometimes the best thing you can do is step back and let them handle things. Think of it as guiding them from the sidelines, offering advice and support but letting them play the game. This way, they learn resilience and independence, which are essential for finding and pursuing their purpose.

Resilience and Setbacks: Let’s say your young person is really into science but struggles with a challenging class. They might feel discouraged and think they’re not cut out for it. This is a perfect opportunity for you to step in and help them see that everyone faces challenges, and what matters is how they handle them. Encouraging them to seek help from a teacher, find study partners, or try different study methods can turn a setback into a stepping stone toward their passion.

Strategies to Help Your Young Person Find Their Purpose

Now that we understand the challenges, let’s dive into some actionable strategies to help your young person develop a strong sense of purpose.

1. Identify Their Natural Strengths and Interests: You’ve got to start here. If your young person doesn’t understand that they are special and unique and that they were born with natural strengths and interests, then you’re missing something important. This is so crucial. Take the time to observe what they naturally gravitate towards. Maybe they’re always doodling in their notebooks – that could be a sign of a budding artist. Or perhaps they’re fascinated by how things work – maybe you’ve got a future engineer on your hands. Encourage them to join extracurricular activities that align with these interests. Make it mandatory to try something outside of academic classes, so they can explore and discover their passions. If you need help identifying your child or teen’s natural passions and interests, download my free worksheet at [insert link].

2. Encourage Exploration: Let your young person try different activities and interests without the expectation and pressure of having to be perfect. The journey of finding their purpose starts with exploration. They might be interested in something today and something completely different tomorrow – and that’s okay. What’s important is that they start the journey. Don’t judge their interests. Support them, and let them know it’s perfectly fine to change directions as they learn more about themselves.

3. Help Them Develop the Right Mindset: It’s important for your young person to understand that they don’t have to be the best or be just like everyone else. They just need to be themselves. This mindset can relieve a lot of pressure and help them enjoy the process of discovering their purpose. Celebrate their individuality and remind them that their unique qualities are what make them special.

4. Get Your Young Person Off Their Screens: Create a healthy online/offline balance at home. This has to start early – during adolescence or the teenage years – so that young people learn this important life skill and carry it into adulthood. Too much screen time can be a major distraction from discovering real-world interests and strengths. Encourage them to engage in activities that don’t involve screens, like sports, reading, or hands-on projects.

5. Set Up Opportunities for Service and Volunteering: Engaging in community service can help teens find a sense of purpose. It’s a great way for them to see the impact they can have on others and understand that their actions matter. Look for local volunteer opportunities that align with their interests. Whether it’s helping out at an animal shelter, tutoring younger kids, or participating in community clean-ups, these activities can provide a sense of fulfillment and purpose.

6. Encourage Mentorship: Finding mentors who can guide your young person on their journey is incredibly valuable. A mentor can provide insights, share experiences, and offer encouragement. This could be a teacher, coach, family friend, or someone in a field they’re interested in. Mentors can help them navigate challenges and stay motivated.

7. Practice Setting Realistic Goals and Reflecting on Them: Help your young person set meaningful goals and reflect on their progress. Start with small, achievable goals that build their confidence. Regularly sit down with them to discuss what’s working and what’s not. This reflection process helps them understand their journey, recognize their accomplishments, and adjust their path as needed.

By addressing these challenges head-on, you can empower your young person to discover their unique strengths and passions, build resilience, and develop a meaningful and fulfilling life. Now that we’ve explored these foundational concepts, let’s dive into some actionable strategies that you can start implementing today to help your young person thrive.

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And always remember, Friend, I believe in you. You’ve got this.