• The Path to Purpose:  How Young People Find Their Calling in Life


    by William Damon


    This book provides insight into young people who are thriving and changing the world in big ways and investigates reasons behind why so many kids fail to launch.  Damon explores the nine key factors responsible for igniting ideas into full fledged actions and long term commitments.  Each of these changes started from a small idea that was ignited.  He wants parents, school personnel and the community to foster and cultivate a sense of purpose that will launch students onto a personal path that is both rewarding and meaningful. 
    This book does not encourage high achievement as a means to happiness.  Conversely, it encourages meaningful achievement based on a conviction in choices that matter to the individual.  Some important questions for kids/parents/staff to consider:
    • What is my calling?
    • What do I have to contribute to the world?
    • When do we spend time helping students match their abilities and interests with future job or volunteer choices?
    Damon clearly dilineates the dreamers and disengaged from the purposeful, who find something meaningful, sustain interest over time, feel inspired by their agenda and take action to achieve their ambitions.  One great example he cites is "Ryan's Well Foundation" started by Ryan Hreljac, a 12 year old, who decided to start a foundation to provide safe drinking water to kids in disadvantaged countries.  Ryan worked hard and earned $70 from chores around the house.  The initial $70 could have been pretty discouraging, but Ryan didn't quit. This initial $70, combined with dedication and the ability to stick with a project for many years, has resulted in over $2 million being raised to provide clean drinking water via 319 drinking wells to households in 14 developing countries in Africa and beyond.   Interestingly, Ryan does not see himself as unique.  He says that "anyone can do anything, no matter who you are.  I'm just going to go beyond my limits and see where I end up."
    Beyond these stories is an entire section dedicated to parenting with purpose, focusing on the supporting role parents can play in assisting their children to explore, take risks, fail, and try again, at endeavors of importance to them.  Damon stresses that kids will eventually reflect parental values and behaviors, but they must know your values and behaviors by spending time with you, understanding what makes you tick, and gaining insight into your decision making, so that they will have influence (not control) as they steer a course to their own destination.
    • What do your children know about your motivation? 
    • Contributions at work? 
    • Sense of purpose in your own life?  
    This book is filled with interesting stories, great questions to ponder for yourself, with your partner and with your children?  I think it is worth a read or two, as there is so much here to digest.  I hope you'll enjoy it.

    Last modified on 12/21/09, by Sheila R Souder.