These are all questions that get to the heart of purpose—that commitment to something that not only is meaningful to you personally, but that also helps you contribute to the world around you.
Embarking on a voyage of discovering one’s purpose is critical during the adolescent years. Research shows that teens and young adults who seek purpose report higher life satisfaction and levels
of happiness. They also tend to have better physical health and are more successful academically.
And even though pursuing a purpose means hard work and may be stressful in the short term, students with purpose feel less stress in the long term—because they see challenges as stepping
stones towards their meaningful life goals.
At least two consistent findings have emerged from the growing body of empirical research that has been conducted on purpose over the past fifteen years. The first is that leading a life of
purpose is a good thing. Studies find that pursuing one’s purpose is associated with psychological well-being. For instance, compared to others, individuals with purpose report they are happier,
more satisfied with their lives, and more hopeful about the future.1 Perhaps not surprisingly, given the psychological benefits of purpose, studies also conclude that purpose is
associated with physical health, including lower stress hormone levels, improved cardiovascular and metabolic markers, reduced pain, a regression in some cancers, and longevity.2 Of
particular relevance to adolescents, studies find that purpose is related to indicators of academic success, including grit, resilience, and a belief that one’s school work is feasible and
manageable.3 Propelled by a personally meaningful and highly motivating aim, youth with purpose know what they hope to achieve and how academics can help; consequently they are more
likely to work hard and excel academically.4
The second clear finding to emerge is that purpose is rare. In spite of the benefits, only about 20% of adolescents lead lives of purpose.5 Rates of purpose increase during the college
years, when about 1 in 3 young people reports having identified a purpose in life, but across the lifespan, purposeful living appears to be the exception rather than the rule.6
Taking these two findings together—that leading a life of purpose is a beneficial but rare experience—inspired us to create and test a set of online activities designed to foster purpose. We’ve
now tested these activities with more than a thousand adolescents across the country. When we test them out, we randomly assign half of the young people to complete memorization activities
(control group) and half to complete the purpose-fostering activities (experimental group). At the end of the two weeks we consistently find that youth completing the purpose-fostering activities
report significantly higher rates of purpose in life. We hope these activities will help you too discover a meaningful direction to pursue.
Why the Purpose Challenge Toolkit? According to research, only about 20% of adolescents have a clear sense of purpose. But studies show that one of the best ways to help young people develop a sense
of purpose is simply to ask—and encourage them to reflect on—what they care about and are inspired by, what they hope to accomplish in life, and how their actions relate to their ultimate goals.
That’s where this free toolkit comes in. These activities provide an opportunity for you, or a young person in your life, to consider values, formulate goals, and grow in purposefulness.
- Bronk, Hill, Lapsley, Talib, & Finch, 2009; French & Joseph, 1999; Gillham, et. al., 2011; Lewis, Lanigan, Joseph, & de Fockert, 1997; Peterson, Parks, & Seligman, 2005
- Boyle, Barnes, Buchman, & Bennett, 2009; Hill & Turiano, 2014; Kass, Friedman, Leserman, Caudill, Suttermeister, & Benson, 1991; Krause, 2009; Melnechuk, 1988; Petrie & Azariah, 1990; Reker,
Peacock, & Wong, 1987; Ryff, Singer, & Love, 2004
- Benard, 1991; Hill, Burrow, & Bronk, 2014; Pizzolato, Brown, & Kanny, 2011; Solberg, O’Brien, Villarreal, Kennel, & Davis, 1993
- Damon, 2009
- Damon, 20 08
- Bronk, 2013; Bronk, Finch, & Talib, 2010; Bronk, Hill, Lapsley, Talib, & Finch, 2009; Damon, 2008; Francis, 2000; Moran, 2009