For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.

—Viktor Frankl (1992), Man’s Search for Meaning, p. XIX

How can I help my teen cultivate purpose?

  • Ask your teen questions—about what’s most important to them and why, whether they have any specific interests, long-term goals, etc.—and really listen to their answers, without imposing your own dreams or aspirations.
  • Be open-minded and supportive of the “sparks” and goals that your child expresses.
  • Help your child think beyond the short-term view of daily life and focus on long-term aims.
  • Nurture the positive attitude, self-confidence, sense of responsibility, and “entrepreneurial spirit” (goal-setting, persistence, resilience, resourcefulness, etc.) that will enable your child to turn their dreams into reality.
  • Give your teen opportunities to explore activities that could potentially lead to purposeful engagement and introduce them to potential mentors.
  • Talk with your child about your own sense of purpose and what makes your life meaningful.
  • Encourage your child to use the Purpose Challenge toolkit to kick-start his or her thinking about purpose.
  • Try out the activities to get familiar with how to foster purpose.
  • FAQs

    How long will it take to complete the purpose-fostering activities?

    Students will log in four times over the next week or two. Each time they log in, they’ll likely spend about 15-20 minutes completing the online activities. Between these times, we hope they’ll reflect on the activities and their thoughts about them.

    Can my teen complete these activities on their phone?

    Yes, everything will be available online, and the purpose-fostering activities can be completed using a phone, a tablet, or a computer. However, we recommend students write the final essay on a computer, to facilitate the typing process.

    What kinds of activities will my child complete?

    The activities are designed to help teens think deeply about the things that matter most to them and what it is that they want to accomplish in their lives. To that end, activities include sending emails, writing responses, viewing brief video clips, responding to quotations, and sorting value statements. The toolkit then provides step-by-step guidance on using these completed exercises to help write a college-application essay. We’ve tried to create a set of activities that is both thought provoking and fun to complete.

    Do you have to be a senior in high school to do the Purpose Challenge?

    The toolkit is intended for high school seniors. Others are welcome to explore its purpose-fostering activities, but the college-essay guidance won’t be as relevant to them.

  • Imagine you’re 40 years of age, and things in your life have gone as well as you could have hoped. What will you be doing? Who will be in your life? What will be important to you? Why?

    Spend 5 minutes picturing your best possible future and 5 more minutes writing about it. Describe it in as much detail as possible.