In this episode, Amy Edelstein explores the power of purpose and the value that speaking about purpose with youth has on the rest of their lives. She discusses the great Stanford Educator and Author William Damon and his book The Path to Purpose , which looks at the impact of materialism and our fast-paced technological world on the exploration of greater goals. Going as far back as Aristotle, tapping into Erik Erikson and Piaget, Damon bolsters his argument in favor of purpose as a key foundation for youth happiness, resilience, success, patience, and also humility. We'll look at how mindfulness can cultivate a sense of meaning and purpose and how we as educators, parents, or mentors can support youth development.Support the show
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The Power of Purpose for Youth
Hello, welcome to this episode of The Conscious Classroom. My name is Amy Edelstein. Today. I want to talk about the power of purpose. It's something that is essential for. The development of our youth higher potentials. And it's something that is missing from our ongoing discussions with adolescents and within their school career.
I'd like to explore the value of purpose, the need to dialogue with teens about purpose and the ways to begin to weave that into all of our educational curriculum, to our practices of mindfulness, why we're practicing, how we discover who we are and to our sense of obligation to foster a greater sense of purpose and direction for our youth .
William Damon, the great educator wrote a very profound book 10, 12 years ago called the path to purpose, helping our children find their calling in life. And in that he really explored deeply. Y asking the big questions of life is so important. The inner strength curriculum was really founded on that. It was developed to foster students' higher potentials by encouraging them to explore their role in the world, their place in the world, their place in evolutionary history. And to connect them with that sense, that meaning purpose is not only possible in their lives, but is the driving force that is going to help them realize the goals that they aspire to attain, bring them happiness and bring them a real sense of fulfillment that nobody can take away from.
Youth is a time of discovery. You know, what we're seeing in the adolescent brain is that that activation of individual passion of particular individual loves and curiosity. Hobbies and goals. And you can see in young people, when they, when they connect with something, they're all in, whether it's a science fiction world and all the characters and languages or a video game and all the levels or a sports league and all of the players or dance or service or.
Religion and philosophy youth camps that are built on purpose, whether it's a church group or a synagogue group or any other kind of a faith based organization, attracts youth who really care about what they're doing in life. Youth is a time of idealism. Also, it's a time where the brain is designed to test limits, to take risks and risks.
Don't have to be drugs or promiscuous sex or driving fast, those risks or challenges there, experimentation there's that sense of development. There's that sense of. Wanting to have an audacious goal. Now, you know, many of the great social movements started were incubated among adolescents because they had the passion and drive and vision and sense of no limitation where they wanted to change the world, whether it was the environmental movement, different areas of the civil rights move.
Different times for political reform. You see that sense of, I want to break through these limits. I want to make the world into one that I can see in my mind's eye. I want to reach for that and that sense of idealism and passion and willingness to take risks for. Purpose is something to foster because purpose brings meaning and it brings also resilience.
What's fascinating is when an adolescent becomes connected to their purpose, they're willing to stay steady for longterm goals. They expect challenge. Challenges or just part of the path they're part of getting to something big. And rather than that sense of, oh, I found a problem. It's a roadblock. I'm going to give up and do something easier when there's that direct connection with purpose or the desire to clarify their purpose, then struggle is simply part.
And that struggle builds character. It builds resilience. It builds confidence. It's the sense that I can make it through something. Mindfulness brings its own sense of ability self-confidence because students learn how to. Sit through difficult states of mind, how to sit through restlessness or agitation, they learn how to cultivate patience, equanimity self-care distance from their mind choice over their actions.
And those goals are not just small. Self-improvement goals when seen in the context of higher purpose, what those goals are, are our own personal character development for the sake of becoming a weighty and impactful adults in the world. We need those skills to achieve our personal and professional goals.
To be steady, to be good parents, to be good leaders and the confidence that students get that adolescents get when they start working in more with a more serious focus on their different mindfulness practices, helps them explore who they are, why they care about what they care about. And how to cultivate the character strength to realize those goals, contemplative practices and the exploration of awareness and our emotional states is all part of the toolkit that teens need to start working with.
In order to be able to become the fulfilled and constantly developing individuals that they, that will bring them great love. Great, great sense of connectedness. Great sense of meaning and and love for the life that. We see so much in our young people today and particularly post pandemic have a sense of fatigue, a sense of disengagement.
That's very unnatural for the teen brain. The teen brain is filled with passion. It's filled with curiosity. And the boundaries that the pandemic set up, the fear that it in co-located in us, the lack of guidance and mentorship and presence of inspiring adults has really left this generation adrift. We can change the, that sense and provide rudder, provide.
Understanding of how to set a goal and take forward movement for our teens simply by engaging them in an inquiry.
The way I approach a conscious classroom has more to do with our sense of curiosity and discovery and ability to ask questions that matter than any particular specific tool in and of itself.
Our youth need good questions and they need a sounding board. Why are you doing this? What do you hope to accomplish? What's your higher goal and why is it important to.
When you come to the end of your life and you look back, what do you want to be remembered for? What mark do you want to make the weather that's being a beautiful and inspiring and loving parent, whether it's being a teacher and inspiring others, whether it's pursuing contemplative practice. And evolving one's own humanity, or it's being a research scientist and working on environmental problems and coming up with solutions, or it's a fashion designer bringing a sense of color and shape and joy into our daily way of dressing ourselves.
Any of those purposes, they're not just an end in itself. It's it's it connects with the love of the student to an impact in the world, wanting to be a noble human being influences all those around us and contributes to society, wanting to solve environmental problems, contributes to society. Wanting to raise a loving and stable family contributes to society wanting to be an in an active active in our political world with integrity, with morality, with care, for all, with vision, for the possible contributes to our society.
Asking young people, why they feel passionate about what they do, what's it for helping them see the bigger context that they existed. We all exist in a social world. This can help them really set their direction, even though they'll change and discover new things, even though the passions of their youth may not be.
Their expression as adults, the sense of caring for something deeply realizing the unity of individual purpose and greater purpose is something that will stay with them. The rest of their lives, finding those loves, and that sense of the value of searching for me. Help students realize that happiness isn't a drug we take, or just a vacation that we aspire to or having a lot of money to buy.
What fulfills our every little need. Happiness comes from the process of being on a noble quest.
We gain our steady direction by keeping our eyes far ahead of us, you know, keeping our vision focused way in the distance. It's like driving a car. If you focus on just the 10 feet in front of you, when you're on the highway, you end up swerving and not being. When you focus on the far distant point, you're driving becomes smooth.
You see what's close and you see where you're headed. You see the curves that are coming, you adjust along the way.
And that is really where we want to train our young people's attention. We want to train them to look into the future. We want to train them to see the context that they're living in. Even as they focus in more deeply on their own passions and their own loves
teens will experience their own loves and passions, but key questions and discussions in an ongoing way, help them learn how to engage with the. Passions in a way that is meaningful, it helps them find what they're looking for. It helps them have a sense that the process of stumbling around is not a process of being lost.
If we have intimations of this larger goal, the process of stumbling around is essentially. For experimentation innovation discovery evolution.
As I work with students in my classes last week, we started our new semester and went around the room and asked each of the students what they hope to get out of the class. And I gave them some examples. Are you looking for a way to better manage tension, stress, anger, fear, a way to be more calm or focused or happy, a way to explore the nature of human consciousness, a way to find out what you're really feeling a way to understand.
How better to communicate because you learn how to read the signs and symbols. And in the class of 28 students, there were only a couple repeats. Everybody had their own interest. I wanted to meet my students. I told them I wanted to tailor our next 12 lessons to what their interests were. And so they felt heard and they felt by.
I also wanted them to see that we can use the same steps and answer very different questions. As we go through the 12 lessons, they learn they're seven evidence-based mindfulness tools and they learn about brain science and they learn about culture. And how that impacts them. They're going to see how their individual questions are related to the world around us and making the world a better place.
Not everyone is going to be an activist or a volunteer or a caregiver. Of course, charitable purposes are really. Character building for youth. It helps them connect with the world around them. It's good for their own development, but not everyone is going to be pulled in that direction. What we can do as adults, as mentors, as teachers, as parents, is to show them that our individual person.
Have an impact and can have a positive impact on the world, around us, discovering who we are and learning about the nature of human consciousness can make us more creative and giving and wise and sensitive and empathetic individuals, which impacts the world. Everyone. We come and touch. Learning how to be a better friend, learning about communication, create stronger friendships, stronger friendships, create happier classrooms, create better school environments, create places that we want to be part of makes us feel like we belong, that we want to believe.
Having a big view on purpose and seeing it as a primary goal or task or assignment of the adolescent stage of development will help guide our, all of our mentorship and education. It will help us connect the subjects we teach, whether it's contemplative practice or algebra or history to an adolescence experience of being in the world to their natural passion, to innovate and to explore beyond the edges,
helping guide them to develop an article. Their long-term goals and the way their long-term goals relate to their everyday actions will really help them cultivate that sense that they're here for a reason. And they're here for the long haul and that their life isn't fragmented their life. Isn't just a bunch of checkboxes that they're taking off for their college applications.
Which will get them to their career, which will get them to their marriage, which will get them to their mid-life stability. Life is not checkboxes that we're ticking off life is, is vibrating pulsating with meaning life is important. It has significance our curiosity. Our questions are acting. Have repercussions, they have effects on those around us.
They have impact
as educators in this time where there's so much fragmentation, where there are so many discouragements where the role models in media. And in our elected officials are focused on short-term satisfaction and gratification, short term wins and even self aggrandizement or aggrandizement of one's own political party is against the other, rather than the good of the whole has narrowed our discourse and it's given teens fewer examples of what it means to strive for purpose.
We want to bring that back. We want to bring back that sense. That purpose is the essence of what adolescents should be filled with. Their thoughts, their discussions, even their games should be filled with that sense of possibility. All the way back to Aristotle purpose was seen as the guiding element of a healthy teens life.
And he said, That youth and I quote, are hopeful. Their lives are filled with expectation. They are high minded. They choose to do what is noble rather than what is expedient.
Part of the adolescent period of development is to develop that love for what is noble, what has impact, what can change the world? And change the world may mean in large scale, or it may mean by cultivating beautiful music by developing an expression and art by being a caretaker for a grandparent,
we give to the world in so many ways. Our job as adults is to help students see that they give to the world in so many ways, and also to help them see that every action is going to have an impact in the world. So we want to have that positive impact.
Let's add to our reflection on purpose, a contemplative exercise, and you can do this with me and you can do this with the teens you teach or mentor or parent.
So calm into an alert and stuff. Posture
allowing your thoughts to settle your tensions, to recede into the background, your to-do list to fade for them.
And now bring your mind's eye to yourself.
Take a deep breath in and a slightly longer exhalation and another deep breath in. And a slightly longer exhalation
and another deep breath in and a slightly longer exhalation.
Allow yourself to say.
Seeing yourself from the outside.
Now think about what you care most about achieving in life.
Do you want to be a wise person? Do you want to be a truthful person?
Do you want to be a caring person?
Do you want to be an innovative person?
Think about the different qualities, the highest ideals for a human being, which are the ones that speak to you most
bring those qualities to mind and that's. And silence as you allow those qualities to take hold in your heart,
establishing a base there, laying down roots.
Keep your attention.
Now imagine that those qualities could permeate your whole body, just like water permeates our whole body and that, that wisdom, compassion, integrity. Creativity love truthfulness strength, or whatever qualities you feel most connected to let them permeate your being.
No allow your contemplation to turn to why those qualities are important.
Do you want to be wise to make good decisions
and to lessen conflict? With others. Do you want to be compassionate to uplift those who are suffering?
Do you want to be kind to bring joy into the world?
Do you want to be creative to bring happiness or problem solver?
Think about the qualities you identified
now, think about why, what is their purpose? What is their purpose in the world?
And why do you individually feel connected? To those qualities, to that way of having impact to that positive outcome.
Now picture yourself.
20 years from now, no matter how old you are at the moment, close enough, so that we can see it far enough so that we can't imagine
and allow yourself to imagine how you will feel as you build those quality. As they have that impact in the world as your presence on earth, touches people around you.
And imagine the strength, the confidence, the joy, the successes, the lessons learned from wrong term.
The hurdles you tripped over the hurdles, you overcame as you pursued that purpose. As you developed those qualities, as you strengthened yourself, as you brought meaning into your life. As you uplifted those around you.
And now we can begin to bring that contemplation to a close.
Remembering that in any conversation, in any activity, in any way we'd mentor, educate or parent, we can bring this guiding inquiry around purpose and passion and impact and goals into our dialogues with young people. And help them shape their own process of growth and discovery, helping them find a direction that only they can discover.
And yet you as an adult in their lives can help give shape.