The Path to Purpose

How Young People Find Their Calling in Life
by William Damon | 240 pages

This book is a scientific look at Purpose by one of the world’s leading developmental psychologists—a powerful look at how to cultivate purpose in our children (and, for that matter, ourselves) and why it’s so important. Big Ideas we explore include a definition of what it means to be purposeful (and a look at the alternatives), the #1 thing that gets in the way of discovering and creating purpose, 9 key things parents can do to help their kids with purpose, why entrepreneurial spirit is so important and a four-word mantra to reduce timidity and build courage and confidence.


“In my prior work, I had encountered the notion of purpose many times, but dimly and indirectly, as if through a telescope with an all-fitted lens. None of my earlier studies was about purpose per se; yet I now see that much of what I have been trying to understand for many years does in fact hinge on purpose. A study I conducted (with Anne Colby) of extraordinary moral commitment found that people who pursue noble purposes are filled with joy, despite the constant sacrifices that they feel called upon to make. In a subsequent series of studies (with Howard Gardner and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) of men and women who have done socially valuable ‘good work’ in their careers, I was struck by how vividly these people were able to answer our questions about what they were trying to accomplish and why. An elevated purpose was always on their minds, driving their daily efforts. This purpose was their ultimate concern, essential to all their personal successes—it gave them energy; it gave them satisfaction when they accomplished their goals; and it gave them persistence when they ran into obstacles. …

This work led me to examine how young people find their purposes in life. Do adolescents have purposes, and if so, how do they learn them? What kinds of purposes, in addition to those related to careers, are inspiring today’s young? What happens when young people are unable to find any purpose at all to devote themselves to? The present book is the first account of the insights that I and my students have been gaining through our initial research into these questions.”

~ William Damon from The Path to Purpose

William Damon is a Professor at Stanford and one of the world’s leading researchers on the science of morality and child development. (This is the third Note we’ve created on his great books. Check out Noble Purpose + The Power of Ideals.)

In The Power of Ideals, he profiled six “moral exemplars”—truly world-changing humans who embodied the best within us. (The sample included such luminaries as Nelson Mandela, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt and Dag Hammarskjöld.)

In this book, William offers us insight into how twelve remarkable young people have found and expressed their purpose—giving us insight into how we can help our children discover and express theirs.

Basically, it’s a scientific look at Purpose by one of the world’s leading developmental psychologists—a powerful look at how to cultivate purpose in our children (and, for that matter, ourselves) and why it’s so important. It’s fantastic. (Get a copy here.)

I’m excited to share some of my favorite Big Ideas so let’s jump straight in!

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About the author

Authors

William Damon

One of the world’s leading scholars of human development.