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The Path to Purpose: Helping Our Children Find Their Calling in Life

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Drawing on the revelatory results of a landmark study, William Damon -- one of the country's leading writers on the lives of young people, whose book "Greater Expectations" won the Parents' Choice Award -- brilliantly investigates the most pressing issue in the lives of youth today: why so many young people are "failing to launch" -- living at home longer, lacking career m Drawing on the revelatory results of a landmark study, William Damon -- one of the country's leading writers on the lives of young people, whose book "Greater Expectations" won the Parents' Choice Award -- brilliantly investigates the most pressing issue in the lives of youth today: why so many young people are "failing to launch" -- living at home longer, lacking career motivation, struggling to make a timely transition into adulthood, and not yet finding a life pursuit that inspires them. His groundbreaking study shows that about one-fifth of youth today are thriving -- highly engaged in activities they love and developing a clear sense of what they want to do with their lives -- but approximately one-fourth are still rudderless, at serious risk of never fulfilling their potential. The largest portion are teetering on the brink, in need of guidance to help them move forward: some are "dabblers" who pursue strings of disconnected interests with no real commitment; others, "dreamers" who have no realistic plans or understanding of what success will require. What makes the difference? Damon shows that the key ingredient for the highly engaged is that they have developed a clear sense of purpose in their lives that motivates them and gives them direction. Based on in-depth interviews, he takes readers inside the minds of the disengaged and drifting kids and exposes their confusion and anxiety about what they should do with their lives. He then offers compelling portraits of the young people who are thriving and identifies the nine key factors that have made the difference for them, presenting simple but powerful methods that parents and all adults can and must employ in order to cultivate that energized sense of purpose in young people that will launch them on the path to a deeply satisfying and productive life.


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Drawing on the revelatory results of a landmark study, William Damon -- one of the country's leading writers on the lives of young people, whose book "Greater Expectations" won the Parents' Choice Award -- brilliantly investigates the most pressing issue in the lives of youth today: why so many young people are "failing to launch" -- living at home longer, lacking career m Drawing on the revelatory results of a landmark study, William Damon -- one of the country's leading writers on the lives of young people, whose book "Greater Expectations" won the Parents' Choice Award -- brilliantly investigates the most pressing issue in the lives of youth today: why so many young people are "failing to launch" -- living at home longer, lacking career motivation, struggling to make a timely transition into adulthood, and not yet finding a life pursuit that inspires them. His groundbreaking study shows that about one-fifth of youth today are thriving -- highly engaged in activities they love and developing a clear sense of what they want to do with their lives -- but approximately one-fourth are still rudderless, at serious risk of never fulfilling their potential. The largest portion are teetering on the brink, in need of guidance to help them move forward: some are "dabblers" who pursue strings of disconnected interests with no real commitment; others, "dreamers" who have no realistic plans or understanding of what success will require. What makes the difference? Damon shows that the key ingredient for the highly engaged is that they have developed a clear sense of purpose in their lives that motivates them and gives them direction. Based on in-depth interviews, he takes readers inside the minds of the disengaged and drifting kids and exposes their confusion and anxiety about what they should do with their lives. He then offers compelling portraits of the young people who are thriving and identifies the nine key factors that have made the difference for them, presenting simple but powerful methods that parents and all adults can and must employ in order to cultivate that energized sense of purpose in young people that will launch them on the path to a deeply satisfying and productive life.

30 review for The Path to Purpose: Helping Our Children Find Their Calling in Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mell Aguiar

    I’m not exactly the target audience, but I learned a lot. What most resonated with me is his point on how we need to combine our interests and talents with the needs we observe in our communities to build our own purpose This is so important bc nobody knows the problems of a community better than a community member does But, as he emphasized, to be knowledgeable members aware of the problems, we must be actually participating in our communities and being involved, active citizens So I’m left with t I’m not exactly the target audience, but I learned a lot. What most resonated with me is his point on how we need to combine our interests and talents with the needs we observe in our communities to build our own purpose This is so important bc nobody knows the problems of a community better than a community member does But, as he emphasized, to be knowledgeable members aware of the problems, we must be actually participating in our communities and being involved, active citizens So I’m left with the question of how I can better engage myself and others. This has been big for me for a while, but he gave me a larger framework in which to place this value Very happy w this book!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Miller

    All hand wringing, no help.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    The book starts with extreme examples of young people with purpose on both the incredible (six year old starting a business to build wells in places where people need better water access) and horrific (columbine) sides. In later chapters, the author shares tangible ways for adults to encourage finding purpose including the exact questionnaire he used in his research. Three stars because the writing isn't very engaging, but the second half of the book might make it a 3.5 for me. Some good takeawa The book starts with extreme examples of young people with purpose on both the incredible (six year old starting a business to build wells in places where people need better water access) and horrific (columbine) sides. In later chapters, the author shares tangible ways for adults to encourage finding purpose including the exact questionnaire he used in his research. Three stars because the writing isn't very engaging, but the second half of the book might make it a 3.5 for me. Some good takeaways including a reminder to listen. I believe young peoples' capacity to make an impact is often underappreciated and this author agrees. "We are used to giving our opinions - whether they've been solicited or not - on any topic, and we are usually ready with advice based on our own experience. Listening to a child, and engaging in a genuinely two-way conversation, is harder than lecturing..."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Thought this was a nice, coherent little book! I think the Damon has hit on an interesting insight - that there is a dearth of purpose in today's youth. As a member of "today's youth," I found that a lot of his observations rang true. I'm now fairly convinced - purpose is the root of all motivation. Full disclosure, Bill Damon is currently one of my professors, and he is a lovely man. Thought this was a nice, coherent little book! I think the Damon has hit on an interesting insight - that there is a dearth of purpose in today's youth. As a member of "today's youth," I found that a lot of his observations rang true. I'm now fairly convinced - purpose is the root of all motivation. Full disclosure, Bill Damon is currently one of my professors, and he is a lovely man.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Derek Ouyang

    For a book about paths and purposes, it has a profound lack of either.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    It at times was very depressing and judgmental. Some thing were outdated also.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    While this book is not written only to parents, it is one of the best parenting books I have read. He offers a set of factors that are crucial to helping a sense of purpose come alive in our children. These factors are just solid parenting practices for any family. William Damon gives readers an excellent definition of purpose that can help anyone think about what their own purpose might be. In the early part of the book he covers why purpose is important in all of our lives. He says, "Study aft While this book is not written only to parents, it is one of the best parenting books I have read. He offers a set of factors that are crucial to helping a sense of purpose come alive in our children. These factors are just solid parenting practices for any family. William Damon gives readers an excellent definition of purpose that can help anyone think about what their own purpose might be. In the early part of the book he covers why purpose is important in all of our lives. He says, "Study after study has found a person's sense of life purpose to be closely connected to virtually all dimensions of well-being." One of the most interesting sections of this chapter is called "Noble and Ignoble Purpose" where he addresses bad or evil purposes and whether they work the same way as motivators in people's lives. He also gives a good explanation of noble and ignoble purposes and how to tell them apart. Some examples of students that he has surveyed who have a clear purpose are included. He also addresses cultural issues that lead to lack of purpose in young people and how to counteract them. He says, "The single greatest barrier to youngsters finding their paths to purpose is the fixation on short horizons that infuses cultural messages sent to young people today. A popular culture celebrating quick results and showy achievements has displaced the traditional values of reflection and contemplation that once stood as the moral north star of human development and education." This book gave me many things to think about. I highly recommend it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ivaylo Durmonski

    I highly recommend this book to parents with kids who feel lost in the world. And not only! If you, yourself, feel unmotivated and uninspired, read this book. It will help you shape a noble goal. Challenge you with difficult questions that will allow you to look at problems from a different perspective. I consider Life of Purpose a useful guide that can help you turn your inexperienced youngsters into eager-to-learn risk-takers with a clear mission and agenda. Key takeaway? Find a meaningful purpose I highly recommend this book to parents with kids who feel lost in the world. And not only! If you, yourself, feel unmotivated and uninspired, read this book. It will help you shape a noble goal. Challenge you with difficult questions that will allow you to look at problems from a different perspective. I consider Life of Purpose a useful guide that can help you turn your inexperienced youngsters into eager-to-learn risk-takers with a clear mission and agenda. Key takeaway? Find a meaningful purpose in your life. Without a purpose, you will feel unworthy. Demotivated. Traumatized. Purpose is the driving force. The key motivator. The thing that will get you out of bed and aid you in accomplishing seemingly boring tasks. But when you’re on a lookout to involve yourself in a task, don’t just pick any project. Grab a noble one. Let it be something that can cause good to the surrounding people. Read more: https://durmonski.com/book-summaries/...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sandeep Gautam

    Positive psychology has typically concerned itself with happiness as a goal to strive for; yet this book argues that having a sense of purpose or meaning in life may matter more, especially for our youth. Based on empirical studies where the author interviewed youth / adolescents to determine who had discovered their purpose and who were still faltering, the author makes a strong case for living lives of purpose and meaning. the book is well structured, with sections on say how to parent for purpo Positive psychology has typically concerned itself with happiness as a goal to strive for; yet this book argues that having a sense of purpose or meaning in life may matter more, especially for our youth. Based on empirical studies where the author interviewed youth / adolescents to determine who had discovered their purpose and who were still faltering, the author makes a strong case for living lives of purpose and meaning. the book is well structured, with sections on say how to parent for purpose and makes for a compelling read. All parents, educators and those working with young adults should read and savor this and then go forth and shine some purpose in the lives of the people they interact with.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Graham Bates

    You'll finish The Path to Purpose with more questions than answers, which is a good thing when it comes to books such as this. It's a short-ish (180 pages plus appendix and the typical end-of-book entries), easy read that focuses more on theory than graphs. While Damon doesn't give step-by-step solutions, he's open about how they don't exist (at least in 2008). Those expecting a full solution should steer clear. The purpose of the book is noble and has aged well. It provides a good launch-point You'll finish The Path to Purpose with more questions than answers, which is a good thing when it comes to books such as this. It's a short-ish (180 pages plus appendix and the typical end-of-book entries), easy read that focuses more on theory than graphs. While Damon doesn't give step-by-step solutions, he's open about how they don't exist (at least in 2008). Those expecting a full solution should steer clear. The purpose of the book is noble and has aged well. It provides a good launch-point to incorporating a life-long purpose in the raising and training of young people.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Cannady

    This is one of several resources from my office that I have intended to read this summer. Quality academic advising programs in higher ed should be prompting reflection and helping students make meaning of their educational experiences in the context of their own strengths and values. This work provides some insights into the environment needed for young people to find purpose. I find the questions from the author’s research study the most helpful part of the book

  12. 4 out of 5

    EK

    As the the book progressed, the message/writing seemed to get repetitive. The youth of today portrayed in the book looked entirely to the outside sources (parents, teachers, mentors, etc) in finding their purpose without putting much efforts on their own (reflection, researching, reading, etc.). Also, the projected interaction between the youth and the adults on their quest for finding purpose was idealized and a bit unrealistic.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Aimee Keithly

    3.5 stars. I appreciate this book. It gave me a lot to think about with regard to my daughters and i did a lot of highlighting and flagging key points. I really like the appendix which includes many questions we can ask our kids to get them to start thinking more deeply about who they are in the world and what their purpose is.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Ehhh… wow this book has a good concept and I knew that it was a bit dated, I feel like most of it could have been written in a flyer to cover the important parts instead of the whole book. The most helpful part of the book is the appendix full of questions for teens at the back of the book. There was a lot of lament over the state of society today instead of helpful solutions.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne Bagnato

    Very good - was hoping for a little more concrete ideas for helping guide children to their calling - he offers some good conversation points but would have liked recommendations on ways to explore career paths and surveys for assessing strengths and interests etc.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Delves too much on the cause and severity of the lack of purpose in youth compared to actually developing it. It meanders more than I would prefer as well but it does very well to establish, explain, and demonstrate it's point. Delves too much on the cause and severity of the lack of purpose in youth compared to actually developing it. It meanders more than I would prefer as well but it does very well to establish, explain, and demonstrate it's point.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    I like the premise of this book, but the case study examples of the kids annoyed me because they were way more exceptional and out of the ordinary than what I thought the book was trying to teach as adolescents with purpose.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Luigino Bottega

    “Purpose” is the key element of curiosity, discovery and growth in Self-awareness. Asking the cause for things has allowed us to evolve as a human species and is the basis of our freedom of choice. Inspiring book!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ilib4kids

    649.7 DAM pxii, For what purpose? why? What do I hope to accomplish with all my efforts, with all the striving that I ma expected to do? what are the higher goals that give these efforts meaning? What matters to me, and why should it matter? what is my ultimate concern in life? Unless we make such questions a central part of our conversations with young people, we can do little but sit back and watch while they wander into a sea of confusion, drift, self-doubt, and anxiety -- feeling too often ar 649.7 DAM pxii, For what purpose? why? What do I hope to accomplish with all my efforts, with all the striving that I ma expected to do? what are the higher goals that give these efforts meaning? What matters to me, and why should it matter? what is my ultimate concern in life? Unless we make such questions a central part of our conversations with young people, we can do little but sit back and watch while they wander into a sea of confusion, drift, self-doubt, and anxiety -- feeling too often arise when work and striving are unaccompanied by a sense of purpose. how, the young person wonders, can I manage to find something that is both rewarding and meaningful? How can I purse my dreams and avoid "selling out" without diminishing my chances to provide for myself and the family I would like to have? How can I earn a living as a valued member of society and make a positive difference in the world? There are questions that, sooner or later, all young people must confront in order to make their most crucial life choices. p22 What exactly do I mean by a "life purpose"? A purpose is an ultimate concern. It is the final answer to the question WHY? Why are you doing this? What does it matter to you?..A purpose is a deeper reason for the immediate goals and motives that drive most daily behavior.... A purpose is an end in itself. p33 Purpose definition: is a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential for the world beyond the self. p35 What causes human development in Jean Piaget's Equilibration: p36 It is moving forward, steadily, never trying to stay in one place. p38 Child thrive condition: (1) forward movement toward a fulfilling purpose (2) a structure of social support consistent with that effort. chap 5 Beyond a culture of short horizons p106 Youth is a time of idealism- or at least it should be. ...a human life does not begin with idealistic aspiration is likely to be a barren one....Aristotle put it this way.."they are hopeful, their lives are filled with expectation, they are high-minded, they choose to do what is noble rather than what is expedient-such, then, is the character of youth. p118 Beyond shot-horizon guidance in our homes. ...It is a small example (taking on community service in order to show up in the college application), but it's one that shows how often, in an attempt to make our children more competitive in the marketplace, we take nay concern they may have for the welfare of others, something that might become a long-term purpose, and we turn it into a short-term, self-serving goal...(Young people) see through to the core of guidance that is motivated by little more than calculated self-promotion, or yet, more discouraging, abject self-protectiveness. They are aware of the cynicism at its center. Out of respect for those who utter such advice, they may say fit to get with program, but rarely with enthusiasm -- pitfalls of extracurricular in college application p121I can recite almost from memory the script that students and their parental editors write in efforts to get on the good side of admission officials: I intend to make a difference in the world; take on many challenges; aim high; follow my passions; learn all that there is to know abut my field of choice; contribute to my community in college and beyond; and devote myself to improving the human condition. All of which can be wonderful self-fulling sentiments when they emanate sincerely from student....But for many students, using these kinds of statements to fill in lines of a college applications is little more than an empty exercise in posing and fabricating, under the watchful eye of a parent who manages the acts and writes much of script. Chap 6 Parenting for purpose p129 We must continually examine our most accepted assumptions abut that young people need, in order to avoid falling lockstep into any trend that, no matter how sensible it may appear, will always have its own short-coming. Chap 7 A culture of purpose for all young people p167 Deficit reduction vs. positive youth development approach by Peter Beson Moral Child: Nurturing Children's Natural Moral Growth by William Damon (1988, the universality of core moral value in educations) Greater Expectations: Overcoming the Culture of Indulgence in Our Homes and Schools by William Damon (1995, in response to self-esteem education movement, advocate high standards and character build) The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for? by Rick Warren Fostering Resiliency in Kids: Protective Factors in the Family, School, and Community. by Benard, Bonnie (download 32 pages PDF file from library)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charlene McKenzie

    Great exploration of theory, but lacking in concrete, actionable strategies.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kris Hintz

    As a college consultant, I probe a young person's interests, passions and long-term goals. I am often struck by an absence of purpose, even from students with remarkable talent. So Damon's book truly resonated for me. I once thought that my role with teens was mostly about the "HOW" (i.e., getting into college); Damon's book helped me realize that it is my responsibility to help adolescents with the "WHY."I call this book an antidote for the Race to Nowhere, based on a recent film about the pres As a college consultant, I probe a young person's interests, passions and long-term goals. I am often struck by an absence of purpose, even from students with remarkable talent. So Damon's book truly resonated for me. I once thought that my role with teens was mostly about the "HOW" (i.e., getting into college); Damon's book helped me realize that it is my responsibility to help adolescents with the "WHY."I call this book an antidote for the Race to Nowhere, based on a recent film about the pressure placed on high school students today to get into college, without any real vision of where they are really going in life or why it matters. This book will change you, whether you are a parent, teacher, tutor, coach, extended family member, shrink, or policymaker. Its call to action is to help our society's young people shift in a positive direction along the continuum of categories from disengaged to purposeful.Damon does not just curse the darkness; he lights a bright candle by making positive suggestions that parents (and other adults) can put into practice on a daily basis with the teens with whom they interact.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    This is a great book for parents, educators, and psychologists. Damon is a developmental psychologist who has done research in the area of child development for a number of years and uses empirical data to support his positions rather than simple argumentation. One of the most interesting aspects of this book from my perspective was its use of terms such as “calling”, “meaning”, and “purpose” in a completely areligious sense. As a researcher, Damon constantly points to the evidence that it is te This is a great book for parents, educators, and psychologists. Damon is a developmental psychologist who has done research in the area of child development for a number of years and uses empirical data to support his positions rather than simple argumentation. One of the most interesting aspects of this book from my perspective was its use of terms such as “calling”, “meaning”, and “purpose” in a completely areligious sense. As a researcher, Damon constantly points to the evidence that it is terribly important for young people to have a sense of purpose in life, and without that, they are likely to struggle and drift through life no matter how intelligent or competent they are. I think this speaks to the need for both parents and educators to constantly meld purpose with instruction (easier said than done). In fact, the one criticism I would submit of this work is the lack of specific instruction on how to detect and implement purposeful direction to young people. Overall it was a great read, however, and I would definitely recommend it to others.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Le Book Rat

    The Path to Purpose draws from interviews with young people and parents to investigate how people find purpose in their life. Throughout this book, the author offers insight on guiding young people to lead meaningful lives. While I have read a handful of self-help books, I remain skeptical of them. I appreciated the points that Damon made, such as highlighting the difference between education and the real world. However, I found his message repetitive... Furthermore, the advice Damon offered in The Path to Purpose draws from interviews with young people and parents to investigate how people find purpose in their life. Throughout this book, the author offers insight on guiding young people to lead meaningful lives. While I have read a handful of self-help books, I remain skeptical of them. I appreciated the points that Damon made, such as highlighting the difference between education and the real world. However, I found his message repetitive... Furthermore, the advice Damon offered in The Path to Purpose is not equally accessible to everyone. I was disappointed that the author did not address social and economic disparities or (thoroughly) discuss how all kinds of experiences help shape people positively. On the other hand, I found the questionnaire from the youth survey (provided at the end of the book) insightful; they're questions that everyone should be asking themselves at some point in their lives. The questionnaire was more useful than the rest of the book. Overall, I found The Path to Purpose outdated with few 'new' insights.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alexia

    I give this book 4 stars out of 5, because of the way it was written out wasn't in the right order. I think that this book is really helpful mostly for children/teens because it talks mostly about the development and the purpose of those ages. The most engaging sentence of the book was “ How do young people find their calling in life.” I believe that this book will help me at this age of my heroes journey because now that I have the knowledge it will be easier to find my calling. This book defin I give this book 4 stars out of 5, because of the way it was written out wasn't in the right order. I think that this book is really helpful mostly for children/teens because it talks mostly about the development and the purpose of those ages. The most engaging sentence of the book was “ How do young people find their calling in life.” I believe that this book will help me at this age of my heroes journey because now that I have the knowledge it will be easier to find my calling. This book definitely changed me as a reader because now that I read another deep book I know that I like to read books that add meaning to your life and show you something you can apply to make your life better. I would recommend this book to young people because this book gives mostly acknowledgment about that kind of age. My favorite quote from the book is “as a learner struggles to master difficult new challenges, there is often an initial decline in skill.”

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    An interesting interpretation on the social necessity for purpose in the lives of young people. I thought Damon's four categories for young people (purposeful, dabbling, dreaming, non-purposeful) were particularly insightful. The book serves as a good reminder to any adult that interacts with young people on a regular basis that they are always picking up clues from you, and that young people do not suddenly mature without benefiting from positive attention. An interesting interpretation on the social necessity for purpose in the lives of young people. I thought Damon's four categories for young people (purposeful, dabbling, dreaming, non-purposeful) were particularly insightful. The book serves as a good reminder to any adult that interacts with young people on a regular basis that they are always picking up clues from you, and that young people do not suddenly mature without benefiting from positive attention.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    This is a really interesting book for parents of tweens and teens and for educators interested in helping kids find fulfilling interests and careers. While it's a bit dry in parts, it also has some really practical suggestions. This is a really interesting book for parents of tweens and teens and for educators interested in helping kids find fulfilling interests and careers. While it's a bit dry in parts, it also has some really practical suggestions.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    Excellent content, but provides merely a very broad overview. It can therefore be a little boring at times if you already agree with Damon's claim; there is not much new to discover here if you're familiar with the topic. Excellent content, but provides merely a very broad overview. It can therefore be a little boring at times if you already agree with Damon's claim; there is not much new to discover here if you're familiar with the topic.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Thought-provoking book on how to encourage your children to find and follow their passions, to create a meaningful, purposeful life.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Natpat Mon

    Love this one. It offers insights and suggestions in adolescent life purpose formation.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sebastian

    First read: April 13, 2019, Saturday

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