How To Help Your Kids Find A Sense Of Purpose


Finding Purpose Leads To Longer Lives 

Do you ever ask yourself what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?  Having a sense of purpose just might be extending your life.

A new study by JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that people who said that they had a strong life purpose live longer, even when accounting for other risk factors like gender, race or education.  

The association was found to be even more important for reducing risk of premature death than drinking, smoking or exercising regularly!  

Did you catch that? More important than NOT smoking and exercising regularly!  

Does having a purpose reduce stress hormones, potentially improving cardiovascular health? Does having a sense of purpose help a person make other positive life choices? We don’t yet know the other factors. While we don’t really know WHY this is the case, we do know that there is a strong and undeniable correlation here. 

Helping Your Kids Develop Purpose While Young

1. Let Your Kids Be The Guide & Encourage Curiosity

When I was in the third grade, my purpose was to be in the “century club.” Students who read over 100 books during the school year were allowed to sleep overnight in the school, chaperoned by the principal and teachers. The night was filled with games and activities that thrilled, but the ultimate reward was that it instilled an early and lifelong love of learning in me. 

When I was in high school, I ran my first marathon.  I was partly motivated because my dad told me he didn’t think I could do it (which was about the extent of my rebellious streak). This experience taught me to pursue large goals by breaking them down into small steps.  To this day, running remains one of my favorite pastimes to cope with stress.

The key to each of these areas in MY life is that I was independently directed, EVEN though there were encouraging hands supporting me along the way.  My teachers didn’t say “you HAVE to read 30 minutes a night and it HAS to be Babysitters Club.”  I had the freedom to choose my “purpose” and my teachers and parents supported it.  The key to intrinsic, or internal motivation, is having the freedom to make choices based on personal curiosity and interest. 

2. Don’t Snuff Out The Flame

If we try to over-direct or micromanage that curiosity, we run the risk of snuffing out that initial flame. If my teachers changed the goal midway or saw my success and decided to push harder, this kind of external pressure leads to burnout.  This is why I often see kids in my office who are gifted athletes or intellects who are anxious or losing steam.  

Finding purpose often means that you have to consider yourself the “guide” rather than the “hero” on your child’s journey.  You are there to follow and provide direction when asked.  Remember, it’s their passion, not yours. If they express interest in hiking, for instance, don’t insist that they trailblaze Camelback.  Give them a list of options (or let them do their own research), and you go along for the ride. The Best Hikes For Kids In Phoenix (And Arizona)

3. Be A Good Model

DO NOT underestimate your own sense of purpose. You have several purposes, and they change over time.  How do they relate to the various roles you have in your life? As a mother or wife or in your professional or volunteer positions? Take a minute and write it down – create a personal motto to reflect on.  The best way to help your child live a life of purpose is by showing them how to do it yourself.


  1. Your comments and analysis are so true. I love the personal examples you gave. You definitely model a person with purpose! Carol


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