Welcome to Motherhood Monday – it’s so good to have you with us. Today, we’re going to discuss ways we can help our kids discover their purpose. Mark Twain said, “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Purpose is the single greatest motivator in life, and this is true for our kids too. It’s not just our desire for them to live a life of purpose, but it’s innate in us as humans. We all want to accomplish things that are meaningful. We all believe the world needs improving and deep down we all want to be part of the solution. And that shows up differently for everyone.
Not everyone needs a Harvard degree or to find the cure for cancer in order to find purpose in life. Our purpose can often come from everyday things, it can certainly change over time, and we can have different purposes. It’s whatever we’re doing in the season of life we’re in that gives us meaning and motivation. It’s really personal – it just has to mean something to us.
As it relates to our children, when they can start to sense or envision their purpose, they’ll start to gain a sense of direction and see the bigger picture. They’ll see the reasons for the things they’re doing, rather than just a list of stuff they have to do – get good grades, community service, participate in sports or extracurriculars, etc. They’ll start to understand the “why” behind what we’re encouraging them to do. And this “why” – these reasons – are so important. Because when you know the “why” you can figure out the methods – the means to that end.
So here are 3 ways we can help our children to discover their purpose:
- Play the supporting role, rather than taking the lead.
We can’t force a purpose on our kids. We can’t create or really even direct their purpose. I don’t need to tell you that we can’t make them do things, especially things as nuanced and personal as discovering their purpose. We can’t tell them what’s important to them. We can’t decide what lights them up and what bores the living daylights out of them. But what we can do is open doors. We can present them with options. We can create opportunities for them to discover their passions and talents. We can foster an environment of exploration and take notice of what they respond to.
And within this, I think something that can be powerful in our roles in all this, is to help bring awareness to our kids of the things they’re showing interest in or finding enjoyment in. We all see things our kids like to do, but do we really see it? Do we notice it? Do we comment on it? Do we brainstorm different ways to encourage or explore it? As parents, it’s first our awareness and then bringing it to our children’s awareness – but then it’s also reserving our judgment. Being open minded. Being supportive. Listening and encouraging. And this can require a lot of patience of us. And I think it can also require a lot of creativity of us. Like maybe if we’re not thrilled with the way our 13 year old is spending their time, we can notice the interest and then explore other ways to channel that interest.
And everyone loves to talk about what they love, right? They love to share their passions and teach you all about it. The same is true for our kids. Engage with them. Genuinely wanting to know more about how they spend their time and what they love to do can help explore next steps and future plans, too. So don’t be afraid to open the dialogue. Ask the questions about what they care about. Ask what’s important to them and why. What do they daydream about? This is part of the beauty of childhood, right? It’s exploring and discovering more about ourselves. And our job is to safely help guide this exploration.
And through this exploration, if we can get them to see and believe that what they do matters, they’re going to find more purpose in it. We’ve all done tasks in school or at work that we see as pointless. It’s hard to find the passion in them, right? So if we can help our kids to see that what they do has an impact on others, we can teach them that their contributions have an effect. It’s letting our kids know that what they do matters.
- Share how we feel fulfilled in our purpose.
There is no better way to teach our kids about purpose than by living your own life with purpose. Consider sharing your journey with your child. This is an exercise in transparency and vulnerability. As kids, what did we want to be when we grew up? What goals did we have? How did we end up where we are? What twists and turns did we have to navigate? What didn’t go as expected? Where do we see ourselves in the future? How does our life impact others?
This might require us to do some reflection and maybe a little mindset shifting of our own. We can catch ourselves – if we tend to only complain about work, it’s unlikely that we’re modeling for our kids how our professions or our day-to-day helps fulfill our purpose. If it’s something you haven’t really spent time considering, I’d encourage you to do so and then share it with your children. How do you help others? How do you provide for your family? How do you serve a larger purpose?
I’m not advocating for creating this false sense of what your life is like. It’s not about glossing over the hard parts or the struggles. Those are real and it’s important for our kids to understand that anything worth it is going to require a lot of hard work, resilience and resourcefulness. But, if the only things our kids are hearing about are the disasters, the fires we’re putting out, or how our coworkers are frustrating, it’s going to be hard for them to see purpose for themselves in their calling too.
Oftentimes, our kids might not really understand what we do all day right? Or they have an idea but it’s fairly abstract. So presenting it in the light of purpose, rather than in the tasks you complete, can help them to do the same.
- Play offense, not defense
We touched on the importance of our kids understanding their “why” – the reasons they do what they do. Or the reasons we want them to do the things we ask them to do as kids – get good grades, get into a good college, get a good job. But what’s the end goal we’re selling them on? If they’re just getting good grades, to get into a good college, to get a good job because that’s what people do, they’re going to struggle finding motivation to do any of it. “Because I said so” is usually a pretty poor “why.” It’s all defense, no offense.
What if our kids had a purpose in mind and were able to see all these thing – grades, college, job, etc. as simply different methods to the end they so desire? What if the means were a strategic plan they understood as part of the journey to how they’ll contribute in this life? What if they had the vision to recognize that these were steps to making their dreams come true? This is so much more powerful than ticking off checkboxes on the list of life. It’s the idea that they are working toward something – toward a life that’s fulfilling, rather than doing all this stuff to simply avoid being “broke. How we lead these conversations around our kids purpose can change the direction for how they approach life – and that’s important.
Well that’s a wrap on another Motherhood Monday, thanks for being here! Leave a comment below, send the blog link to a friend, or check out the audio version on The Motherhood Podcast!