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There are many things we teach in school. We teach students about the world at large, how to remember useful facts, how to think. But one thing we often miss is the importance of teaching kids to find and cultivate a purpose. Helping students to find their goal in life, their reason for doing the things they do, and their "end in itself" is just as important. The main thesis of this well-written and -argued book is that kids who have a purpose generally tend to do a whole lot better in a whole lot of areas than kids who are "drifters" or "dabblers," who may have short-term goals but lack a long-term unifying goal.

The Path to Purpose is based on some studies that Damon and his students have done about kids and purposes. What they found is alarming: "In our interviews and surveys, only about one in five young people in the 12-22-year age range express a clear vision of where they want to go,what they want to accomplish in life, and why." (kindle location 234) Some are "drifters" who don't have much direction to their lives, while most are "dabblers" who have toyed around with a few ideas as to what they want to do and why, but haven't found any clear direction yet.

The first part of the book focuses on the problem and why it matters. Why a purpose? Because cultivating a sense of purpose gives kids (and adults) a reason to try hard, a passion about which to learn, and a reason to endure both good and bad. Just like working a meaningful job versus a meaningless one, students tend to excel when they are working towards a goal and feel that goal to have meaning.

The second part will be the most interest to those already convinced that a problem exists. Here, Damon gives advice on how parents and teachers (with focus on parents) can help kids find purpose. Some answers are obvious: be there for your kids, listen when they talk, expose them to ideas, support them even when you may not agree with their chosen purpose (within reason, of course). Other answers are less obvious: tell your kids why you do what you do, expose them to outside influences, talk ideas through with them Socratically rather than solving problems for them, let them know the importance of persistence.

The one thing I will deduct a star for, however, is that Damon doesn't focus nearly as much as he should have on the data showing that having a purpose tends to lead to success in most areas (academic, social, etc.) He tells us this repeatedly and there is no reason to doubt him, but I was curious as to what the data show: how much more successful are those with purpose versus those without?

Also, I really wish Damon would have addressed a question many of us (especially teachers) have about how we can talk about purpose in a way value-neutral enough to be appropriate and not preachy. How can we guide kids towards purposeful lives without imposing certain values on them (when a child, say, chooses a purpose we may feel is maladaptive)? This would have been a helpful discussion to have and his book suffers for lack of it.

But all in all, this is a very important book to read for teachers and parents. As a teacher, I would like its message to inform my future teaching, and to take time whenever possible to allow kids to reflect on what their purpose is or what they'd like it to be.
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on February 16, 2012
Dr Damon is the cutting edge of student development. Purpose is the central building block where we start with all students, workers, managers and our family. His book maintains the focus by painting a picture without the weeds on the side.

He sees the value of Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven® Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? and he has Major Problems with self-esteem by james Dobson The New Hide or Seek: Building Self-Esteem in Your Child, Dr Damon is certainly correct about not being distracted by the weeds. James Dobson's Gospel of Self-Esteem & Psychology.

He documents many "happiness studies" showing happiness is NOT related to affluence, fame or attempts at ego-boosting. Sustained happiness is engaging with other people. However sustained happiness is NOT associated with "imaginary" or manipulative help as shown in the angry, failed green movement activists because there must be a positive real change, not just a promise. A false purpose is disruptive and distructive.

All people who respond with resilience have:
.Purpose extending into the future.
.Autonomy.
.Social competence.
.Problem-solving skill.

People with long-term purpose, learn their world and discover unknown talent and energy. Purpose puts meaningful direction in you and has an impact on the world. Life, like sports is about resilience, not giving up. Work is our main purpose-place. Puting smiles on customers, fellow workers and on our family. Vocation is from Latin, "to be called". What am I in this fractured world for?

He differentiates students:
.Disengaged. 25%
.Dreamers. 25%
.Dabblers. 30%
.Purposeful 20%

The purposeful: 1) Set Goals, 2) are Optimistic, 3) Persistant, 4) Risk. 5) are Resilient, 6) Measure Results 7) and are Inventive.

Everything we do with people, counts.

Good book and I recommend it, Dr Don
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on March 29, 2011
As a college admissions consultant, I begin a relationship with a teen client by probing that 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 Professor 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, as an adult who cares about young people, it is my responsibility to help my 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.

Rather than stealing Damon's thunder, I suggest reading this book and internalizing his suggestions. The first is: "Listen for the spark, then fan the flame" whenever the opportunity arises....
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on June 5, 2015
A very thought provoking book to help the realization that we all have the ability to make a difference no matter how small. I bought it with the focus on my son but found it applicable to all the family.
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on November 19, 2015
I start reading it, but did not find it too interesting. The author should get to the point without too many stories that did not do much to inspire. Should be written in a way that would pique the interest of a young person. I bought it for my son, but now think that he will not go pass the first 2 pages.
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on May 3, 2009
I happened to read an article by Professor Damon while I was doing a research paper for one of my classes. He introduced this book "The path to purpose" in the article and I was intrigued by this topic so I bought the book to check it out. When I was growing up, I was completely lost in the world, and without the help of parents or HS guidance counselor, I wish I was able to get a hold of this book. Not only it is insightful if you are a parent, but for many young people who want to find that something meaningful in life, to find a major for them to study in college, and to pursue a career that they love, I highly recommend reading this book.

In the book, he listed many examples to support his points. I find these examples very effective; perhaps they are the best part of the book for me. I honestly expected something very profound coming out of this book and I was a bit disappointed. This book would be great for inexperienced parents, but if you are already a rational person, you won't get much out of it.
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on March 17, 2016
I have been trying to understand how to instill moral principles in the minds and hearts of students. This is hard to do in a secular world. Dr. Damon of Stanford has wonderful insights on how to help youth develop moral character. It never occurred to me that there is a strong correlation between sense of purpose and moral character. I'm excited to apply these principles in my future career and other practical daily situations.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 8, 2012
Disclosure: I was sent a free copy of this book to review. This review is an accurate reflection of my opinion of the book.

The author is an accomplished scholar of human development, yet this book manages to not read like dry, academic writing often does. William Damon shares his research on the development of young people, sharing what ingredients are present in those who have motivation and direction in life compared to those who do not. While this is an important read for any parent or educator, it's also useful for those adults who may find their own motivation and sense of purpose lacking..
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on January 25, 2014
This is a well-written, very informative book based on empirical studies of young people who demonstrate wide ranges of a sense of purpose. It succinctly and compellingly answers the question, "Why Purpose?" then details case studies of children-the 20% of the sample-who've identified their distinct contribution to the world, how they discovered it, and who who helped them along the way.
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on January 25, 2014
As a parent of two little boys, I always love a book and tips on how to help them succeed. I thought this one gave some really good advice on how to mentor them to become competent adults. It was easy to read and included references.
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