Post-Grad Purpose

This is the first of what I suspect will be many posts about “purpose” – the “why” that drives us everyday to think and behave the way we do. Many of us have a purpose but have never voiced it or even thought about it very much. There is strength in knowing, speaking and living your purpose:

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl

Frankl saw horrors that many of us can only imagine. His work “Man’s Search for Meaning” is his diary of life inside a Nazi Concentration Camp and offers a unique, and at times gut wrenching, insight into human psychology and development. Through this work he highlights the drive that humans have for meaning. Even in the most dire of situations he observed the strength that is evident when one is driven by purpose.

The conversation I had with a friend today, who we’ll call Sarah, was nowhere near as dark as Man’s Search for Meaning but still revolved around purpose. Sarah is in her 20s and has not long ago graduated university and now finds herself being pulled in a range of different directions as she tries to answer the question “what’s next?”. Does she move into the field she studied? Does she stick with a side hustle she’s got going at the moment? Or does she change course and return to study to try a new career path she’s recently discovered an interest in? It’s obviously not my role to give her the answers to these questions but it highlights the importance of purpose – with a clear “why”, her “how” will fall into place.

Sarah is not alone in this feeling either, it is common for graduates to feel a loss of purpose or to wonder why they even studied X degree in the first place. At 17 or 18 years old you set off on a path that you’re told you will follow for the rest of your life but it just isn’t how the world works anymore – the average person will have five different careers. Finishing high-school I was certain I would be a lawyer. I couldn’t have told you “why” I wanted to be a lawyer other than I liked public speaking and I heard it paid well.

When I started my degree I wasn’t able to clearly articulate “why” I was doing it and this lead to me changing my course a couple of times. Starting with a Bachelor of Social Science before moving into a Bachelor of Applied Social Science majoring in Coaching. As I learned about the importance of purpose I was better able to visualise and voice why I wanted to earn my degree and this brought me to the Bachelor of Counselling (Coaching). My purpose was best served by this degree and with that clarity came motivation.

Encouraging the development and understanding of purpose in adolescence and youth won’t necessarily set you on one career path for life. Nor is defining purpose as an adult a silver bullet. However, knowing “why” you want to do the things you do will provide direction and keep you grounded when you start asking yourself “what’s next?”


References

Damon, W., Menon, J., & Cotton Bronk, K. (2003). The development of purpose during adolescence. Applied developmental science7(3), 119-128.

Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning. Simon and Schuster.

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