At a point in time where we all agree the career landscape is rapidly changing, our young people are being asked the question, “What are you going to do with the rest of your life?” much sooner.
The transition between school and 'the rest of your life' can seem a little daunting, especially when ‘what’s on the other side’ represents everything that is unknown. While we as adults might be able to see an abundance of opportunity for this next generation, our young people are feeling overwhelmed and anxious. They don’t want to “just choose”, nor do they want to settle. Many of them want to make a change in our world, but they don't always know where to start.
As the trusted adults in their lives, we can offer support and guidance around ways they can make their mark. In finding out the why rather than what in the things that they want to do, we can disrupt the perceived pressure and even break through the grunts that tend to articulate this age. The benefits of crafting 'Why' conversations with our teens go beyond clarity of subject choices. For our millennials, a sense of purpose is deeply associated with a greater desire and willingness to positively impact their schools, communities, and wider society. In knowing what they stand for, young people with a sense of purpose accomplish greater achievements in adulthood. So how can we, as trusted adults in their lives, guide them through the task of uncovering what makes their heart sing?
Research suggests that meaningful conversations are key to the development of purpose amongst our young people.
Here’s three things to try when next chatting to your teen.
Pay attention to the things that happen easily
There’s always activities and tasks that take us into long battles with teens. But can you shift your mindset for a moment and notice what they do with ease? Are there patterns in the activities and interests your teen pursues independently? These are likely to be connected to what psychologists call their signature character strengths. Using character strengths is naturally energising, and likely to drive motivation for goals. Spot the strengths and celebrate them!
Instead of asking them what they want to do, ask why
Dare to ask the big questions. Find out what matters to them. Ask, “What would a perfect planet look like to you?”. Then follow with “Why?” Ask why something is interesting and important to them. Why it captures their curiosity and imagination.
Replace “but” with “and”
We can unintentionally shut purpose crafting conversations down with one small discouraging word. When responding to a young person’s ideas, start with “Yes, and”. In swapping out this one little word, you’ll both keep and open mind and explore much more of the possibilities in the conversation!
...if those grunts prevail, don’t be discouraged. Even one meaningful question, asked at the right time and from the perspective of genuine interest will open the door for future purpose driven conversations. Once they’ve been asked these big questions, a teen will naturally begin to answer them for themselves over time. In the meantime, walk the talk yourself and turn your attention to your own journey. Now that you’ve grown up, do you know why you do what you do?