the path to purpose

Gallup, Inc. just produced a report on “The State of the American Workplace” (here’s where you can find it: http://www.gallup.com/reports/199961/state-american-workplace-report-2017.aspx#).  In the report, they share that only 33% of employees are engaged at work.  More interestingly, they share the following:

“Underlying all of this is an evolving employee attitude about what a job should and should not be. Most workers, many of whom are millennials, approach a role and a company with a highly defined set of expectations. They want their work to have meaning and purpose. They want to use their talents and strengths to do what they do best every day. They want to learn and develop. They want their job to fit their life.”

Purpose. Meaning. Talents. Strengths. Life.  It all starts with Life Design.

In the School of Health and Human Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, we’ve taken student development one step further – we’ve integrated purpose (“Who do I want to be?”) and meaning (“what am I here to do?”) with developing the entrepreneurial spirit. One of the key influences was the book, “The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life” by William Damon (I’ve read the book several times). If you want a brief synopsis of the book, Brian Johnson, author of the Philosopher’s Notes, did a 15 minute video about the book – check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWIxXeef17Y

In the book, the most important point to me is the fact that young people today must think of doing something bigger than themselves, what he calls their “ultimate concern” (in our courses, we define it as “meaningful work”).  And once found, we can help young people develop the entrepreneurial spirit to create projects that matter.

To help more students explore purpose and meaning, we’ve increased our enrollment in our “What Could I Do With My Life” course from 40 students in Fall 2008 to 193 students in Fall 2015 to 320 students Fall 2016. We require each student to create a meaningful work statement (a statement that defines how they want to serve others and make a positive contribution in the world), then create a plan to select related majors and minors, internship/apprenticeship opportunities, involvement in student and/or professional organizations, and potential business ideas.  This work has been so successful that we’ve been asked to increase our enrollment in the course to 400 students for Fall, 2017, as well as visit other campuses to implement pieces of Life Design, as a part of FYE programs, as components to student success courses, and as a tool in the advising/coaching/career development process.

We have found that enrollment in at least the “What Could I Do With My Life” course leads to increases in retention and 5-year graduation rates, as well as students gaining clarity on their future and how they can make a difference in the world. If you’d like more information about the program and the course, visit: http://lifedesigncatalyst.wordpress.com/.

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