Our rapidly changing economy is demanding flexibility around the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the jobs tomorrow. In amidst all this change, one constant will help our young people thrive – their ‘why’. In today’s post, we’ll gain context for the case for fostering purpose in our students by considering the future workforce we are preparing our students for, and learn practical ways we can start to connect our young people to their purpose for a meaningful life!

The growth of Industry 4.0 technologies in today’s economy is changing everything about how we relate at work. Set against a backdrop of political, social and environmental upheavals, our students will require adaptive mindsets for the new work order, with the average worker predicted to work across 20 jobs, within up to 15 different organisations across 5 different fields in their lifetime!. These changes beg the question, “how do we best prepare our students for the future of work tomorrow?”

Through Purpose.

When the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of work is changing so rapidly, understanding our ‘why’ can offer an authentic anchor that helps guide our young people. Defined in positive psychology literature as a ‘central, self-organizing life aim that organizes and stimulates goals, manages behaviours, and provides a sense of meaning’, purpose is the motivational aspect of meaning, and is distinct from other factors of meaning, including significance (affective component i.e. what we value) and coherence (cognitive component i.e. how we look for patterns that help us to build narratives of ourselves and the world around us).

Young people who have a sense of purpose have been shown to be more academically engaged and less likely to take part in risky behaviours. They are better able to self-regulate, more likely to demonstrate prosocial behaviours, have a clearer sense of direction and more likely to achieve long-term goals. Purpose promotes healthy identity formation in youth, and predicts higher levels of psychological well-being, life satisfaction, hope, resilience and flourishing in adulthood.

What’s purpose got to do with the future of work?

Companies who pursue a purpose will outpace their non-purpose competitors in the new work order. Those on the case already are looking for impact-driven employees to join their lead, and according to Deloitte, our young people are up for the challenge, choosing purpose-driven roles over high pay incentives. To successfully transition into this disruptive era dubbed ‘The Purpose Economy’, our next generation will need to be clear on the unique sets of skills, strengths and values that form their own purpose identity.

So, how do we foster purpose?            

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’  ~ Alan Kay

Purpose is not something we wake up to one day. It unfolds as a result of deep exploration of matters of the mind, the heart, and the world. To fully uncover purpose, the other two components of meaning, significance and coherence, play and essential part of the role, but there are things we can all do today to start to foster youth purpose. Research suggests that meaningful conversations provide a strong foundation for the development of purpose amongst our young people . Consider these three tips for fostering those conversations:

  1. Pay attention to the things that happen easily

An oldie, but a goodie. Hunt the good stuff and spot the signature strengths. Reflect to your students any patterns you observe in the activities and interests they pursue independently, and celebrate them. This will model to your students how they can start to connect matters of the heart to matters of the mind.

  1. Swap the question of “what” to “why”

Dare to ask your students the big questions around what matters to them. Ask, “What would a perfect planet look like to you?” and follow with “Why?” Ask why something is interesting and important to them, why it captures their curiosity and imagination, and help them map it back to other stories they’ve shared, and strengths and skills you’ve noticed.

  1. Replace “but” with “and”

We can unintentionally shut purpose crafting conversations down with one small discouraging word, ‘but’. Try responding to ideas with “Yes, and” to help you both keep and open mind and explore much more of the possibilities in the conversation!

Yes, And…

…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 asked these big questions, a student will naturally begin to answer them for themselves over time.

Posify your teaching with this question that turns the attention toward your own purpose journey: Now that you’ve grown up, are you clear on why you do what you do?

Mariane Power Posify

Mariane Power | Director of the Posify Group

Mariane is the director of The Posify Group, a business dedicated to helping people connect to their purpose and craft their most meaningful careers and lives. A former theatre maker turned positive psychology obsessed writer, speaker and coach, Mariane holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Newcastle, a Graduate Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Performance. Her research investigates the conditions under which youth flourish, and her clinical experience with youth and their families extends across a range of contexts including primary and community health care settings and schools.