According to the Harvard Human Flourishing Study, one of the 6 domains of human flourishing is “Meaning and Purpose”. Meaning and purpose operationalizes what we value. In the REAL Essentials curricula, we ask participants powerful questions to learn what they value and what lights them up so they can discover their passion and purpose. 

Questions like, “What do you dream about?” “What would you do without getting paid?”  “What gives you joy?” “What do you lose yourself in?” 

These are thought-providing questions many have difficulty answering. That is precisely why we do this assessment.  It is easy to go through the motions of life doing what you think you should do without ever discovering what your heart is longing for. We might mindlessly adopt the goals, values, and passions of our family or friends never exploring our own feelings and meaning about how we spend our time.

Not being in touch with your deepest heart yearning is to live a life without purpose, meaning, self-direction or passion. Life becomes a mindless game that is empty, dull, and perfunctory.  Making this worse, is the constant comparisons we make especially though social media. It seems that others appear to have lives full of excitement, adventure, passion and meaning. At worst, this comparison trap could create a mental health issue such as depression, low self-regard, and a feeling of not being enough.

I meet many students who are concerned about the planet. When I ask them what they are doing about their concern, they are stumped. They think they must do something big. When I suggest they pick up one piece a trash around their school each day or plant a small tree and demonstrate the collective impact of these small personal habits, they get excited and motivated about living out their values for the environment. 

I remember when I was raising children. I had so much to do and so little time. I always was very ambitious about the health and wellbeing of children and families around the world. What I decided was during this time, I had to be concerned about my household, ensuring that my children were healthy and doing well. It had to start with me. I was passionate about learning how to be the best parent, teaching my prodigy to become self-reliant, self-governing Individuals of character that would contribute goodness and positivity to the world. 

Recently I watched the movie “Otto” starring Tom Hanks. Otto was obsessed with ending his life to be with his beloved wife who died 6 months earlier. He experienced a forced retirement with his job and his life became devoid of meaning and purpose. According to Otto, everyone was an idiot, and he became angry and mean-spirited.  A kind, active young family moved into his neighborhood bringing him food and involving him in their lives. They relentlessly pursued a friendship with Otto. Otto’s heart was touched, and he now had a reason to live. Otto developed meaning and purpose through a passion to serve others.