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Is The Way Schools Teach Students Purpose Wrong?

What should I major in? A college Student's journey into finding purpose. A common saying we often hear is “Find your true purpose and you’ll be happy in life!” Seems simple enough, right? The simple concept of “finding and pursuing your purpose” is supposed to be motivational, yet it’s a source of a lot of […]

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What should I major in? A college Student's journey into finding purpose.

A common saying we often hear is “Find your true purpose and you’ll be happy in life!” Seems simple enough, right? The simple concept of “finding and pursuing your purpose” is supposed to be motivational, yet it’s a source of a lot of anxiety among people of all ages, due to the fundamentally flawed way we teach people, especially students, to go about finding purpose. The limitation in the idea is how it’s presented to be too concrete, simplified and self-absorbed. Our purpose as human beings is not concrete, it is prone to change over time as we do and it does not only involve ourselves, we should teach students to see purpose realistically, as we relate to others. The reality is, in order to find our purpose, we must let go of the fear that we might never achieve it. 

When I first started college, I remember the long period of frustration I began  as I journeyed into figuring out what I wanted to study, this journey led me to making a ton of changes in my life and after a couple of dropped classes I felt hopeless. The thing is, like many of my fellow college students, I never found a subject in college I was so passionate about to make it my job or “purpose.” Therefore, I choose to study subjects that I always found difficult, yet interesting like physics or mathematics, which oftentimes ended up in me feeling guilty because I felt I should be choosing “my calling” or something I am good at and not something that didn’t come naturally to me. Simply put, I thought “ if it doesn’t come naturally to me, it must not be my purpose, right?” This is a common mistake many of us college students make in deciding what we want to study; we find something that is easy and then limit ourselves to that. Though the truth is that we are looking at purpose the wrong way.

I came upon inspiration in my journey of finding purpose when I read a blog titled “A Leap Into Infinity”  from Open Future Institute founder Gerard Senehi on his journey into what he calls infinity. While I found it at first confusing, he described an experience of awe and wonder he had, while hiking at Acadia National Park, where he was struck by the beauty and seemingly unending natural land around him. This feeling of revelation is something many of us experience at one point in our lives as we realize how small and insignificant our life is in comparison to the vastness and complexity of the world around us; a concept called “higher consciousness” by psychologists. When one goes through this experience of self humbling it is truly the first step into leaping into infinity — of our minds. I realized that only through the detachment of selfish desires can we thoroughly unlock the infinity within us and achieve our highest creative potential. To look past ourselves, but instead to the world around us unlocks our minds from the cage that is ourselves.  

The most motivating mind set I achieved was not seeing purpose as an overarching goal I needed to find, but an odyssey that life will take me on; when teaching students whether in high school or college on how to find purpose it is important to teach young people to be ready to jump into the unknown. It is a ship where the destination is infinite, and it doesn’t matter where the destination is, only that we have set sail. Purpose is the powerful drive within us to be and do more for the world around us and our fellow human beings. Just like we have many interests, this drive can be fueled by an infinite amount of inspiration. Once we look beyond ourselves that is when we let go of the one-dimensional purpose we are often taught to chase. You see, greatest motivation towards finding purpose is when one is driven by something greater than oneself, because the reality is that the world is bigger than just ourselves and once we realize that we will escape the box that is ourselves and journey towards the infinite possibilities and passions within us.

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