• Unmotivated Teens Shift Gears When They Find Purpose | Tim Klein | Episode 146

  • Girl on bike representing teens shifting gears when an unmotivated teen can find purposeDo you have an unmotivated teenager? An unhappy one? It turns out motivation and happiness go hand-in-hand with purpose. But we don’t focus on purpose with our teens. It starts when they’re little and we ask our kids what they want to be when they grow up. As they enter high school we start asking about colleges and careers. But it turns out we’re focusing on the wrong question if we want our children to be happy and motivated. What we need to help our teenagers focus on is purpose.  But what does that mean and why is it important? Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler interviews Tim Klein, director of the True North Program at Boston College about purpose in life. Tim will help parents understand what purpose is, why it’s important for teens and young adults, and how to cultivate it in them.


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    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    We can’t tell others what their purpose is. Our kids have to find it themselves. However, it’s there within them and we can help them uncover it by allowing them to focus deeply on areas that interest them. 

    High Points From Our Conversation on Helping Your Teenager Find Purpose in Life:

    Quote from Tim Klein on helping an unmotivated teen find purpose

    Research shows that regardless of socio-economic background, when youth find purpose that is education dependent they do well in school. They become motivated as they see how doing well in school helps them fulfill their purpose. They thrive in ways their peers do not.

    Youth purpose is when the person has a stabilize and generalized intention (a long-term goal)  that is both personally meaningful and benefits the world beyond the self. Purpose needs to have 3 ingredients: long-term goal, meaningful, has a direction. 

    Having purpose can help reduce anxiety.

    Purposeful people don’t have less stress and anxiety. Oftentimes they have more. They see it as a good thing that helps them achieve their goal. The danger isn’t stress, it’s meaningless stress.

    Purpose is the deeper motivation, the why behind what we do. It can serve as the buffer against stress.

    When stress feels out of our control it can become harmful.

    Parents can actually prevent our kids from finding purpose. 

    We can’t tell others what their purpose is. Our kids have to find it themselves. However, it’s there within them and we can help them uncover it by allowing them to focus deeply on areas that interest them.

    Notice where they seem to feel a sense of purpose by looking at where they are most engaged in their life. Where are they finding their community? How are they contributing to that community?

    There are 4 ingredients of purpose. We must feel like we are:

      1. Aligning with our core values (the things we care for most in life: spirituality, community, achievement, adventure, creativity, social justice, etc)
      2. Using our unique strengths
      3. Gaining and growing skills we want to learn and master
      4. Making a positive impact in the world

    Fortnight utilizes these elements. It creates a strong sense of community by letting kids play with friends regardless of the gaming system they have. Fortnight uses a skills-matching system so you’re always playing against someone who’s on your level. You feel like you can use your strengths and be competitive. They also have a complex ranking system where you can see your own progression and feel like you’re getting better. It helps people feel like they’re learning and growing and gaining skills.

    If your unmotivated teen is hooked on Fortnight, talk to them and discern which element appeals to them. Ask if they love it because they get to hang out with friends. This can happen when they have a strong sense of community. Ask them: Do you like learning new skills? Do you feel like this is a place you’re excelling? Tease those out then see if you can take those and apply them to some other area of life.

    If they are having trouble articulating what they like, you can help them dig into it. Go play the game with them. Go in as a beginner and with curiosity. Learn about the world they’re living in.

    If they’re really good at something, ask what their process was for getting better. Help them see how they can use those skills and apply it to school or sports or another arena.

    We need to take a step back from our kids. High school is designed for college prep. We aren’t learning for learning’s sake but to get us into a good college. Kids are working harder than ever before and are matriculating to college at higher rates than ever before.

    What is personally meaningful to you? What are your core values? How does this help the world beyond yourself? What is the positive impact you want to make in general? 

    Some kids just don’t do well with academics and school can be demoralizing, leaving teens unmotivated. Asking how they can contribute can encourage our kids to get involved in something outside of school. This can build their self-esteem and confidence. That inner strength can help them feel good about themselves in spite of academics not being a strong point. And they may find purpose.

    To help your teen find purpose, ask them; What problems do you care about in the world? How can you contribute to solutions?

    Purpose doesn’t have to be fulfilled through your job. It can happen in your personal life.

    The research shows making a positive impact is subjective. If we feel something we did is a positive contribution, regardless of what other people think, then we receive the benefit.

    Resources Mentioned in Show:

    A Moment Of Insight On Raising Happy Healthy Kids | Suvrat Bhargave | Episode 74

    Our Guest Tim Klein:

    Tim Klein interviewed on helping an unmotivated teen find purposeTim Klein is an award-winning urban educator, clinical therapist and school counselor. He has spent the last decade working intensively with marginalized and underserved students to empower them to pursue meaningful and fulfilling lives. In addition to his work at Project Wayfinder, Tim is a Teaching Fellow at Harvard University and the Project Manager for True North, a purpose development program at Boston College that helps students navigate their college, career and life journey.

    Tim has written extensively about how youth purpose can be used to empower young people. His work has been featured in EdSurge, Greater Good Magazine, The Los Angeles Times and KCRW. He has been a featured panelist for NBC’s Education Nation, presented at Ashoka U Changemakers conference, and speaks regularly about the youth purpose learning research and program development.

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit https://www.timklein.life 

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