Five Ways to Foster Purpose in Adolescents

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Research suggests that young people rarely have a sense of purpose—but we can take steps to help them cultivate it.


My research over the past fifteen years has focused on young people’s purposes in life. My colleagues and I have explored the things that inspire purpose in the lives of youth; we’ve studied the way purposes develop; and, we’ve investigated the difference it makes for youth to lead lives of purpose.



Over a decade and a half of work, at least two important findings have emerged. First, we’ve learned that leading a life of purpose is beneficial in more ways than one. Purpose is associated with physical health, including better sleep, less chronic pain, and longer lives; and psychological health, including hope, happiness, and life satisfaction. The second thing we’ve learned is that the experience is rare. Only about one in five high schoolers and one in three college-aged youth reports leading a life of purpose.


Taking these findings together—that leading a life of purpose is a beneficial but rare experience—members of my Adolescent Moral Development lab and I began to explore ways of fostering purpose among young people. In the process, we learned a lot about how young people identify meaningful, long-term goals that allow them to contribute to the broader world. Below I outline five empirically based approaches parents and mentors can use to help youth discover a personally meaningful direction in life.


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4 steps to deal with anxiety, tragedy, or heartache

By Eric Baker, Jul 7, 2017- The Ladders 

You don’t remember me, but I was in your experiment a year ago. I just wanted to thank you. It changed my life.”

James Pennebaker has had a number of people say this to him over the years.

In the early 80’s he came across a study showing that people who experienced personal traumas but didn’t discuss them were more likely to get sick.

He wondered if just writing about their emotional upheavals could help people recover. And the research he did changed lives.

In the 30 years since, hundreds of studies have documented the effectiveness of expressive writing.

It helped with anxiety, tragedy, heartache . . . It even gave relief to those coping with cancer, heart disease, chronic pain, and AIDS.

People who write about their problems gain a host of benefits including feeling happier, sleeping better, and even getting better grades.


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10 toxic people you should avoid like the plague

By Travis Bradberry

“People inspire you, or they drain you — pick them wisely.” – Hans F. Hansen

Recent research from Friedrich Schiller University in Germany shows just how serious toxic people are. They found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions — the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with toxic people — caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response.

Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.

Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus, an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to brain cells, and months of stress can permanently destroy them. Toxic people don’t just make you miserable — they’re really hard on your brain.


The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to identify toxic people and keep them at bay.


It’s often said that you’re the product of the five people you spend the most time with. If you allow even one of those five people to be toxic, you’ll soon find out how capable he or she is of holding you back.


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Teen suicide: Third Leading Cause of Adolescent Death

Factors that influence adolescent behavior and how they may be mitigated Confidence comes with every card

By Dr. Beecroft . M.D

Teenage and adolescent suicide is a very serious issue in the United States. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people 12 to 18. Each day in the U.S. there are, on average, more than 5,240 suicide attempts by young people grades 7-12. The National Center for Health Statistics, in 2003, reported the suicide rate was 7.3 per 100,000 among youth aged 15-19, making it the third leading cause of death among adolescents at that time showing an increasing During a recent continuing medical education conference sponsored by Harvard medical school, Marisa Silveri, Ph.D., a behavioral neuroscientist at McLean Hospital, shared some insights about why adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and actions. We develop additional myelination of neurons as we age and for this age group this enhances the connection between the amygdala and the frontal lobe, Silveri said. This connection enhancement helps modulate the impulsiveness and “right now” thinking that characterizes adulthood. This helps us think through the consequences of actions rather than just act. Having more life experiences and learning from consequences of earlier decisions also helps us problem solve the options available to us as we age, she explained. This experience isn’t usually available to teenagers as they haven’t been exposed to as many life lessons and, therefore, have fewer options to choose from. The stresses on teenagers are immense. Pressure from peers, parents, siblings, bullying, news media, social media, as well as educational and vocational expectations can seem overwhelming. This is especially true if there is an unforeseen circumstance that occurs to derail future plans.


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Understanding the Developmental Stage for Adolescents

“I just want to strangle her” said the exacerbated mom about her daughter. Of course she did not really want to cause physical harm to her child but similar statements of intense frustration and anger from parents are vented to me. So the question is why can a teenager trigger this reaction in one of their parents? The best way to understand this is by understanding the physical and developmental stage that adolescents must go through prior to becoming adults.

Anna Freud describes the teen years as “adolescent revolt” A period where the adolescent regresses to self-centered behaviors and will tend to reject their parents values and family norms while seeking their identity and place within society. Jean Piaget’s theory of development looks at how the teen begins to have the ability for abstract thought, struggles with moral and ethical dilemmas, and begin to have deductive reasoning, the process of analyzing problems and finding logical conclusions. This allows for the adolescent to challenge the beliefs and social mores they have been exposed to while finding their sense of identity and resiliency separate from their parents. Erikson’s theory of “Psychosocial Development asserts that from the age of 12 to 18 is the stage of “Identify versus Role Confusion.” In this stage, “a reintegrated sense of self, of what one wants to do or be, and of one’s appropriate sexual role. During this stage the body image of the adolescent changes.” (Bee, 1992) Add to this the hormones and testosterone that is raging as a result of puberty causing significant shifts in mood, running the gamut of dramatic highs to deep lows, sometimes cycling for only a few minutes or hours. (more…)

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35 Things People With ADHD Want Everyone Else To Know (Buzzfeed January 2017)

“I wish people understood that I don’t have a choice in how my brain works.”

Posted on Jan. 13, 2017, at 10:31 a.m.
Caroline Kee
Caroline Kee
BuzzFeed News Reporter ( )

We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community living with ADD/ADHD to tell us what they wish other people understood about the disorder. Here are some of the best responses.

(Quick note: ADD/ADHD is a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty sustaining attention, by lack of self-control, and by impaired working memory. It’s now more often classified in medical literature as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but lots of people (including some doctors) still refer to it as ADD. For the purpose of clarity and conciseness, we will refer to the disorder as ADHD for the remainder of this article.) (more…)

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Gratitude Heals

When in the midst of a storm it is hard to feel grateful. As we travel the path life has laid out for us we will run through days of blue skies, cloudy ones, and downpours. Staying focused versus being swayed by each day’s good or chaos is difficult. And to be grateful during times of trouble can seem impossible. But the fact is, if you can find gratitude even in the most terrible of times, you will find solace to comfort you.

So why do I believe this is true? I have faced my share of death, chaos, financial loss, illness and more. Sometimes I created my own woes and other times they came to me from others or events that I had no control of. Until I could grasp the concept of acceptance and gratitude I would unnecessarily struggle with my own thoughts or be influenced by the negativity of others. But when I learned to take time to accept my predicament and be grateful for what I did have is when I began to master my inner turmoil. (more…)

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When Life Serves you Lemons…

Hard times, transitions, losses, Murphey poking his head up, these are a part of life. A friend of mine once said, “The only constant in life is change… losses, hard times and murphy’s law. So when this happens is the glass of water half empty or half full? Reality is it’s only a half a glass of water. But our perception can mold our outlook and mood. I heard a wise woman once said to never get to sad or too happy. Keep calm and maintain a steady demeanor. An optimist may scoff at this while a negative nelly may lament on how bad things always happen to them. But again the reality is bad things happen to good, bad and normal every day Joes. Another words bad times afflict everyone at some time in their life. Yes certain life situations will make some more vulnerable or less vulnerable.

“Always look on the bright side of life”

Finding the rainbow in the clouds is certainly fun and helps elevated the pain when you experience difficult situations. We had a recent election. Half of the American population is ecstatic while the other side is in tears and scared of the future. But it is finished and the future will bear sweet apples or lemons. No one knows for sure. It okay to be sad or to be joyous. But like a party, don’t be the last guest to leave (unless you’re helping to clean up). A chronic optimist can be judgmental and just plain annoying. It also can set you up for a let big letdown. However, someone who walks around like pig pen except with a cloud of doom versus dust is not much better. (more…)

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Overcoming the Feeling of Hopelessness

Many of us have lived lives that for the most part where OK. Maybe we had times that were stressful, or a loved one passed away. Maybe finances became tight or a job was lost. But with perseverance and support from friends and family we never came to a point that life lost all meaning, and all feelings of hope. Then again there are those of us who have experienced the indescribable feeling of hopelessness. The sense that no matter what we do or who we turn to, it is fruitless because it seems that there is no one or no answer to resolve our dilemma. In medical terms we would be suffering from Major Depressive Disorder, sometimes called clinical depression. But it goes deeper than that.

Michael Moore in his book “Care of the Soul” talks about depression in a way that uses it as an ally or tool that can lead us to solutions to the imbalances that situations in life can bring us to. I have found this helpful when I have felt sad. In fact, I have found that by using the concept of my depression helping me to heal has brought me answers that have helped to resolve whatever was bothering me. From this I gained hope. By knowing this I am able to be hopeful in many situations. (more…)

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