NSC New Year’s Resolution
According to Stanford developmental psychologist Bill Damon, such a beyond-the-self orientation can and should be deliberately cultivated. Now in the fifth decade of his distinguished career, Bill studies how adolescents learn to lead lives that are personally gratifying and, at the same time, beneficial to the larger community. The study of purpose, he says, is his calling.In Bill’s words, purpose is a final answer to the question “Why? Why are you doing this?”What has Bill learned about the origins of purpose?“In data set after data set,” he told me, “there’s a pattern. Everyone has a spark. And that’s the very beginning of purpose. That spark is something you’re interested in.”Next, you need to observe someone who is purposeful. The purposeful role model could be a family member, a historical figure, a political figure. It doesn’t really matter who it is, and it doesn’t even matter whether that purpose is related to what the child will end up doing. “What matters,” Bill explained, “is that someone demonstrates that it’s possible to accomplish something on behalf of others.”
In fact, he can’t remember a single case in which the development of purpose unfolded without the earlier observation of a purposeful role model. “Ideally,” he said, “the child really gets to see how difficult a life of purpose is–all the frustrations and the obstacles–but also how gratifying, ultimately, it can be.”
As I read these words again, I was struck by how relevant this science is to what we have set out to do. North Star has been put in place to ignite that spark, to create the beyond-the-self orientation. We recognize that these things don’t happen on their own for children, but rather that these are lessons that are taught by intentional role models. So as the calendar now has turned to 2017, may we resolve to deliberately cultivate this selfless purpose in the lives of our campers, our families and our communities.
Wishing a Happy, Healthy 2017 to our North Star family!