When we utter the wish “Happy New Year!” are we imagining happiness occurs by luck, or by design? One of the virtues always accessible to us is Purposefulness. Author Amy E. Dean wrote: “Happiness is not something you strive for. Rather, it is something you create. It is the outcome of purposeful living. “
Purposefulness may not be a particularly flashy virtue, but it is a strong, durable building block of accomplishment and character. Being purposeful means having a clear focus. It means to know what you want, and to concentrate on your goals. Purposefulness helps us avoid “mindlessness”, when we get lost in our thoughts. Some people just let things happen. When you are purposeful, you make things happen. When you have a plan, you know what you are doing and why. You have a vision. Your actions fit your intention, and you are able to generate motivation and stay on task.
In a world where multi-tasking is the norm and opportunities for distraction abound, purposefulness is a skill to develop in daily practice. It does not require the service of the heated, impetuous amygdala, but the deliberate use of our cool and calm pre-frontal cortex. It’s not the old wax crayon at the bottom of the box, but the finely sharpened pencil, bright and shiny at the top!
Purposefulness isn’t just about doing, it is also about being. Feelings don’t just happen to us. We create them as we make meaning and interpret events in the world around us. Without purposefulness we are apt to be carried on a tide and simply react to external conditions. When we use purposefulness, it allows us to respond, rather than react.
One way can we help our children develop purposefulness is to model it ourselves, and make our goal setting and actions explicit. We can provide the structure and routine that assist children in staying focused, and offer feedback so that children make the connection between their actions and the outcomes. Of course, practices of mindfulness set the stage for being more purposeful by bringing our attention to the present moment, creating better awareness and the possibility of greater attunement.
Ask your children what would purposefulness look like if:
You have been late for school every morning this week?
You want to learn to play an instrument?
A friend invites you over when you have chores to do at home?
You are trying to finish your homework but find yourself day-dreaming?
-Tessa Lloyd, Junior School Counsellor