There are a plethora of degrees that young adults can strive for after graduating high school. AA. BA. BS. MA. MBA. PhD. JD. MD. …and the list of acronyms can go on. After millions of American high school students recently earned their diplomas, they, as well as their parents, may wonder what the secret of success is for the unchartered waters that lie ahead. Many will go to college, and many will choose other options. No matter what choices they make for their immediate future, there is no magic formula that will guarantee success for these young adults, but having a “PPF” degree may be the first step to ensuring a bright and fulfilling future.So, what is a PPF? Well, it’s not really a degree, and it’s something that teens can work on while still in high school. Okay, it’s not a degree at all. In fact, I made it up. It stands for Purpose, Passion, and Fulfillment. PPF is a mindset and perspective that we should encourage our youth to be aware of in order to experience the most enrichment, satisfaction, and fulfillment in their lives.
Research shows, as well as motivation specialist Daniel H. Pink in his book Drive, that we feel our best when we do something that we believe in, do it well, and do it for a cause greater than ourselves. I call this Purpose. Purpose and Intrinsic Motivation go hand in hand. Intrinsic Motivation is being motivated to do something because the action itself is the reward. “I want to do this because I enjoy the challenge.” This is the type of motivation that brings us the most fulfillment. On the other hand, Conditional Motivation is doing something for the sake of an external benefit or reward. There is an “if-then” clause. “If I get good grades, then I will get into a good college.” Unfortunately, most young adults operate under the Conditional model, but it is certainly less sustainable and less fulfilling in the long-term than the Intrinsic model because it does not tap into who we are, who we want to be, and what is this all for?
However, the trick is instilling Intrinsic Motivation in teens in areas that they find boring or not applicable to their lives. For example, it may seem impossible to get a teenager to focus on Trigonometry when he appears to have an allergic reaction to the thought of mathematics! However, let’s say that part of this teen’s Purpose involves wanting to inspire his younger brother and others to be able to overcome challenges. In fact, that Purpose may be so important to him that he has named one of his Values, the “Challenges Value.” So, on his next Trig assignment, he shifts his perspective just a bit and asks himself, “Am I honoring my Challenges Value?” He decides to focus just a bit more, not because all of a sudden he has a new love for math, but because he is able to find Purpose and Intrinsic Motivation in an area of his life where it is not blatantly apparent how it can be enjoyable for him.
For some teenagers, it may be simple to think about their Purpose. For others, it may evoke a blank stare. One way great to start thinking about Purpose is asking, “What do you love to do and why do you love doing it?” I call this Passion. Digging deeper into the aforementioned question can unlock some empowering truths for many young adults. One of my students answered that he loved playing the saxophone and couldn’t imagine a week going by without playing music. He had not realized how important music was to him and he described the conversation as “eye-opening.” It is crucial for young adults to identify their passions and for parents to help nurture those passions. After all, it is in our passions where Intrinsic Motivation comes naturally… the action of doing the things that we love to do is a reward in itself.
When Purpose and Passion are there, then Fulfillment comes along with that. It is important that young adults learn at an early age what truly brings them the most meaning to their lives, and they can base their future actions and decisions on whether or not they are honoring the Values and Purpose that they had defined for themselves. Inviting young adults to continually build the life skills of consciously working towards their Purpose, nurturing their Passions, and seeking Fulfillment in what they do is a solid foundation on which the next generation can build upon to leave their legacy.