Strengths of Heart

Having a purpose means being driven by something larger than yourself.

Having a purpose is different from being tracked into a specific vocation or outcome— it's being oriented toward a vision of the future. Perhaps it’s a big goal you have for your future, a motivation to help the world around you, or both. The goal or purpose itself can be general, and it can be relatively temporary. When kids are motivated by a larger purpose, studies show that they have more academic motivation, life satisfaction, identity formation, and vocational success.

Observing Purpose

Having a purpose could involve:

  • Being oriented toward a stated future goal
  • Being able to articulate an interest and the “why” behind the interest

Try This Evidence-based Tool for Purpose
Evidence-based tools are tools that have been evaluated in classrooms with students and have demonstrated positive results so far.


This value-finding strategy, created by Dr. Chris Hulleman, helps students engage in learning by helping them see how what they are studying is meaningful for their lives outside of school.

In the study, High school science students were asked to write a one paragraph essay applying a concept covered in class to their life or someone they knew. By making connections between their life and the material, self-reported interest in science and end-of-semester course grades increased, particularly for students with low success expectations (from average GPA of 2.5 in the control to average GPA of 3.3.)

What the Research Says

Dr. Bill Damon of Stanford University talks about Purpose.

Research shows that having a purpose is correlated with better outcomes in school and may lead to better self-regulation, increased social engagement, and a sense of well-being.

In addition to our own expertise, this page is informed by the following readings:

Keep Exploring Purpose