The Underlying Stress of Passion + Purpose for Students


Last week, I had a high school senior in my office for a college advising appointment. A few minutes into the meeting, she blurted out, “I am so stressed! I don’t know what my passion is!!!”

Please note: I had not asked her to identify her passion, or her sense of purpose, or anything related.

I responded gently, “That’s totally fine. Can you tell me an activity you enjoy and is meaningful to you?”

Without missing a beat, she replied: “Ceramic arts.”

Okay, we can start with that, I thought, and asked if some of her nervousness came from worries she wouldn’t be able to make a living with ceramic arts. She nodded.

We are well-intentioned when we encourage students to identify a passion – and, more recently, find their purpose, and immediately connect it to a long-term career option. Students have misinterpreted the messages to mean they are behind or delinquent if they can’t identify a passion or sense of purpose and link it to long-term financial stability. For students like the one in my office, it creates an additional layer of stress.

I find it helpful to step back and encourage students to identify daily habits and choices that are enjoyable and energizing. Then, see how they can connect those habits to choices on where and how they spend their time and energy each day. And, as it relates to purpose, I’ve found many students benefit from identifying activities where they can be of service to their school, local or greater community in ways that also feel meaningful and enjoyable to them.

In other news: We’re excited to be back to our fall schedule at the Green Ivy office this week! I am thrilled to start the week visiting the Town School, a wonderful K-8 school in San Francisco working with us on our Life Navigator School Program. 

We are so grateful for this partnership to help all students intentionally build executive functioning skills, and I am returning to the school this week after having a terrific kick-off event back in June. The administration and staff are so wonderfully dedicated to the work, and it is *amazing* to see how the lessons will be used to benefit students.

If you know a middle school (high school options coming soon!) interested in learning more about building executive functioning skills and working with our non-profit Life Navigator School Program, please feel free to contact us.

Warm wishes,


Links of interest:

Green Ivy Fall Registration Link

Five ways parents can help students have a better school year (Washington Post)

Six questions to help students cope with everyday stress (Edutopia)

Kids’ mental health is a national emergency. Therapists are in short supply. Could books and tapes help fill the gap? (NYTimes)

Three strategies to reduce student burnout (Edutopia)

YouTube still reigns as Tik Tok Surges among teen social media users (Wall St. Journal)

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