The Path to Purpose by William Damon [Summary]

This is a comprehensive summary of the book The Path to Purpose: Helping Our Children Find Their Calling in Life by William Damon. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access.


This is madness! According to the text, over 45% of undergraduates display serious signs of depression. The reason? Lack of purpose and direction. Thankfully, we have The Path to Purpose by William Damon. This short book aims to give parents the tools and the vocabulary to help their kids find meaning in life. The studies, and the in-depth interviews shared inside, will encourage students (and not only) to successfully discover, define, and pursue purposeful missions in their own lives.

The Core Idea:

Finding a worthy goal in life is essential for achieving happiness and satisfaction. Infect your child with a desire to pursue a life aimed towards a noble purpose. A life aimed towards solving problems, not wandering without a clear agenda. And while professor Damon targets mainly students, the insights in this book can be beneficial for everyone feeling a sense of emptiness in their soul and mind.


  • Kids lacking purpose live longer with their parents and don’t move forward in life.
  • Parents should offer support and expose their kids to a variety of options.
  • The easiest way to find direction in life is to engage in solving a worthy problem.

5 Key Lessons from The Path to Purpose:

Lesson #1: Life Without Purpose Leads to Emptiness

Guess what? If you don’t have a clear direction in your life, you’re slowly drowning in a sea of confusion. Self-doubt and anxiety are taking over – gaining full control of your body and mind.

This leads?

People start to feel disappointed and discouraged. Motivation is lacking and the spark to do something, anything, starts to fade.

But instead of acknowledging the missing piece and searching for a solution, most youngsters fall under one of the following 3 categories of despair:

  • Anxiety: “I’m so stressed out!”
  • Cynicism: “Like I should care?”
  • Apathy: “Whatever!”

This phenomenon is observed in countries around the world.

According to the findings in the book, the British government was the first to acknowledge the lack of purpose in teens. The desire to move forward is apparently missing. That’s why they coined the term Young NEETs. This stands for Not in Education, Employment, or Training.

Instead of striving to get better and to find a meaningful job. Students are more likely to move back home with their parents without regret.

This directionless is not only a burden for the parents but it’s also destructive for young people.

William Damon argues that the only way teens can transition from adulthood is by committing to a career, starting a family, or begin solving a worthy problem.

Lesson #2: Why kids lack purpose? Outside Pressure, Absence of Support and Goals

The investigation conducted by the author identified three main reasons people are not capable of forming a sense of direction in their lives:

1. Outside pressure

When parents put too much pressure on their children to study something not aligned with their interests, kids usually rebel.

Instead of listening to their kids, mothers and fathers are pushing them towards paths they don’t find interesting. The outcome is disengaged kids who just want to sit and do nothing.

My mom “wants me to have my own choices, but she wants my choices to be math and science.” Ben, age twelve

2. Lack of help from parents

Some folks are ambitious and do want to achieve worthy goals. But since they lack experience, they can’t formulate a plan for reaching their desired goals. And sadly, often parents fail to realize that their kids need support.

This inadequacy leads to frustration and alienation from their desired goals and most probably from their parents.

Many parents do not see it as their responsibility to actively help their adolescents form plans for their futures.” Barbara Schneider

3. Absence of a worthy goal

Some people are just lacking motivation. They want to travel the world. To explore. To rest.

They are careless and proud.

Some people will say that these folks are simply lazy. But the author argues that the real problem is “the lack of a source of motivation.”

Again, this puts a spotlight on the parents. Probably they failed to transmit a sense of direction to their kids. Thus, they now seek easy and laid back life.

I don’t know what I’m going to take next term. They make you pick some courses. I’ll just say ‘what the hell’ and flip a coin or something.” Tommy, an eighteen-year-old from Pennsylvania

Hey there, sorry to interrupt…

Since you’ve come this far, it seems that you are really passionate about books and learning. I’m too! And while what I’m about to say next probably won’t quite excite you, I have to say it…

Look, this is members-only content.

(Already a member? You can log-in using this link, here.)

See, I digest acres of complex ideas from various books and morph my findings into straight-to-the-point book summaries. The main goal is not only to help you understand the underlying ideas from famous, and not-so-famous, titles. But, also, to help you stay curious, inspired, and well-informed. Above all, though, I want to help you transition from a passive online consumer to an active mindful go-getter with a sense of purpose.

By becoming a supporting member, you’ll unlock a well-curated online selection of book summaries that aim to move you in the right direction.

You can join as a MONTHLY ($29.95 USD), or QUARTERLY ($59.95 USD) member. Read more about the membership, here.

Share with others: