Christian Stories About Helping Others

Helping Young People Find Direction

In Collab2Reach Conversation #5: “Helping Youths Find their Purpose and Direction”, we hear from Ivan John, Team Leader of The Significance Project (a life-coaching series facilitated by Cru), Sharon Lam, Associate Team Leader of The Significance Project, and Joanne Koo, Director of Line by Line (a career development firm specialising in leadership development and personal empowerment). Collab2Reach Conversations is a series of online conversations that engage youth and campus practitioners on hot-button topics.

Youth and young adulthood are significant seasons of discovering one’s identity and direction.  “What is unique about young people today is that, due to the onslaught of social media, they are constantly thinking about reinventing themselves.  They are a generation overconnected to technology and facing a lot of pressure,” said Joanne Koo. 

Watch the full conversation below!

Support them in finding their place 

The nature of work and technology has changed drastically through the generations.  Today, youths and young adults are operating in an environment of connectivity, high dependence on technology and rapid change.  Finding one’s role within this new economy is a significant milestone for most young people.

“For the young working adults I coach, some of their concerns at work comprise their calling and how to serve God in the workplace,” shared Ivan John.  

Some advice he gives young adults is to take a holistic approach towards their life direction: “There may be some things they would like to achieve beyond their present career, but there is a livelihood question they have to consider.”  If there are areas these young adults are unable to pursue currently, Ivan encourages them to, in the course of their present-day work, develop skills that contribute to their passions.

Ask questions and listen

Focusing on inner growth is vital to discovering personal purpose and direction.  In guiding young people, mentors can pose honest, open questions to help them discover inner truth rather than suggest quick fixes to their lives.  “Helping youths find purpose is a clarification process and about asking questions,” said Joanne. 

“When we work with youths, we need to listen to ourselves and to them,” continued Joanne.  Mentors need to be conscious about not becoming know-it-alls or focusing on their own past glory days.  Elaborating further, Joanne suggested the following tips for mentors:

  • Practise reverse mentoring – learn from young people too, affirm them when they teach a useful skill or lesson
  • Earn your right to give counsel by building authentic relationships
  • Personalise communication and build trust
  • Help young people uncover limiting barriers in their lives

Guide them in examining their identity

In the process of mentoring, a structured framework can come in useful to guide youths and young adults towards clarifying their purpose and direction in life. For example, three key questions* could be posed to help them understand their values, foundations and passions:

*framework from Quest and Soaring coaching material from The Significance Project

1. Who am I?

Encourage young people to think about their personality type, strengths and weaknesses, key relationships, life experiences, core values, and skills and abilities.  As they reflect on and share their experiences, healing can be brought about for some.  

“When the youths share the highs and lows, and turning points in their lives, we would tell them that they cannot change what has happened before.  However, they can change how they view their lives.  Certain events could be defining moments to them, but these do not have to define their lives,” said Sharon Lam.

Guiding young people to articulate their values helps anchor their sense of personal identity.  “When they find out their values, they have the solitude not to parrot what their peers are saying,” said Joanne.  “We need to help them set boundaries so that even when their peers do not affirm them, they can stand independently.”

2. Why am I here?

Facilitate reflection among youths and young adults to think about their life foundations.  Prompt them to examine their driving forces and whether these are stable and secure bases for them to build their lives upon. 

3. Where am I going?

“Many young people can name different kinds of causes if you ask them what resonates with them or areas they are passionate about.  These could include caring for animals or sustainability.  It may not be career specific, but they can be passionate about many things,” shared Sharon.  By reflecting on their unique makeup, life experiences, motivations and passions, youths can be made more self-aware and brought closer to clarifying their life direction.

Create a safe environment

While using coaching frameworks and tools can help, relationship and trust building cannot be neglected when engaging young people.  They must know that they are in a safe space to share. 

In the context of group coaching sessions, participants can be asked what elements would create a safe sharing environment for them.  For example, authenticity and confidentiality could be norms that all members agree upon.

“When people are open and share deeply, others are encouraged to share,” said Sharon. Enough space has to be given to them to share as much or as little as they want.  “We want to respect where people are at in their life journey,” continued Sharon.

From thrill-seeking to finding identity

What a young person enjoys can be an indication of their skills and passions as well. “We tend to gravitate towards things we are good at.  We need to help youths link their talents to a greater good,” started Sharon.

Adding on, Ivan shared how he and his wife helped their nephew identify his gifts through his love for gaming.  For example, strategic thinking and networking were areas that their nephew enjoyed and excelled at while gaming.  These skills could be honed and utilised for the future. 

“When youths find out what they value, they will be clearer about their purpose.  We can draw from their skills and values, and link their concept of fun to something bigger,” continued Ivan.

Amidst the process of identifying a young person’s strengths, mentors and parents can also share their boundaries and concerns in areas such as time management and social relations.  “We can have honest conversations.  We can let youths know that while we are interested and concerned about them, there are boundaries,” said Joanne.

“Thrill-seeking is usually about exploring different identities and seeking acceptance from peers,” said Joanne.  “It is useful to ask youths how their day was and take interest in the company they keep.  We need to find moments where we can connect with them.  They need to know we are interested and not just judging.”

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