Family Matters #11: Uncovering potential and purpose

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”


—Mark Twain

By Lucia Ferrara

This quote from Mark Twain is one of my favorites. I first heard it in a pastor’s sermon in church and not too long after that, I began to reflect on my own life journey, because this really makes a lot of sense to me.

I do not know that I will fully understand what God’s purpose for me really is until I die, because for me, my journey seems to be ever changing in different seasons of my life.

Among the 40 Developmental Assets that the family resilience research group The Search Institute says are building blocks of healthy development that help our children grow up to be responsible, caring and healthy adults are asset number 39, “Sense of Purpose,” and asset number 40, “Positive View of Personal Future.”

Giving young people opportunities to think — positively — about their future and what they want to achieve in life is very important because it shapes their identity. To help young people understand these assets, the Search Institute recommends having them reflect on two questions:

  1. If you lived to 100 what would you want people to remember about you?
  2. Would your actions over the years reflect what you believe in and stood for?

I believe as a parent of my own children and a mentor to others that we need to teach them how to uncover their potential and purpose in all stages of their lives.

All the articles in the Family Matters series are available here.

The uncovering of potential and purpose begins with not only a sense of purpose but a positive view or our future and looking forward to it. Our youth need to be taught that it’s important to have goals and dreams, and what to do when times get a little rough. Therefore, as parents and role models we need to exhibit positive and encouraging attitudes. This will help motivate them to move toward their goals.

The Search Institute surveys say that about 72 percent of young people, ages 11-18, are optimistic about their personal future. When they envision themselves reaching their goals, they are more than likely to achieve them.

I once read that we can build a child’s identity using a brick mason’s approach. Before setting the first brick in place, the bricklayer carefully studies the design of the project. From a stable foundation, we build them up one brick at a time. Some bricks I have set up for my own children are the bricks of character, integrity, self-discovery, spiritual gifts, honestly and self-love. These are a few of them. As they grew older, I had more bricks!

Sometimes parents feel helpless or ill-equipped to navigate youth into a purposeful and positive view in life. However, through perseverance and lots of prayer, together we can build up great kids into responsible, caring and healthy adults.

Building these assets are not easy and communication is key. Ask your kids what inspires them or what their favorite subject is in school. Continue the discussion and see where it goes, maybe even encourage them to keep a journal. This might help them gain a better understanding of themselves as they grow into young adults.

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Another tip for building these assets is to instill in our children the belief that we all need to embrace hope. We all have and will continue to make mistakes, fail a test or have bad days. These moments do not define us! Having hope helps them realize and focus more on positive energy in our lives now and forever. Some tips I would like you to reflect on are:

  1. Be positive. We want young people to share their fears and dreams with us. Listen to them and encourage them even if they seem farfetched! Let them know that dreams do indeed come true!
  2. Talk to your kids about getting involved in your community. For example, joining mentorship programs or helping other kids by tutoring.
  3. Create a family motto. Creating a family motto helps to identify your family and declares who they are as an individual and as a family. Our family motto is: “A family that prays together stays together.”

Until next time!

[Lucia Ferrara is the Director of Hospitality at Precious Blood Renewal Center and the lead organizer here of Parent Cafes. Share your thoughts with Lucia or ask her questions by using the form below or sending an email to Read more about the Parent Café here.]

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay


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