Globally, 85% of people either hate or are disengaged with their jobs. In the US, about 50% will experience a mental illness, 50% of marriages will end in divorce and over 50% of divorces will cite mental illness, debt and porn addiction as combined causes. (sources)
I pose these statistics as connected and caused by 1 missing thing—purpose. Why am I here?
Throughout my career as a student and then educator and then student again, I’ve discovered this is the single biggest question deciding a college student’s trajectory. Those unable to easily answer (including me for far too long) have a greater chance of the above statistics becoming our silent destination. Many of our life-stats begin here.
Many college-student-challenge statistics can be found online. Mental health is the biggest. I traveled 3 years (2017-20) and 10K miles to 13 educational conferences across the nation (including NACA – National Association for Campus Activities) to meet thousands of students, teach my courses & ask questions about their biggest challenges. Here are their biggest answers (divided into 3 groups):
Does group 2 create group 3? But more importantly, note that group 1 answered with other questions. These were often of the “who am I, who do I belong to, am I doing this for me or for others?” variety. Great questions to ask! … but less than 20% did.
Scale the Individual
Our scalable model of US education, crafted in the image of the industrial revolution, has failed to scale the individual because asking probing questions about us was never the goal. Throughout most of our education prior to the Internet, higher value has usually been placed on answers over questions. The Internet greatly disrupted this top-down approach to edu but a war between authoritative vs user-generated content still silently lingers in higher-ed. This silent war combined with the fact that many current students are only 1 physical-brick-and-mortar college generation away (parental influence) makes it no surprise that more students (80+%) answered with external symptoms instead of internal questions to probe the root cause.
Scale the Information … oops!
But the Internet didn’t just disrupt top-down edu for the better. Both superhero and supervillain, its scale-the-individual solution created a scale-the-information problem. Now everyone and everything can be an authority—and who/what’s the authoritative authority? What do we pay attention to? What do we ignore? With the overwhelming amount of disruptive data demanding our daily divided attention, it’s becoming harder to identify distractions and make good decisions on where we focus our time.
Intentional conversations questioning individual purpose are sorely needed—but how do you scale that?