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WELL 23 — The Development of Purpose across the Lifespan

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Jan 11—Mar 1
Time: 6:00—8:00 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 13
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $550
Instructor(s): William Damon
Limit: 20
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
6:00—8:00 pm (PT)
Jan 11—Mar 1
8 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 13
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
William Damon
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Purpose is a long-term aim to accomplish something both meaningful to the self and of consequence to the world beyond the self. Psychological science has identified purpose as an important component of a well-directed life. Benefits of purpose may include energy and motivation, resilience, positive personal identity, emotional stability, academic and vocational achievement, faith in life’s affirmative value, and a sense of direction that can help one withstand periods of uncertainty and confusion. Purposeful people also have the capacity to contribute greatly to their communities, because the qualities of purpose that spur motivation, direction, and achievement also have the potential to drive social change in ways that can improve the broader human condition.

This course will present current scholarly knowledge on the psychology of purpose, examining the many forms that purpose can take in contemporary society. Pulling from leading research on the psychology of purpose, readings will focus on how purpose develops and on how it can be maintained and enhanced throughout life, especially in the later years. This course also includes “life story” exercises that have been used to promote reflections about purpose in middle to late adulthood and will contribute to relevant contemporary research.

Professor of Education, Stanford; Director, Stanford Center on Adolescence

William Damon is a leading researcher on the psychology of purpose and the author of more than 20 books, including The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life, The Power of Ideals, Taking Philanthropy Seriously, and Greater Expectations. He has been elected to the National Academy of Education, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Educational Research Association. Damon received a PhD in developmental psychology from UC Berkeley.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) William Damon, The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life (ISBN 978-1416537243)
(Required) Heather Malin, Teaching for Purpose: Preparing Students for Lives of Meaning (ISBN 978-1682532577)
(Required) William Damon, A Round of Golf with My Father: The New Psychology of Exploring Your Past to Make Peace with Your Present (ISBN 978-1599475967)
(Recommended) Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (ISBN 978-0807014271)