My Journey Teaching Students the Recipe for a Meaningful Life

CAUSE ARTIST Anchoring mindfulness education and Social-Emotional Learning in the real world.

Last month, I was talking to an experienced educator about Project Wayfinder, the high school curriculum I’ve developed to help students create purposeful lives. It’s a curriculum that brings together the best of the biggest innovations in secondary and higher ed, incorporating elements of social-emotional learning (SEL), mindfulness education, project-based learning, and design thinking.

As I explained what we do, the educator cut me off: “Great, but how do the students respond to it?” She asked. “Do they actually like it?”

In a word, yes. Since teaching my first mindfulness class eight years ago, I have seen the power of mindfulness and social-emotional learning (SEL) transform the lives of high schoolers. Research has since confirmed those observations, showing that SEL high school programs lead to a more positive and caring school climates while inspiring students to be more engaged in school as they develop a growth mindset, place more value on helping others in their community, and help them generate more ambitious goals for their pursuits in higher education.

However, I saw something missing. SEL and mindfulness classes on their own fail to connect students’ inner development to their real-world projects and concerns. My students often told me that while well-taught and designed SEL and mindfulness skills were useful, they felt divorced from the pressing decisions they face, decisions like what to do after high school, what college to attend, what kind of career to pursue, and of course the biggest question of all: “What do I want to do with my life?”


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