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Looking back to find meaning

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Looking back to find meaning

Stanford Professor William Damon talks about the value of reviewing your past in order to move forward with purpose.

No matter where you are in your life’s journey, reflection can help you grow. That’s why Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) Professor William Damon recommends undertaking a “life review” — as he did. 

“The past matters,” said Damon. “The way you think about your history of successes and failures in life makes a big difference to how you think about your future.”

On this episode of School’s In, Damon joined GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to talk about the value and process of reflecting on your life to move forward with a sense of meaning and purpose.

A startling discovery spurred Damon’s own life review. For most of his adulthood, he rejected all opportunities to find his father, who had abandoned the family when Damon was young. That changed when Damon was in his 60s, when his daughter found their half-family. He embarked on a five-year research project to get to know his late, lost father.

That experience culminated in his new book, A Round of Golf with My Father, which uses his own journey to teach the life review method of self-analysis: “thinking about your past in a systematic, intentional way that can give you a hopeful and purposeful future,” he said.

Along with self-analysis, Damon recommends talking to people from your past and getting hold of school records.

“Even as you get older, you have a future,” Damon said. “And it’s very important to think about your past in the right way because it does affect how you think about who you are and what you want to do.”

You can listen to School's In on SiriusXM, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Soundcloud.

Faculty mentioned in this article: William Damon

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