When we consider and identify the key tenets of maintaining good health, one of the least known - and most important - is establishing and maintaining a personal sense of purpose and meaning. As we age, we gain important perspective by looking back on our lives to see what motivated us during each stage of our journey. Having an increasingly mature point of view allows us the vantage of understanding the guiding forces that brought us to the place where we currently stand. It is through this introspective process that we learn why our lives are important – to us and everyone around us.
Why purpose matters
A study conducted by the University of Michigan School of Public Health in May 2019 analyzed data from over 7,000 people, looking at the association between life purpose and mortality among U.S. adults older than 50 years. The research discovered that having a life purpose was associated more strongly with longevity than gender, race or education level. The study authors defined “life purpose” as “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals.” They found that individuals lacking purpose were more than twice as likely to die than those with an end game in mind. Having a sense of purpose was even more important in reducing mortality than engaging in regular exercise or avoiding alcohol or smoking. Importantly, the research noted that it doesn't seem to matter what incites passion in an individual. Rather, the key thing is simply to have something in life that excites us and drives us to live better.
Finding your purpose
Our sense of direction changes regularly as we travel onward. If you would like to figure out what your purpose might currently be, try this. Without comparing yourself to others, ask these six questions:
• Where do I find deep contentment?
• What comes naturally to me?
• How do I feel most alive?
• When do I experience tremendous joy?
• When do I feel most appreciated or valued?
• What necessary things do I do for others that I am good at and have a passion for?
• What specific activities am I engaged in when I experience 'flow state' (link below)?
Write your answers down as you go. Your responses may overlap or consist of more than one idea or area. Be careful not to underestimate yourself. Be thorough.
As you answer these questions and assemble the results, you will not only gain insight into what your gifts are, but you’ll have a new sense of how to share them with others. A picture will form of the person you are and the person you want to be. With this simple exercise, you’ll begin to discover your reason for being and your own, personal ‘why’.
We wish you best of luck on your journey of self-discovery!