Having a sense of purpose in life can contribute to longevity and better health. At times during life transitions we may need to reinvent and redefine our purpose. The Met Life Discovering What Matters study looked at purposeful priorities during various phases in life. Adults in midlife are often focused on career and finances. Older adults shift their focus to more meaningful activities such as spending time with family and friends and the pursuit of wellness.
The purposeful dimension can be difficult to reinvent as we get older. Retirement and changes in family roles can leave us searching for new directions in our contribution to the world. Richard Leider, recognized expert on finding purpose authored the book-The Power of Purpose. The following are suggestions from Leider’s book.
Many of us have them, moments that have defined us. Take the story of Rosa Parks who said she was just trying to get home from work when she got on the bus that day in 1962 and refused to move to the back. That moment not only defined Parks, but started a major movement. What are the moments that have defined you in life? Have you had any lately? As we get older we can tend to forget that our purpose is always evolving. Be open to purpose moments in your life.
Throughout your day there are opportunities for purpose-small ways that you can make a difference in someone’s life. Helping others can lead to "helper’s high" according to authors Allan Lucs and Peggy Payne in their book The Healing Power of Doing Good. The authors say that helping others creates a positive emotional state that brings about:
- A sense of well-being, exhilaration and euphoria.
- A more positive and happier outlook on life.
- A greater sense of connectedness with others.
- Reduction of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular effects.
- Reduction of aches and pains, for example, decreased headaches and back pain as well as relief from arthritis.
To help you become aware of the purpose moments in your life, Leider suggests you play The Purpose Game. For an entire day look for any opportunity to do something for someone else-buy a cup of coffee, say an encouraging word, visit a neighbor etc. As Leider says "First we begin, then the purpose moments appear".
Finding your purpose
Doing a little self reflection may be required when redefining our purpose. Leider suggests looking at three areas to help you.
- What are your gifts?
- What are your values?
- What are your passions?
Looking at these three areas can help point you in a direction of taking on a new challenge and/or deciding how you want to relate the world at this time in your life. Your handout contains questions to help you reflect and discover the answers to these three questions.
Mother Teresa said: "Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier". This is an example of a purpose statement. A purpose statement is not about what you "do" but about who you are or want to be. You can spend a few minutes to write your own.
Wellness does not happen by accident, especially as we get older. Balancing health and wellness in all six dimensions of Optimum Life takes a concerted effort. Deficits in one dimension do not preclude us from pursuing wellness in other dimensions. The purposeful dimension of our lives can provide the "why" for us to pursue good health.
Be Well on Purpose!
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