Your sense of purpose and why it is so intertwined with wellbeing
Recent studies have found that having a sense of purpose can have significant physical as well as mental advantages.
In studies of thousands of elderly subjects, Dr. Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, found that people with a low sense of life purpose were 2.4 times more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease than those with a strong purpose. Further, people with purpose were less likely to develop impairments in daily living and mobility disabilities.
Additionally, in his study of “Blue Zones” (communities in the world in which people are more likely to live past 100), Dan Buettner identified the factors that most centenarians share, one of them being a strong sense of purpose. In 2014, researchers used data that tracked adults over 14 years and found that "having a purpose in life appears to widely buffer against mortality risk across the adult years."
So it seems that having a sense of purpose could be a magic elixir to living a longer, healthier, happier life. But what exactly is it and how do you get it?
Purpose can be defined as the degree to which we understand our values and motivations, using them as the North Star by which we guide our decisions. And once we have clearly defined these values and motivations, we can apply them to achieve meaning for ourselves and the world beyond.
This may be something we think we know but when I work with many clients they will often first give the ‘good’ answer which they have been trained over the years to say. This is the answer, that through years of repetition, they begin to believe is true. It is the 'what I should be doing' sense of purpose. It could be what society, their culture, religion, parents, friends or day to day responsibilities expects them to have.
But when you dig a little deeper and allow the space to truly connect to your innermost passions, beliefs and values there is gold to be found. This is the moment you open up to a what really gets you out of bed in the morning, what really excites you, what really fills your soul, what is the message you would want to share to the world. I often ask clients, if time, money and responsibilities were not an issue what would you love to be doing? And the answer is often a surprise to clients once they allow themselves to answer honestly and open heartedly.
Once you know what truly and utterly makes you tick, what your guiding North Star is saying, then in moments of chaos, crisis or confusion you can lean on it to help you choose the right path for yourself.
Having a clear purpose can open opportunities, provide meaning and increase well-being. And rather than being some hippy dippy idea it can be incredibly powerful. For entrepreneurs, once you have this deeper understanding of yourself and your purpose, you can incorporate it into your business and personal goals. In fact, it is often the yearning to connect more fully to their purpose, to be more fulfilled, that sets people on their own journey to start their own business in the first place!
Articulating your purpose can help set long-term business strategy, inspire innovation, increase authenticity and help your company thrive in the long-term. And of course, it’s great for your physical and mental health too!
So perhaps spending some time connecting with your sense of purpose may well be the best investment of your time this year.