Having a purpose in life will ensure you live longer!!
What I have come to realize as a Naturopathic Doctor is that unless my patients had a sense of purpose in their lives they would get or stay sick. Confronted with this realization I decided I would take a look at the scientific literature to see if this claim could be backed up.
Well low and behold Patrick Hill published a study in 2014 examining this very question. The study is called: purpose in life as a predictor of mortality across adulthood (as cited below). Their goal was to determine whether purpose in life promotes longevity across the adult years. The importance of this study is that they studied people between the ages of 20 to 75 years old. This is really exciting, because most of the available research is done on the elderly. Chances are you are not above 75 years old (excluding my grandma who is obviously reading this). What that means is that this applies to you!! So you may want to read on.
The study included 7000+ people and they used various questionnaires to determine a sense of purpose in life. To follow up, they used mortality data (how many people actually died) to determine if there was any correlation between a persons sense of purpose and how long they lived. Importantly, they controlled for variables that would increase risk of mortality (such as chronic diseases and etc.).
What they found was that a greater sense of purpose results in decreased mortality (ie. less people died) across all age ranges. No big surprise, but this is so unreal! Traditionally it had been determined that a sense of purpose was important upon retirement, but this study is showing that it is important across all age ranges.
So what does this mean for you? Well if you cant identify a sense of purpose in your life then you may die sooner. Now I know that is a sobering fact, but the important part is that you can begin to find and live your sense of purpose now!
Some strategies to identify your purpose:
- Notice what excites you and draws you
What do you find yourself doing, that when you are doing it, time stands still? I know this is kind of cliché but it really matters. Try closing your eyes for a moment and imagining what that one thing or one group of things is. Now begin doing more of that to identify if that is really something that fits your purpose!
- Ask those who know you well what they think your calling or purpose is
Often times others who are not emotionally invested in our ‘stories’ have a very fresh perspective on what it is they believe our calling is. Especially if it is someone who has your best interest at heart. When they give you their feedback, take the time to identify within yourself if their answer gives you a sense of excitement.
- Don’t immediately think that your purpose has to generate income
If you provide value in this world by following your passion and purpose then the world will find a way to compensate you for providing that value. It is so easy to think that we always need to have a way to monetize what we are doing (especially if you are entrepreneurial minded like me). However, if you can focus instead on following that passion and purpose the pieces will fall into place!
- Allow your curiosity to draw you
Often we are held back from pursing ventures because we stop them when they are only a thought, before we have even given them a try or chance. It is so easy to say immediately: That isn’t possible, that will never work, I am not educated enough for that, I can’t afford that etc. Just give yourself permission to follow your curiosity. You will be surprised what will follow! As Rumi says: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love”.
- Use the challenges you have overcome to serve others
We all encounter challenges in our lives, some much more detrimental then others. We have also all been able to overcome those challenges or are on the way to overcoming them. As such, you have a vast amount of knowledge about that process and there are guaranteed to be a lot of people facing similar challenges in their lives who would very much appreciate your help and guidance. Make your mess your message!
To hear from others who are following their life passion and purpose, listen to my podcast called Step into the Jungle here. You will be inspired, motivated and provided with the tools to take you to the top in health, wealth, business and relationships!
Patrick L. Hill, N. A. (2014). Purpose in Life as a Predictor of Mortality Across Adulthood. Psychological Science , 1482-1486.