The Value of Finding Your Life Purpose
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain
With all of life’s problems on your mind, finding life purpose might seem like a frivolous endeavor. Or it could be just what you need to find your direction and motivation. After years of uncertainty, let’s go for the big idea and talk about your life purpose. Do you have any idea as to what makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning and joyfully start your day? Is there something you are passionate about? The benefits of life purpose are BIG! It is a “key component of psychological wellbeing, finding meaning in what you do and who you are and leading a goal-directed life” (Mercola, 2015).
Recognizing Passion and Purpose
Recognizing your passion and purpose is life changing. The Stanford Longevity Project, spanning 80 years, found that staying productive and having a sense of purpose promoted a longer life. They referred to this state as conscientiousness. Conscientious people take better care of themselves, make healthier choices and work in jobs they love resulting in reduced stress levels and overall higher contentment with their lives. They tend to regard their work as having purpose.
The Effect of Life Purpose on Your Brain
All these health benefits should be evidence enough to support life purpose – but what affect does this have on the brain? Scientists at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center found on autopsy of 246 people (out of 1400 people in the study) that those “who exhibited very different levels of cognitive decline often showed similar levels of damage from Alzheimer’s. The brains that functioned better it turned out – belonged to people who had indicated more purpose in life over the course of the study.” (Applewhite, 2015) In brain-speak – having a goal in life affects the cellular activity in the brain (neuroplasticity, neurogenesis). Plaques and tangles still form but having a goal continues to build cognitive reserve. And the stronger the purpose, the more resilient the brain is.
What level are you on the life purpose ladder? Is your work your passion? Have you just retired or are you going to retire soon? Or – do you feel that something is missing in your life? Do you go day-to-day numb as to what you do all day? You can reflect on the direction your life has taken. This may require some thought and it is not something that can be rushed. However, our brain is ready for change. Despite all the challenges your brain has been dealt these past couple of years, finding your purpose can be a powerful change. Your brain loves to change, and it is always ready to grow new cells and neural pathways to become more resilient as you start embracing your life. Don’t believe that you need to find one purpose. Our purpose lies in the fact that we jump into our current life with both feet and engage in what we are doing here and now. It is a mindfulness approach of appreciating the moment you are in and living it fully.
“It is not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.”
Winston S. Churchill
Steps to Change Your Attitude About Your Life
What if your life is more complicated and it is difficult? Change your brain and you can change your life is simplistic. But we have learned through neuroplasticity that we can change our brain. Here are some steps to help you alter your attitude about your life:
1. Surround yourself with reminders, such as photos or mementoes, of happy times
2. Regularly express gratitude
3. Complimenting people on things you like or appreciate about them
4. Practice mindfulness
5. Visualize compassion
These steps are internal strategies geared at developing new neural pathways that allow your brain to function in a new, peaceful way. Practicing these steps every day provides a means of retraining your brain. Repetition and consistency are necessary to create these new neural pathways. While sharpening your brain you will discover that real purpose in life is to fully engage in your life. You will find your passion as you direct your attention to living. Passion + Daily Activity = Purposeful Life
Trust me, your life will never be the same – it will be so much better.
Applewhite,A. (November 23, 2015). How having a purpose in life impacts your brain – in a big way. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ashton-applewhite/purpose-in-life-brain_b_85555918.html
Gupta,S. Purpose in life is good for your health. Retrieved from http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/purpose-life-good-your-health/
Kaiser,S. (June 19, 2014). 3 Unexpected ways to find your life purpose. Retrieved from Huffington Post App.
Mercola. (May 29,2015). A higher purpose in life is essential for brain health. Retrieved from http://reset.me/story/a-higher-purpose-in-life-essential-for-brain-health/