The Benefits of Living Purposefully at Every Life-Stage!
“He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Having a purpose in life means deeply caring about a goal that we are committed to achieving – one that gives us meaning and matters beyond ourselves. We can find purpose in different areas of life – work, family, civic life, art, philanthropy… All of us have things we care about and talents we can apply to make a significant difference in the world around us.
Finding our purpose in life is a daunting exercise because it is not something to be discovered outside of us, nor something we can hope to magically come across one day, but rather something that lies within us. Purpose is to be found within us and we create it by revealing our "true self". Unlocking our "true self" to find our life purpose is a creative process that profoundly affects us - as we move from emptiness to fulfillment, from boredom to passion.
The inner questioning that needs to take place is: what do I truly care about? What do I value? What do I want to get out of life? The meaning of success is unique to each one of us. No one can define what is meaningful to us. We must find our life purpose and choose the best possible expression of our "true, unique self" - our values, natural talents and passions - and share them with the world. As the theologian Howard Thurman would say: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
According to psychologist Patrick Hill, the foundations of life purpose take shape in early childhood. He found that "people who face adversity early in life often tend to clarify the direction of their lives after reflecting on adverse experiences". By discovering what makes their lives purposeful, they find the energy and enthusiasm to actively engage in becoming the architects of their future.
Some schools of thought believe that life purpose is something we are born with, that it is our destiny – we have no choice. Others believe that destiny is non-existent and that we have the power (or “free will”) to choose our life purpose and do what we want with our life. What if the answer was a compromise between destiny and choice? Perhaps we were born with a life purpose, but we also have control over of how and when we act on it?
While purpose may seem to be in the realm of youth, evidence suggests that it is critical to maintain a sense of direction and purpose throughout one's life. Researchers have shown that there is a strong correlation between the pursuit of purpose in adulthood and improved physical health and well-being. Their findings underscore the need to encourage older adults to reclaim a sense of purpose, especially during transitions, such as career changes, divorce, illness, and milestone anniversaries. Sometimes we may feel stuck, drifting without direction, a situation that can prompt us to pause and explore what really matters to us, what brings us joy. It is a "catalyst for a new look at life", for reconnecting with our strengths, our values and renewing our sense of purpose. It can be an opportunity to focus our efforts inward to become better human beings, learning new skills or tackling long-standing emotional struggles, in an effort to maintain or increase our sense of purpose.
The renewal of purpose is a recurring process that we must continue to practice as our priorities change over time. The good news is that as we age, the building blocks of our purpose are already within us. We can draw on the skills, knowledge and values we have developed over the years to start a new chapter. The key things to think about are: What are you good at? What have you done that gave you a skill that can be used for a cause?