Ways to find your purpose in life

HAVING A PURPOSE in life may be protective against stroke. At Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, brain autopsies showed that older people were much less likely to have evidence of strokes in their brains if they’d felt a strong purpose in life. Other studies show that a life purpose is linked with living longer, slowing Alzheimer’s disease, lower risks of depression and heart attack – and even a better sex life! But what defines a life purpose? Researchers say that’s up to you. It might mean constantly learning and bettering yourself or contributing to your community. Inspired to find yours? Here are 45 ways to get you started.

  • PUT PEN TO PAPER
    The process of writing down what you find meaningful will set you on the right track. Try making these lists.
  1. List your core values. What do you believe in? What is most important to you?
  2. List things that fascinate you. What captures your interest? What would you like to know more about?
  3. List your skills. What are your special talents? What do you enjoy doing?
  4. List all the reasons why you got up this morning!
  • SEEK THERAPYlife purpose (3)
    Feeling daunted by the task of finding your life’s meaning on your own? Trained therapists can actually guide you through the process. Yes, life-purpose counselling is a thing!
  • SET GOALSlife purpose (1)
    Purpose can be defined as having specific goals to work toward. Do you want to learn a language, master the violin, build a school-house, write that epic screenplay? “Purpose is about having a vision in life,” writes Duke University professor Harold Koenig in his book Purpose and Power In Retirement: New Opportunities for Meaning and Significance. “This vision is a picture of something important and significant that we see in our mind’s eye, a picture of something we have not yet achieved but have decided is worth the effort to obtain.”
  • GET OFF YOUR DUFF AND …
  1. Invent something Older inventors are often successful because they have more life experience,
    which can enhance their insight and problem-solving skills.
  2. Teach something Share your expertise! Teaching degrees aren’t necessarily required for instructors of continuing education courses.
  3. Write something Your memoirs might inspire the next generation.
  • LOSE YOURSELF
    Have you ever been so thoroughly absorbed in what you were doing that you completely lost track of time? That’s a clue to what your life’s purpose might be.
  • JUST IMAGINE…
    Think on this: if you had a million dollars to give away to others, what would you do with it? Another clue!
  • SAVE A LIFE
    It gives meaning to your own, and it might not be as out of reach as you think.
  1. Join a stem cell registry.
  2. Sign your organ donor card.
  3. Donate your blood.
  4. Take a CPR course.
  5. Donate time or money to a humanitarian agency.
  • MEDITATE ON ITlife purpose (2)
    At the University of California San Francisco, people who participated in a three-month meditation retreat felt a greater sense of their purpose in life compared to those on the retreat’s waiting list.
  • FIND MORE PURPOSE IN YOUR CAREER
    A Gallup poll found that only one in six Canadians feels engaged in their jobs. We don’t always have control over what we do, but here’s how you can find more meaning in your work.
  1. Concentrate on how what you do makes a difference to others.
  2. Embrace opportunities to develop new skills as they come up.
  3. Tap into the workplace community, whether it’s by joining the company bowling team or attending a co-worker’s baby shower.
  • FIND MORE PURPOSE IN YOUR CAREER
    A Gallup poll found that only one in six Canadians feels engaged in their jobs. We don’t always have control over what we do, but here’s how you can find more meaning in your work.
  1. Concentrate on how what you do makes a difference to others.
  2. Embrace opportunities to develop new skills as they come up.
  3. Tap into the workplace community, whether it’s by joining the company bowling team or attending a co-worker’s baby shower.
  • UH, I PICK LOVE
    Vienna psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, concentration camp survivor and author of the 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, believed there were three pathways to finding your life’s meaning: love, work and suffering.
  • WE CHECKED WITH THE EXPERTS
  1. Ask your younger self “Sometimes it’s best to return to basics when you’re looking for your life’s purpose, and that would be back in your past. What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? How about when you were 16? What were your interests and passions? You might be surprised to learn that you still love the same things!”
    — Vikki Stark, psychotherapist, Montreal.
  2. Get mad about you “Examine your anger. When people in mid-life are looking for purpose, I encourage them to look at what they’ve been pushing away. Often it’s anger, and I suggest looking into what we are angry about. Are there chances missed, societal injustices, thwarted hopes? If we’re angry, there’s usually a passion underneath that wants our attention, badly.”
    — Pamela Rubin, certified counsellor, Halifax.
  3. Make it yourself “Instead of considering your purpose as something to be found, try thinking of it as something to be created. You are, in the grand scheme of things, already talented in your life’s purpose. This shift in perspective will empower you to take action and follow your unique way to infuse your life with your purpose.”
    — Ryan Cuillerier, certified professional coach, Vancouver.
  • THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT!life purpose (1)
  1. Life Purpose Get more insights into your own identity and values. www.lifepurposeapp.com
  2. On Purpose Create a “purpose statement,” then track which daily activities are in line with your purpose.www.dungbeetle.org/about-the-app
  3. Motto Dots Inspire yourself with your own life-changing catch-phrases. www.mottodots.com
  • DON’T CONFUSE A HAPPY LIFE WITH A MEANINGFUL ONE
    It’s possible to have both happiness and purpose in your life. But you can have one without the other. A survey by a Florida State University psychologist uncovered five key differences. Getting what you want may makeyou happy but won’t provide meaning. Happiness is connected to the present. A meaningful life is linked to the past, present and future. Happiness is lower in people who have more stress and anxiety, but meaning is higher in these same people. Self-expression and exploring personal identity don’t make people happier, but they do provide meaning. Takers have happiness. Givers have meaning.
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