Several years ago, a study done by Judith Roden of Harvard followed two groups of patients in a convalescent home. Members of one group were asked to care for a potted plant during that time. Members of the other group had no such purpose. Those who were plant caretakers lived, on average, twice as long as the others did. You see, a sense of purpose fosters hope, self-motivation and positive feelings about oneself and others. Purpose gives us a sense of being necessary to something beyond ourselves.
Viktor Frankl, in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” found this same result during his time in Nazi concentration camps during WWII. Purpose, meaning, or goals if you will, provided the will to live. It could be said that the need to be needed is vital to our quality of life.
How many examples can we see, when purpose is absent or taken away, that life ceases. Veteran broadcaster Andy Rooney passed away one month after leaving CBS’ “60 Minutes” program. Bear Bryant, iconic coach of Alabama’s football team for 24 years, passed a mere 28 days after retiring. Retiring from something and not to something may have been the catalyst.
Now it is important to remember that, if it’s going to be truly meaningful, your life’s purpose must be something that is chosen freely by you, not something that is chosen for you. And it may have nothing whatever to do with what you currently do for a living, although, if it does that would be ideal. The whole point is getting outside of ourselves, and doing something beyond our own personal gain.
Have you thought about what your purpose is? Have you tried to put it into words? If not, take the time to do so, and then use that purpose as a compass to guide your activities. You will be surprised at how much energy you’ll have and clarity you’ll feel.
One more thing: chronological age has nothing to do with finding purpose in your life. If you are wondering when you can start – well, today will do just fine!