For a longer, happier life
Do you know about the connection between purposeful living and longevity? A sense of purpose may help you live longer.
A unique connection exists between purposeful living and longevity. Recent research reveals that a sense of purpose may help you live longer, no matter how old you are. But what is a purposeful life—and how do we get one?
Discovering your purpose
For me, living with purpose might mean going back to school or teaching in Africa because I value growth, learning, and diversity. For you, a purposeful life might be volunteering at an animal shelter or staying connected with friends and family because you value compassion and relationships. There isn’t one right way to live a purposeful life—and discovering your purpose might be one of the most interesting journeys you take!
“Living with purpose is about being aligned with our core values,” says Lynda Monk, a life coach on Salt Spring Island, BC. “Core values that are dishonoured, either intentionally or through lack of self-awareness, tend to increase stress, anxiety, depression, frustration, and feelings of lack of fulfillment. Living in alignment with your core values—whatever they might be—equals living with purpose. This in turn may increase health, happiness, and vitality.”
Look within for inspiration
Monk encourages us to avoid the trap of looking outside ourselves for the key to purposeful living. “We can waste a lot of time, money, and energy trying to figure out what our ‘one purpose’ is—often to no avail,” she says.
“Instead of seeking purpose on a singular dimension, based on ‘one thing’ we must do, we’re better off focusing on purpose as a way of being,” she adds. “We need to listen within to understand what purposeful living means to each of us individually, and even collectively as human beings.”
Your activities—whether you volunteer as a Big Brothers or Big Sisters mentor or sing in the church choir—are important to you and others. But more important than what you do is why you do it. If you feel empty, bored, or miserable while volunteering or dutifully showing up at church every week, you may not be in alignment with your core values. And if you’re not aligned with your values, you’re not living with purpose.
Let your core values guide you
Also known as your internal navigation system or compass, your core values guide your choices, feelings, and responses to the world. “One way to discover your core values is to imagine what brings you the greatest joy, satisfaction, and sense of fulfillment,” says Monk. “This gives you clues as to your core values.”
When Monk coaches clients on the topic of values, she asks them to describe a peak experience in their lives. She listens deeply for the qualities that stand out, such as contribution, relationships, adventure, fairness, security, and health.
“There are many values,” says Monk. “We explore how those core values are honoured in clients’ choices and lives—or not being honoured. Values are not morals; there is no right or wrong. Rather, values are about the feelings and activities that resonate with each individual.”
Live your values—purposefully
Authenticity, independence, creativity, truth, justice, freedom, and honesty are examples of core values. If, for example, creativity jumps out at you, then maybe it’s one of your core values. You might live this value by seeking activities that involve self-expression, innovation, and creation. A few simple ways to express creativity could include
Ah, but it’s not all about you! Living a life of purpose isn’t just about your feelings and activities. “A purposeful life is often found in how we respond to the struggles and challenges we face,” says Monk. “This is a less sexy way to think of it, but our purpose is often born from our life lessons. Therefore, I believe our life purpose includes teaching what we have learned.”
With this in mind, you might bring your value of creativity to life by learning how to share your photos or paintings on Facebook or Instagram, volunteering at an art gallery, or teaching foster kids how to yarn bomb. Whether we’re leaders, parents, friends, community members, employees, or volunteers—when we live through the lens of our core values and share the most important things we learn through the trials we face, we live with purpose. And we enjoy longer, happier lives.
How to find your life purpose
Step one: define your core values
Choose three or four words that most resonate with you. Don’t think; just go with your gut.
Step two: make a statement
Use each word you chose in a statement that reflects your values and intentions. If you chose four words, write four different statements. For example, if you chose simplicity, you might write, “I value simplicity and want more of it in my life, so I will let go of one responsibility.” If you chose vision, you might write, “I intend to share my vision for my community, so I will run for politics or volunteer for a nonprofit organization.” Give yourself time to think about how you want to live—and even be—your values.
Step three: take action
Put your value statements into practice. If every decision you make and every action you take is in alignment with your values, then voila! You’re living with purpose.