Researchers believe that developing a sense of purpose can enhance a person’s life immensely. The basis for their theory comes from various studies carried out over decades that studied the effects of happiness and having a sense of purpose on health outcomes. These studies found that those who had a sense of purpose in addition to happiness displayed better physical and health outcomes than people who experienced happiness alone.
So what is needed to develop a sense of purpose? There are many ways to accomplish this and what works best for you may vary. But here are a few ways you can develop a sense of purpose:
- Helping others in your community, within a family setting, through a job, or on a wider basis.
- Being recognized and valued for your contribution. This also implies being valued by yourself!
- Being respected by others.
- Having a sense of identity or finding your tribe.
- Recognizing a sense of achievement from what you do.
Having a purpose helps to build confidence and self esteem. People who lack purpose are often unhappy and lonely. An example of this could be the person who has retired from a career that gave her life purpose. She may have lots of time on her hands and be involved in a range of recreational activities but remain unfulfilled as there is no sense of purpose anymore. Involvement in these pursuits simply helps to fill her day.
How often have you thought about what you would buy or the problems that may be solved by a lottery win? Yes, we have all dreamt about this and there is nothing wrong with having dreams. They can open up our minds to possibilities and sometimes lead us to pursuing goals and a course of action in their pursuit.
Yet, how often do we hear about people who have had this stroke of luck and discover that their lives are not necessarily enhanced in any meaningful way by this, or are even worse because of it. Headlines in the local press have told us about the families who have broken up after winning money. People who have quit their jobs and gone on shopping sprees and drinking binges. People who long for the company of others who are not solely interested in them for what they get. The world, in our eyes, may be their oyster but what they may find diminished is a sense of challenge.
There is some truth in the saying that if you have to work hard for something you will appreciate it more. Sometimes the achievement itself is not the most rewarding aspect, but the process involved in its acquisition.
What provides someone with a sense of purpose will vary from person to person. For some it may simply be taking care of another close to them. Others may choose to travel, get involved in regular exercise, or in learning something new. The options are limitless. Whichever you choose, your commitment to this will also benefit you by keeping your mind active. When you do one of these activities the chances are that you will also be more optimistic and hopeful as a person. Having something important to aim for encourages people to be less likely to give up when things go wrong and to look for any learning opportunity instead.
Having a sense of purpose tends to make people more involved in taking care of themselves. They will pay attention to their health. Involvement with other people means that they are less lonely and that they also have other people around for support. Peers can also be useful for giving you feedback and helping you see things about yourself which may otherwise go unnoticed.