The Power of Purpose

Your waking thoughts and mood often provide crisp insight into your Emotional WHealth. How do you wake? Are you immediately gloomy at the thought of another gray day with tedious or difficult tasks? Or do you leap out of bed thrilled at the prospect of another day pursuing health, happiness and prosperity?

At the apex of Mazlow’s hierarchy is the term self-transcendence. Heavy words from a learned scholar of human behavior. It is a grand human ideal; a sense of belonging to something bigger and more important than ourselves. It is profoundly motivating and rewarding. Picture some of the world’s greatest adventurers and heros. The Wright brothers were determined to see humans fly. Mandela, King and Ghandi were determined to bring social justice to their worlds. Nobel scientists strive to advance the frontiers of our knowledge. Each was driven by an inspired purpose. They have changed the world.

Purpose means different things to each one of us. We don’t all have to solve for world peace or to invent the next digital era. It could be that we want to be the very best contributor at work, helping colleagues to do well, and achieving the common goal. It could be that we are focused on having a happy family. We might devote ourselves to the life of a religious or social community. We may have a great artistic talent that we cultivate to bring joy to others.

Purpose implies a sense of intentionality. We have a goal that is bigger than ourselves that we are passionate about. It drives us and gives us meaning. When we live purposefully, we know that our daily activities matter. We feel good about our past, and enjoy making plans for the future.

Not surprisingly, Mother Nature has found a way to reward our purpose. For success as a species, we must be true to her ideals for us – to nurture our young, and to collaborate and contribute to our fellow human beings. So, when we do this with purpose, she rewards us with WHealth, and we flourish.

Purpose Prolongs Life

Several studies have shown conclusively that purposeful affect is associated with longevity. One large study demonstrated that people with a sense of purpose have a 23% lower risk of death from any cause. That’s in the range of the benefits accredited to exercise and weight control. Although we can’t fully explain this yet, it is impressive!

Purpose Improves Physical Health

A life of purpose reduces cardiovascular disease by 20% and stroke by as much as 50%. One reason is that purposeful people make healthier decisions than their aimless peers. They are more proactive in healthy behavior like having a cholesterol test, colonoscopy, mammogram, cervical smear or prostate exam. Not surprisingly, this better preventive health care results in significant reductions in healthcare utilization and fewer nights in hospital.

Purpose Improves Mental Health

Purpose has profound effect on mental health, especially as we age. It reduces the risks of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment by almost 50% and 30% respectively. Purposefulness protects the brain!

It’s not yet entirely clear how purpose rewards us from a biological perspective. On the one hand, it seems logical that purposeful individuals lead healthier lives. When your life has meaning, it is easier to heed the abundant advice that surrounds us all, directing us towards healthy behavior. Life is more valuable and we take the big decisions that affect our health more seriously.

There is emerging evidence that purpose also acts directly on the foundational building blocks of BodyWHealth. Like exercise and weight control, purpose appears to have some beneficial impact on the inflammatory balance and immune systems. Purposeful living is also associated with better quality sleep, and better control of stress. With these associated benefits, it is not surprising that Purposefulness drives BodyWHealth.

When you wake up tomorrow (especially if it’s a Monday), please take note of your initial thoughts. If you’re not inspired to greet the new day with excitement, and to continue your journey of purpose, then it may be time for deep reflection. Your WHealth is in Your hands!

Have fun,

Roddy

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