A clear understanding of your purpose will allow you to live longer. According to a 2009 study of 73,000 Japanese men and women, people who have a strong purpose live longer than those who do not have a strong purpose (Sone, et al., 2008). Centenarians (people who are 100 years old or older) listed a strong sense of purpose as being the main factor in living to be that old. Another study found that people who retire earlier die earlier. People who retired at the age of 55 died earlier than people who retired from the same company at the age of 65. A stronger sense of purpose is correlated with living a longer and happier life (Bloeman, Hochguertel, and Zweerink, 2017).
The most famous examples are the people of Okinawa, Japan. The people of Okinawa have the longest disability-free life-expectancy in the world. It is also one of the poorest provinces in Japan! How can this be? The answer is in their purpose. The people of Okinawa have a concept for living called “ikigai,” which means “reason for being.” The men and women of Okinawa do not retire. In fact, they do not even have a word in their language that means retire! They are connected to their purpose, living life based on their ikigai. Depression rates are lower in Okinawa, and there are more centenarians per capita there than anywhere in the world. Having a strong sense of purpose is a way of life and has created a community where people live longer, healthier lives (Mishra, 2009).
A similar study in 2008 revealed that a lower level of purpose causes earlier death rates due to cardiovascular disease. The study revealed that people who already have heart disease can protect themselves by having a greater sense of purpose (Mount Sinai Medical Center, 2015). Another study found that you are 2.4 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease because of a lower sense of purpose and that people handle physical pain worse when they do not know their purpose (O’Callaghan, 2010). It is obvious that knowing your purpose can produce goal-achievement, and improve your life. So you are going to need some tools to help you get focused on your purpose and stay focused.
A strong and compelling purpose is essential to living a successful life. You should be working toward something that motivates you. You can be young, old, or anywhere in between and still have a strong purpose. Whether it’s earning $1,000,000, traveling the world after retirement, or building a non-profit for your local community. Whatever it is, it needs to be something that fulfills and excites you. I like to tell our student-athletes, “Wake up excited, go to bed exhausted!” When you know your purpose, it should make you jump out of bed when the alarm clock goes off (not really, but it should help you get up). You should be excited when you wake up to head towards the life you want! Then bust your ass all day to go achieve it. Know what you want, why you need to get it, and then do everything you can to achieve it.
Focus is a vague word that people use quite frequently. I’m talking about focus in the context of having a clear picture of where you want to go and why you want to go there. In my experience, lack of focus is the number one reason people fail to achieve their goals. It’s hard to go anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going or why you’re going there. Lack of focus makes it much easier to quit, and there will be plenty of reasons to quit along the way. That’s why you need a clear focus!
Set your big goals in your personal GPS and fuel your ride with purpose before you leave your starting point. On your trip, keep that destination in mind and continuously refuel with purpose along the way. Start thinking about why you want to achieve your goals. Think about more than just the obvious reasons like family and religion. What selfish motives do you have? What servant motives do you have? Be honest with yourself and find what drives you.
Just because we are quarantined and there is a pandemic going on in the world doesn’t mean we can’t attack the day and fuel our lives with purpose. Use this time to write that book or start that business or lose that extra 20 pounds. Sure, most of us can’t work right now but when we get back to work, you’ll be ready to kill it! When I played football, we didn’t wait until August to prepare because we couldn’t put pads on and play. We busted our ass all year so we would be prepared when the time came! So find your purpose and get to work creating something meaningful or get yourself prepared when the new normal gets here. Stay safe and fuel your ride with purpose!
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Bloemen, H, Hochguertel, S, Zweerink, J. (2017). The causal effect of retirement on mortality: Evidence from targeted incentives to retire early. Health Economics. 2017; 26: e204– e218. https://doi.org/10.1002/hec.3493
Mishra B. N. (2009). Secret of eternal youth; teaching from the centenarian hot spots ("blue zones"). Indian journal of community medicine: official publication of Indian Association of Preventive & Social Medicine, 34(4), 273–275. doi:10.4103/0970-0218.58380
O’Callaghan, T. (2010, March 1). Sense of fulfillment linked to lower Alzheimer’s risk. Retrieved from: http://healthland.time.com/2010/03/01/sense-of-fulfillment-linked-to-lower-alzheimers-risk/
Sone, Toshimasa & Nakaya, Naoki & Ohmori, Kaori & Shimazu, Taichi & Higashiguchi, Mizuka & Kakizaki, Masako & Kikuchi, Nobutaka & Kuriyama, Shinichi & Tsuji, Ichiro. (2008). Sense of Life Worth Living (Ikigai) and Mortality in Japan: Ohsaki Study. Psychosomatic medicine. 70. 709-15. 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31817e7e64.