Life on Purpose

Victor Strecher, a University of Michigan professor, lost his 19-year-old daughter Julia to rare heart disease. In his sadness, he turned to philosophy and science to help him find a new way to live. He learned that purpose is the answer – the fuel for a better, healthier, more resilient, more rewarding existence. Join Strecher on a journey of discovery to find your transcendent purpose and explore his five recommended positive behaviours to achieve the energy, focus, and determination that purposeful living necessitates.

Facing death inspires philosophical questions such as, “What is a life worth living?”

Julia Strecher suffered chickenpox when she was six months old, and the condition injured her heart. She would not survive until her first birthday if she did not receive a transplant. Faced with the possibility of losing a child, Julia’s father Victor, mother Jeri, and elder sister Rachael were required to address difficult issues such as, “What is a life worth living?” Julia’s family resolved to provide her a life full of joy, purpose, and meaningful relationships when she received a new heart. They would never take another day for granted, either for Julia or for themselves.

Julia’s life was never easy, but she valued her friends and family, involved in meaningful activities, and enjoyed every opportunity. She chose nursing, a caring profession, to emulate the people who had helped her throughout her life. She died of a heart attack in 2010 at the age of 19. Her bereaved family struggled to accept her death.

The works of philosophers can provide comfort and advice during troubled times.

Following Julia’s death, her father studied Aristotle, Sren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Albert Camus, among others. He found inspiration from people whose lives centred around a purpose. 

Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote extensively about how personal tragedy may give rise to purpose and meaning. He witnessed directly as a prisoner in a German concentration camp. He discovered that his fellow prisoners with a strong sense of purpose were more likely to survive. Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl’s autobiography, created a new type of psychotherapy known as logotherapy.

Research that compares the health of people with a strong life’s purpose to those without one confirms the benefits of a purposeful life, including lowering the risk of a heart attack or stroke and reducing inflammation.

A strong sense of purpose encourages resilience in the face of trauma and stress. According to philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, experiencing painful experiences through the perspective of your life’s mission encourages human progress. This idea is supported by a neuroimaging study of the brain, which shows that the amygdala of persons with strong core values reacts less to negative emotion. Difficult times force a person to reconsider his or her life. As a result there can be the positive change. Purposeful living is not just for the wealthy. A strong purpose can benefit people from all walks of life since it decreases stress and makes coping with life’s vicissitudes easier.

Researchers now apply scientific methods to find answers to philosophical questions.

Physicist Stephen Hawking calimed that philosophers did humankind a disservice by asking and answering big questions without testing their theories. According to astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss, science, not philosophy, leads to answers to life’s greatest unknowns. However, scientists rarely apply the scientific method to philosophical questions and issues. 

“What is the ultimate purpose of human activity?” asked Aristotle. and replied, “happiness”. He introduced the concept of organisation: that humans have the ability to choose the type of life they want to live. While this concept now seems obvious, it was revolutionary at the time.

People nowadays frequently conflate temporary pleasure with happiness. Seeking fulfilment through hedonic pleasures like material goods, status, and wealth works against long-term happiness. Those who place a higher value on self-discovery, growth, authentic relationships, and a sense of community prioritise themselves.

Working toward your purpose motivates and engages you and improves your ability to overcome life’s obstacles.

When you are passionate about your life’s purpose, your actions will reflect your inner spirit. Even if your goal is more aspirational than achievable, having a goal is motivating. 

For example, farmer Gary Lamb believes his mission is to relieve global hunger. While he may never achieve this goal, striving for it and assisting others gives him energy and sharpens his focus. When people are working toward a meaningful goal, they perform better.

Identifying and affirming personal values helps you define your purpose and reveals what gives your life meaning.

A person’s core values can be influenced, shaped, and inspired by family, community, culture, gender, religion, race, education, and financial aspirations. 

The following six strategies can help you discover your personal passions and unique life’s purpose.

  1. Choose three core values that represent your sense of what is important to you. 
  2. Choose one or two people you can emulate who pursue the purpose or purposes you find most meaningful.
  3. Consider what you want the obit on your headstone to say about you and what you want people to say about you after you’re gone. 
  4. Describe your personal development, family, career, education, and community goals. 
  5. Create a statement that expresses your life’s purpose and reflects your values. 
  6. Memorize your purpose statement and post it somewhere you’ll see it every day; share it with close friends and family.
A self-transcending purpose imbues your life with value beyond your daily existence.

Nietzsche commended people who ignore social conventions and religious doctrine in order to pursue their own unique destiny. Kierkegaard, the founder of existentialism, believed in rejecting social norms in order to live according to God’s purpose. The teachings of both men appear to be a little out of reach for the average person. Rather than rejecting God and attempting to create your own value system, author David Brooks suggests that those who conform to religious teachings can use them as a foundation. The golden rule is a great place to start.

Albert Camus taught that in order to live for a transcendent purpose, you don’t have to find a meaning greater than yourself. He concluded that striving for that goal elevates humanity. 

Author Victor Strecher compares his search for his purpose to a boat that can move quickly and easily on the water once it finds the right wind and current.

Living in harmony with your purpose is a daily commitment that requires energy and willpower.

When you work toward a goal, you never run out of energy, which comes from activities that invoke positive emotions, such as witnessing an act of compassion, viewing art, or experiencing nature’s beauty. 

The difficulty most people have quitting smoking, for example, demonstrates the difficulty of changing a behaviour.  Fortunately, recent research indicates that willpower, like a muscle, improves with practise. 

Willpower is exhausted by harsh criticism, feeling excluded, and being mentally exhausted, tired, or threatened. Activities that promote meaningful values build your willpower and reinforce your commitment.

Before going to the final heading, if you love to learn more about willpower and the “Shark Tank” TV show; Read the follow summary book – Powershift by Daymon John.

Five lifestyle practices deliver the strength and energy a life of purpose demands.

SPACE stands for “sleep, presence, activity, creativity, and eating,” which are five lifestyle practises.

  • Sleeping: heals your body, feeds your mind, relieves stress, and recharges your energy. Insomnia can be caused by behavioural factors such as caffeine or alcohol consumption, environmental factors such as noise or too much light, and emotional factors such as anxiety or depression. Use your bedroom only for sleep; limit alcohol and caffeine; keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet; and think positive thoughts as you try to fall asleep.
  • Presence: equals mindfulness, which means living in the present moment. Meditation, yoga, and tai chi are examples of mindfulness practices. Prayer, gardening, and walking all help to improve attention. Meditation boosts your sense of well-being by increasing your energy, alertness, and willpower, as well as aiding in the reduction of insomnia and stress. To improve your ability to live in the present, practise mindful breathing, nature walks, and consistent practise of gratitude and forgiveness. Limiting your screen time is also beneficial.
  • Activity: While most people exercise to become healthier or lose weight, exercise also improves your personal well-being. Get four types of exercise to improve your overall health: “aerobic, resistance, flexibility, and balance.” Choose activities that you enjoy and that you can do within a structured programme in order to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Take the stairs, walk the dog an extra mile, wear an activity tracker, and earn the physical benefits of yard work and housework, for example. Your workout is a significant investment. Put it on your calendar and don’t let anything stand in your way.
  • Creativity: Expressing yourself creatively strengthens your immune system and reduces anxiety and pain. It is cathartic to appreciate a work of art or a piece of music. In everyday life, there are numerous opportunities for creativity. Finding novel solutions to difficult problems, striking a balance between work and family, working with computers, and playing chess all require creativity.
  • Eating: A study found that when judges are hungry just before lunch, they are less likely to grant parole. This proved to be more influential than any other factor, including a prisoner’s record. Your diet has a significant impact on your ability to make decisions, your behaviour, and your level of energy and willpower. Eat for your health in order to fuel your personal mission. Consider a diet rich in fresh vegetables, spices, olive oil, poultry, and seafood. Control your portion size, eat slowly, stay hydrated, limit your sugar intake, season with spices, and avoid processed foods.

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