Good reasons to have a purpose in life

Gordon has found his purpose.

What’s your Purpose in life?  I’m thankful only a few people have asked me this question, because it made me squirm.  “Purpose” with a capital P has always seemed like a divine gift that directs its holders to make service the focus of their lives, like fighting at the national level on behalf of a particular species on the endangered list.

Since I retired, volunteering has been a side gig, something I’ve done a few hours each week. My big goal has been to write and publish a novel, which clearly is not giving my life to service. It is purpose with a small p.

This week,I read a title on the NPR website, “Having a Purpose in Life May Lessen the Risk of Early Death” and that made me more concerned.  Maybe being satisfied with purpose with a small p could lead to my early demise.

The article summarized what University of Michigan researchers learned using data from  The Health and Retirement Study, a public source of information on aging in America since 1990. Their conclusion: “People without a strong life purpose were more than twice as likely to die between the study years of 2006 and 2010, compared with those who had one.”

Other research, including a study from Harvard scientists reported on CNBC, backs this claim. One  reason for scientists’ interest in the topic of purpose is that … “the aging and infirm U.S. population is considered a global public health challenge. Nearly 1 in 3 adults over 65 have a hard time walking just three city blocks, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports.”

These aren’t the only studies about this topic. “[Harvard] researcher Eric Kim has found that a higher sense of purpose also correlates to a reduced risks of disability, stroke, heart disease, sleep issues and other health problems.”

After reading various reports, I’m relieved by the researchers’ definitions of purpose. The Harvard researchers call it  “a sense of direction and goals.” From the U of Michigan study we find examples of purpose that included “building guitars or swimming or volunteer work. What matters… is not exactly what a person’s life purpose is, but that they have one.”

I now feel much better about purpose. It means I can continue to study reams of research and plug away at my laptop to make up an entertaining story and still hope to stay healthy.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness.
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3 Responses to Good reasons to have a purpose in life

  1. travelnwrite says:

    Great post! Someday when I get a minute I’ll ponder Purpose and purpose. . .I must have a bit of both tucked away somewhere. And I am happy to report I can walk more than three blocks as I head into age 66.

  2. stillalife says:

    The three block statement had me shaking my head too.

  3. dkzody says:

    It’s all about movement. You must keep moving to maintain health, and I think having a purpose keeps you moving. Our grandchildren kept us moving this past week as our purpose was to care for them. However, I know as they get older, they will need us less and less so our purpose there will change.

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