New research shows if you discover your life purpose, you’ll live a longer life. But how do you find your life purpose? Here, I’ll summarize the research on why finding your life purpose helps you live longer. Then, I’ll offer a few tips on how to find your life purpose – and how to die without regret.
Patrick Hill of Carleton University in Canada says finding a direction for life and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose. However, the earlier you find your life purpose, the earlier the protective effects that help you live longer may occur.
What is your life purpose – and how do you find it? I’ve always wondered what the meaning of life is, and what my role on earth should be. I love Jesus Christ, and believe I’m supposed to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. But what does that mean? This is why it’s so important to know how to find your life purpose – we need to wrestle with general directives and make them more specific.
Finding Your Life Purpose Helps You Live Longer
Patrick Hill and Nicholas Turiano of the University of Rochester Medical Center decided to explore the question of whether the benefits of having a life purpose vary over time, such as across different developmental periods or important life transitions (eg, being diagnosed with a terminal illness and accepting your own death). They used data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study.
The stronger your life purpose, the longer your life will be. These researchers found that greater purpose in life consistently predicted lower mortality risk across the lifespan, showing the same benefit for younger, middle-aged, and older participants across the follow-up period. Even if you’ve recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, you may live longer if you have a reason for living.
Older adults benefit more from having a life purpose than young adults. “There are a lot of reasons to believe that being purposeful might help protect older adults more so than younger ones,” says Hill. “For instance, adults might need a sense of direction more, after they have left the workplace and lost that source for organizing their daily events. In addition, older adults are more likely to face mortality risks than younger adults.”
Hill and Turiano are now studying whether finding a life purpose might lead people to adopt healthier lifestyles, thus boosting longevity. They’re also interested in investigating whether their findings are the similar for outcomes other than mortality (eg, less risk of disease, happier moods or more positive outlooks across lifespan, etc).
3 Tips on How to Find the Purpose of Your Life
Try a variety of different activities. Paint, join a dragon boating team, decorate your coffin, go back to school, travel, take risks, buy cowboy boots, live as if you knew you were going to die next month, explore your spirituality, live in a different country, move to Africa for three years, ask someone you really like out for coffee, learn a new musical instrument, get a dog, get married, get wacky and wild! The best way to find your life purpose is to try a huge variety of different things until you find what resonates with your soul. If you want to create your own blog, read 4 Reasons to Start a Blog Before You Die – and a Warning.
Don’t tie yourself down to one single life purpose forever. When I was getting my MSW (Master of Social Work, which I completed a couple weeks ago!), my life purpose was getting through my practicum and papers and final exams and interviews. Now that I’m educated and smarter than most people I know (!!!!), my life purpose is connecting with people online through my blogs. But I do not for one second believe I’ll be blogging for the rest of my life. Right now, my purpose in life is creating a blog for people who are dying. I don’t know if this will last for one year or 10 years…but for today, this is my life purpose.
Learn what it feels like to find your life purpose. In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that when we’re in a state of flow, our brain is completely engrossed with the task at hand. We’re not conscious of it, and we lose track of time, our environment, and even our basic bodily needs (eg, hunger, pee pee, etc). Flow is an awesome feeling – and I believe when you find flow, you know how to find your life purpose. I feel the flow when I practice my flute, blog, romp in the forest with my dogs, and nap.
If you already know your life purpose, how did you find it? Do you think it’ll help you live longer?
To read the full press release that describes why having a life purpose helps you live longer, read Having a Sense of Purpose May Add Years to Your Life on the Association for Psychological Science website.