What is my purpose, and why do I care?
In short-purpose is what gets you up in the morning, and in short-you should care LOTS.
Recent research links having a purpose to greater resilience and happiness, as well as reduced risk of dementia, depression, and chronic disease.
Patricia Boyle, an Alzheimer's researcher at Rush University in Chicago, defines purpose as: “the psychological tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and to possess a sense of intentionality and goal directed-ness that guides behavior.” Patricia and her team of researchers, as part the Rush Memory and Aging Project, asked over 900 seniors living in residential communities to rate their level of agreement from 1 to 5, to the following statements (try this yourself:)
❏ I feel good when I think about what I have done in the past and what I hope to do in the future.
❏ I live life one day at a time
❏ I have a sense of direction and purpose in life.
❏ I enjoy making plans for the future and working them to a reality.
❏ I am an active person in carrying out the plans I set for myself.
❏ Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.
A high purpose score was linked to many positive health outcomes including:
- Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s & lower rate of mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
- Less depression & greater happiness
- Higher self esteem
- Better physical health, immunity, and longevity
Having a purpose allowed these people to triumph over the physical manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease! What is the biology linking purpose and brain health? More research is needed, but it is clear that not managing our stress adequately may diminish the brain’s resistance to degeneration and aging. Researchers think the purposeful brain has increased ability to cope with short-term stress and offset increasing damage (such as plaque and white bodies) to maintain function. This is resilience of the brain, analogous to the foundational mental, emotional and physical resilience that underlies the improved performance and leadership capacity we develop at Max Performance.
Having a sense of purpose helps us focus and prioritize, with clarity and fulfillment. Purpose helps us not only survive the stormy seas of uncertainty and change in our lives and work places but thrive. In his book Navigating Integrity, Al Watts, a sailor and a captain in addition to being a Max Performance coach, consultant, and author, says "Start with a “small p:” What is our purpose this month, today, this meeting? Mustering sufficient resilience to navigate a small rough patch of sea can provide sufficient clarity to glimpse our larger PURPOSE, the horizon ahead.”
As a left-brained scientist with a right-brained appreciation for the beauty, efficiency, and symmetry in nature, I'd add:
"Purpose is beauty, and like a spiderweb catching the morning dew in the sunlight, its design creates tremendous strength and resilience to the winds of adversity and change."
Do you have a small "p", a big "P", or are you still searching? Join us at a Max Performance program and we'll help you develop your beautiful purpose.
Effect of a Purpose in Life on Risk of Incident Alzheimer Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment in Community‐Dwelling Older Persons. Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, Aron S. Buchman, MD, Lisa L. Barnes, PhD, and David A. Bennet, MD. Arch Gen Psychiatry. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/eutils/elink.fcgi?dbfrom=pubmed&retmode=ref&cmd=prlinks &id=20194831
Longitudinal inflammation, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease: a mini‐review. Bettcher BM1, Kramer JH1. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Oct;96(4):464‐9. doi: 10.1038/clpt.2014.147. Epub 2014 Jul 10http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25009982#