Ask yourself this, Do you have a strong sense of purpose and direction in your life?
If the answer is yes, you are likely to outlive those who don’t, according to psychological research.
I was inspired to write a piece based on the TEDx talk below by Dr. Steve Taylor; a senior lecturer in Psychology, author and researcher in Transpersonal Psychology and Positive Psychology.
This inspirational talk explores the power of purpose in our life. Psychologists know very well that a strong sense of purpose does have very powerful mental and physical benefits. Living a life of purpose is crucial to our lives because according to Dr.Taylor ”it brings us motivation, orientation, resilience and positivity. Without purpose, it’s easy for us to feel adrift and disoriented in our lives. We become more vulnerable to boredom, anxiety and depression.” Therefore, having a strong sense of purpose has a powerful positive effect….
We feel part of something bigger than ourselves, more energetic and optimistic, and there’s a background reason for everything we do. This sense is essential for our psychological health. ~Dr. Steve Taylor
We can all think of people who overcame impossible odds to achieve the incredible. Take paralympic athletes for example. People who achieve sporting excellence and inspire the world despite all odds is a mark of true human greatness. What carried them through the tough times? How did they overcome adversity to achieve success? Having a goal to work towards gave the participants a sense of purpose, a reason for living and all the psychological benefits of having a goal.
Dr.Steve Taylor recalls the remarkable story of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist and Holocaust survivor. Frankl was one of the few survivors of Auchswitz during WW2. He attributed his survival to his strong sense of purpose which enabled him to withstand terrible conditions of the concentration camp. His experiences led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most brutal ones, and thus, a reason to continue living. He also felt that possessing a strong sense of purpose can help extend our lifespan, and it’s when people let go of goals, and ideals, that they become more vulnerable to illness and death.
What does Purpose bring to our lives?
According to Dr.Taylor, purpose can enhance our lives in the following ways:
1) Motivation: When we have a sense of purpose, our life takes on meaning, as we have a reason for our life. This propels us through our days and gives us a reason for everything we do. We always know where we are in life, where we’re going and where we’re meant to be. We overcome the monotony of a humdrum existence, and the apathy that accompanies it.
2) Resilience: A sense of purpose gives us the determination and endurance to overcome obstacles. Obstacles which may normally crush us, but with a strong sense of purpose we can transcend any obstacle. The example of paralympic athletes I mentioned earlier lay testament to this.
3) Positivity: A sense of purpose gives us hope, optimism and some reistance to negative psychological states like depression, anxiety and boredom. In fact, it’s usually when we lose our sense of purpose that we become most vulnerable to negative psychological states.
What is your Purpose Type?
Dr.Steve Taylor states that our life purpose generally falls into four categories:
1) Personal Accumulative Purpose: Is the main goal of your life to increase your wealth, to rise to a higher position in your career, to gain more status, to accrue achievements?
2) Idealistic or Altruistic: Is the main goal of your life to contribute to the betterment of the human race, to make the world a better place? To help others and alleviate the suffering of fellow human beings?
3) Self-Development: Is the main goal of your life is to uncover your creative potential, or to expand your spiritual growth? Is your goal to grow spiritually or artistically?
4) Transpersonal purpose: Do you feel your purpose is directing you rather than you directing your purpose? When we step aside and let go of striving and controlling, rather than directing our purpose, our purpose begins to direct us. Rather than carrying our purpose forward, our purpose begins to carry us. I believe this is akin to being in alignment with Universal Intelligence, where life flows effortlessly and naturally towards your souls calling.
It is the latter purpose type; Transpersonal purpose, which Dr. Steve Taylor believes is the most fulfilling, most rewarding kind of purpose. He describes it as effortless as when we let go, step aside and allow our purpose to simply flow through us – we are carried by a forward momentum just as if swimming in a fast flowing stream…
When we allow the wind of purpose to flow through us, thats when we can really gain the momentum to overcome any difficulties. What we need to do is not so much find a purpose, but uncover a purpose which is already inside, but which maybe we haven’t gained access to due to social pressures, due to a lack of courage, maybe we haven’t been living completely authentically, but if we can find that deep authentic purpose within us, and if we can allow ourselves to step aside and allow that purpose to flow through, thats when the wind begins to carry us, when we begin to take flight in our lives and when our lives really become most fulfilling, most productive and most meaningful. ~ Dr. Steve Taylor
Finding purpose in our Lives?
We are not born with a user manual – complete with declaration of purpose and instructions of how to get there. So we have to work it out for ourselves, however, searching too hard can cause more confusion and leave us chasing tails. I’ve seen too many people lose themselves in striving too hard in pursuit of their purpose, myself included. Many a nights sleep have been lost trying to decipher what the hell my purpose is?!! and that maybe I’m not achieving what I’m here to do….and that perhaps I never will!!!
Thankfully, I learned to let go of the need to know, and to simply follow my heart and my passions. In doing so I soon realised that our hearts yearnings are not without reason. They are like an internal GPS system guiding us like breadcrumbs to our purpose. Each of us is born with a unique gift to offer the world, If only we learn to recognise it. If only we could see our own greatness we could learn to tap into these gifts, then offer them up to the world. Thats when we truly find our purpose.
Many people have lost sight of their hearts desires, perhaps due to social pressures, conditioning, fear, financial commitments, or life simply got in the way. It takes tremendous amounts of courage to follow your dreams, and taking risks is generally necessary. I suggest starting out small, pursing a hobby, a past time and eventually a sideline which if inclined, could be built into a business.
You may not even know what you want right now, but taking small steps and following your heart’s nudges will guide you to clarity. Each action step you take will propel you forward. You can also think of your childhood and ask yourself ‘what did you absolutely adore doing?’
For me, it was always art. I loved creativity in all its forms, and still do. As I grew older my interests diversified, so much so that it became overwhelming trying to hone my passions in just one direction! Although I lost sight of my direction for quite some while, an inner knowing served to guide me back on track. I feel quite strongly that I’m here to help make the world a better place. To help people, and to communicate holistic education. I have a strong internal desire to make a meaningful contribution towards the creation of a better, more harmonious and peaceful planet. In what way exactly I know not. Writing this blog is helping provide some clarity, but for now I surrender the need to know the hows, whens and whys. Instead I am simply following my passions, doing what I love and allowing the purpose to flow through me effortlessly and joyously.
We’re not all destined to be the next Einstein or Picasso, nor should we feel we need to be. Sometimes the most humblest of existence can bring about the most joy, and leave behind the biggest legacy. We do however all want to wake up in the morning knowing our existence is not in vein. That we are making a difference in some shape or form.
Regardless of what your purpose type is, or why you believe you are here, only when you possess a deep authentic sense of purpose, will you own the most productive and meaningful life. For some that purpose is raising a family or caring for a loved one. A selfless expression of unconditional love, guided from the heart is a noble purpose indeed.
The Dalai Lama believes that the purpose of life is to be happy, and I couldn’t agree more. Ultimately, what better purpose is there than being happy. To strive for unadulterated pure happiness, not based on outer accumulations, but on a pure inner joy, radiating from the inside out. Only by cultivating happiness within, can we spread joy to others. One person’s happiness ripples out in the world, creating a cascade of happiness that increases the likelihood of others being happy too. In other words…
Happiness Is Contagious, Pass It On.
The Power of Purpose | Steve Taylor | TEDxSquareMile
Positive Psychology in Sports: The Surprising History of the Paralympics
11 thoughts on “The Power of Purpose ~ Living a Meaningful Life”
Many thanks for this beautifully crafted article Emma; you write with eloquence and clarity, and with a strong sense of conviction. Is this the same Steve Taylor that wrote the book on Peak Experiences? I have an inkling that it may be, and if so then he is an interesting chap and I shall watch the video tomorrow when I have time. All best wishes, Hariod.
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Thanks Hariod, I appreciate your kind comments. I’m not aware of a book Peak Experiences, however coincidently he wrote about the subject recently on his facebook page! I believe he’s compiling psychological researching the subject – which is something that really interests me too. He has written some excellent books, I highly recommend ‘Back to Sanity’ and ‘Waking from Sleep’, not read the others. And he’s published some fantastic essays on his website; one I enjoyed is: ‘HARMONY OF BEING: RETURNING TO OUR TRUE NATURE’ http://www.stevenmtaylor.com/essays/harmony-returning-true-nature/
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Thank you for your response Emma. I had a little look online and discovered that his book on what I called ‘peak experiences’ is the one that you mention: ‘Waking from Sleep’. So, we’re on the right track with this fellow! I will follow your link, for which also many thanks Emma.
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Okay, I’ve read the article now, and excellent it was too. He currently seems to be using the term ‘harmony of being’, whereas I think he has in the past referred to the same as ‘peak experiences’. He seems to be referring to what I call ‘the sway of contentedness’, though the terms are unimportant of course, and you probably have your own Emma.
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I agree 100% with the conclusions in this post. I’ve seen it first hand in my 102-year-old-friend Eunice. But I have to say that the things I’m doing now and enjoying so much are surprising the heck out of me. I would never have thought I’d be drawn to visiting shut-ins and folks in hospital. But I have learned from them far more than any comfort I could ever provide. It has been a total surprise to me. Where as anything I did as a kid was musical or reading. I continue to be an enthusiastic reader, but I can’t carry a tune in a bucket! LOL Really enjoyed this post.
Sounds like you’re living pretty authentically there! I guess our passions evolve and shape over time as we ourselves grow and expand. I now enjoy Quantum Physics – something as I child I would never have thought in a million years I’d be interested in! And walks in nature – pah! I’d sooner sit in the car as a child! My how we change eh! The key is doing what we love, when we love it. And even more rewarding if that happens to be something meaningful like you visiting people in hospitals! Good on you. x
Emma this is so relevant right now … That I nearly cried. True words of wisdom. Think I need to re-read and see what I may have missed the first time… Love it x
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Thanks Nicola, I’m glad it moved you. It’s a pretty poignant subject eh and Steve Taylor’s research is really spot on! I discovered your blog today whilst working on your feature for Spirit & Destiny magazine! I look forward to reading more of your work and glad to connect with you here. x
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This post was truly worthwhile to read. I wanted to say thank you for the key points you have pointed out as they are enlightening.
Thank you, really happy to hear you enjoyed it. x