Living with passion and purpose positively affects our brain health. So, how can you add more purpose to your life?
A Line in the Sand
Do you consider there is a magic age – a line in the sand – when life is no longer worth living?
Some people think that is the case. Dr. Emanuel, a healthcare leader in the USA, took this position in an article he wrote in the Atlantic. He titled it, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.”
He drew a line in the sand for himself saying that when he was 65, he was going to stop seeking health care. He was going to stop getting the flu shot and he was going to stop seeing his doctor. His reasoning was that life after 65 was not worth living. He measured a worthwhile life in terms of productivity and creativity. And post-65 that type of life in his estimation did not exist.
But if we embraced that attitude, what would we miss?
We would miss Nelson Mandela who came out of prison at 70 and at 75 went on to become the President of South Africa. He helped his country heal from the wounds of apartheid. His maturity and experience changed his approach. The leadership he provided at 75 as the head of the ANC was far different from the leadership, he provided at 45.
We would miss Kiezo Miura. At the age of 70 he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. At 77 he climbed Mount Everest. And at 100 he had a downhill ski party with four generations of his family in Salt Lake City Utah. He and his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren skied from the summit.
We would miss Oscar Hammerstein who at the age of 76 wrote the Sound of Music. Or Grandmas Moses who picked up a paintbrush at the age of 65. She painted everyday until she was over 100, producing thousands of pieces of work.
But what if we are sick – what if we have Alzheimer’s Disease?
Should we quit living then?
Don’t Quit Living
Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007. And until his death in 2015 he was still writing. From the point of his diagnosis until his death, he wrote six (6) more best-selling novels.
I disagree with Dr. Emanuel on the age line. But I do agree with him that in our focus on living ‘forever’, we miss asking ourselves the big questions. We don’t ask ourselves about the meaning and purpose of our lives.
Most people have in their heads their own mental checklist of what it means to be successful. Their paradigm of success looks like this.
- Finish school – check.
- Buy a car – check.
- Build a career – check.
- Buy a house – check.
But what happens when the passage of time starts to reduce those things. When school is a distant memory. When your career is over, and the house is gone because you’ve downsized. When you’ve moved into a condominium or a retirement home?
If you base your satisfaction with life on your ‘success’ checklist, how satisfied will you feel when those things are checked off?
Shift Your Paradigm
The trick is to shift from measuring your life in terms of success to measuring it on a scale of significance. Focus on the relationships that are significant to you. Put more emphasis on the ways you can contribute. This is an important paradigm shift. Change your focus from success to significance. That shifted focus will help you live with passion and purpose.
Best Version of Yourself
I attended the funeral of a man I didn’t know at all. He had never been a part of my life, but his son-in-law was a business colleague of my husband. And my husband was out of town, so I went to represent the family.
His daughter got up to talk at the end of the service about her dad. She talked about the relationship she had with her father through her life. Some of it was quite rocky and she was candid about it. And then she reflected on their relationship in the last years of his life. And she said, that last year, he became the best version of himself.
And I thought – wow – I hope my kids can say that of me when I die; that by the end of my life I was the best version of myself. And I hope that your family and friends can say that about you. That when you come to the end of your life that you were the best version of yourself.
Being the best version of yourself doesn’t refer to being in tip top physical condition. It doesn’t mean you have an amazing bank account, or the best collection of artwork. It means having that internal quality of spirit that shines from you. If you focus on significance, you can become the best version of yourself.
Signficance Looks Like This
So, what could that look like:
I’m going to offer you three ideas which I have found helpful. You can choose what makes sense to you, but I would encourage you to reflect on all three.
The first idea is mentoring. Find opportunities to pass on your knowledge and your wisdom to someone else. It could be an individual who is following you professionally. Having someone to bounce ideas off or to go to for problem solving can make a real difference.
Mentoring can also take the form of passing on practical wisdom. Your lived experience is a valuable asset. You have a lot of wisdom to pass on to others.
The second idea to consider is volunteering. We all have a skill set that we can use to make a difference and there are lots of needs in our community. Consider giving of your time or talent in an organization that means a lot to you personally. There are times in your life when giving of your time is more difficult. But in life’s second half, that usually becomes easier. So, think about getting involved. It will make a difference in your life – guaranteed.
The third idea is simple, but the most powerful one. Love.
Love those in your life through everyday acts of kindness. Words of affections and support can have a huge impact. It is important to build on the relationships we have. And being kind through word and deed can have a significant impact on their quality.
Shaunti Feldhahn, is a social science researcher and author. In her book, The Kindness Challenge, she showed that being kind for 30 days improved relationships. People who took The Kindness Challenge built a habit of kindness. If you think you need to improve in this area, or this idea intrigues you, I highly recommend her book.
So challenge yourself by setting a goal in one of those three areas. Reflect on the opportunites you have to mentor, volunteer, and love. Take action and integrate this new paradigm into your life.