Defining a Sense of Purpose
For the study, Carleton University’s Patrick Hill, along with Nicholas Turiano from the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York, Hill analyzed the lives of more than 7,000 U.S. adults aged 20 to 75 years over a period of 14 years. They found that the people who died during the course of the study were less likely to have a feeling of purpose, suggesting that people who feel a sense of direction tend to be healthier and live longer.
Defining a sense of purpose, however, is not easy. According to Hill, having a purpose in life is a reflection of having broader, lifelong goals that serve to direct and organize a person’s day-to-day activities and the things they value. These goals can be slotted into four broad areas: creative, occupational or financial, pro-social, and family oriented.
So a sense of purpose could be derived from a desire to climb the corporate ladder, writing a book, running for office, or improving one’s performance in art or at the gym. These ambitions can also serve as stepping stones to other goals, such as financial stability and raising children. And in fact, the most frequently cited purposes had to do with helping other people or trying to improve the social structure.
To determine whether or not the participants experienced these feelings, they were asked to agree or disagree with the following three statements:
- Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them
- I live life one day at a time and don’t really think about the future
- I sometimes feel as if I’ve done all there is to do in life
It’s a limited snapshot into the psyches of the participants, but it’s what the researchers had to work with.
More here – iO9