The Secret to a Long Life? A Meaningful Reason to Keep Living
Research says having purpose is more important than headline grabbers like drinking, smoking or exercising
By Michael Miller – September 30th, 2019
A recent study found that having a life purpose significantly decreased a person’s risk of dying, even more so than typical health risks like drinking, smoking or not exercising regularly.
You read that correctly.
This study – and it’s not the first – found that having a life purpose is a stronger predictor of longevity than smoking, drinking or exercising. This association remained true regardless of wealth, gender, race, or education level.
If you find that hard to believe, you’re not alone. But this research isn’t an aberration, or the result of a small sample size. It adds to a growing body of evidence about the importance of life purpose to wellbeing, including your quality of sleep. Alan Rozanski, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who has conducted his own research into life purpose and physical health, told NPR that the results speak for themselves:
How they defined life purpose
The researchers defined a strong life purpose as “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals.”
If that sounds vague, it is. The researchers posited that it doesn’t matter what a person’s life purpose is, just that they have one. Celeste Leigh Pearce, one of the authors of the study, told NPR that people’s purpose ranged from raising children to doing volunteer work to fixing guitars for musicians. The correlation held regardless of the purpose: It’s a connection to some bigger purpose that matters.
How to find your life purpose
In the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence, finding and following your life’s purpose is the competency called pursuing noble goals.
Pursuing noble goals is about discovering your bigger purpose, and then making it part of your life – connecting your daily actions to that bigger purpose. We’ve found through experience that it infuses even the smallest actions with relevance and meaning. And according to this research, it can also help you live longer.
So what’s your purpose?
If you already know, post it in the comments below. This can be your Noble Goal, or just a purpose – or purposes – that motivate and sustain you.
If you want to find or clarify your life’s purpose, download this worksheet, Finding Your Noble Goal, by filling in the form. It’s free, and we’ll email it to you. It’s a step-by-step guide with coaching questions to help you clarify your life’s purpose.
Warning: it could save your life.
Download free worksheet
The study enlisted 7,000 American adults between the ages of 51 and 61. They filled out psychological questionnaires, which the researchers then cross referenced with physical health and mortality data.
The questionnaire used in the study – the Psychological Wellbeing Scale – includes questions designed to measure how strong a person’s sense of life purpose is, asking them to rate their answers to statements such as: “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.”
Those without a strong life purpose were more twice as likely to die between the study years of 2006 and 2010.
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