The Life-Giving Properties Of Having A Purpose In Life
We can juice, we can jog, we can jettison all junk food but we might be missing a step if we can't justify our existence.
Having a sense of purpose in life does a lot more than give us a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, according to a few key research studies.
Aside from putting the brakes on late stage cognitive decline such as Dementia and Alzheimer's, feeling our lives have meaning and purpose has been found to act as a buffer against heart attacks and strokes.
We could literally be extending our lives by finding what really makes us tick.
From Science Daily, referring to a Mount Sinai study in the US:
Previous research has linked purpose to psychological health and well-being, but the new Mount Sinai analysis found that a high sense of purpose is associated with a 23 percent reduction in death from all causes and a 19 percent reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, or the need for coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) or a cardiac stenting procedure.
"In a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago followed 951 older adults who were free of dementia. Over a period of seven years, about one in six ended up with dementia. But those who expressed the greatest happiness and sense of purpose in life at the beginning of the study were the least likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. They also had the lowest rates of mild cognitive impairment or other cognitive decline."
"Researchers analyzed data from nearly 7,000 American adults between the ages of 51 and 61 who filled out psychological questionnaires on the relationship between mortality and life purpose....
"People without a strong life purpose were more than twice as likely to die between the study years of 2006 and 2010, compared with those who had one."
Summing up the importance of having a life purpose is cardiologist Alan Rozanski, who was involved in the Mount Sinai study, quoted in the NPR story:
"The need for meaning and purpose is No. 1," Rozanski adds.
"It's the deepest driver of well-being there is."
Angela Duckworth On Grit: In The Long Run, This Is The Trait That Counts
It sounds harsh, mechanical, heartless; a "pull-yourself-together-and get-on-with-it" type word. It isn't particularly reassuring, uplifting or inspiring. And it can feel grating on the ears if offered as a suggestion when you are faced by what feels like an impossible task ahead of you.
But grit isn't about testosterone-fuelled chest-pounding. You don't have to be Tarzan to have it.
And you certainly don't have to be Tony Robbins to use it.
Who Has Grit?
Grit can be gentle, it can be slow, it can be plodding. The people who have grit are simply the ones who can marry their dedication to a wish or a task or a cause with a drive and commitment to carry it out (at whatever pace).
You can still be a loner, the shy one, a dreamer, the basket case in the corner - and have this trait.
Conversely, you can have the world's highest IQ, a god-given talent and come from a blessed background and not have it.
As Angela Duckworth explains in her TED talk, below, what ultimately counts is how we approach life and its obstacles - and how hard we work to overcome them:
"Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint."
It is the domain of (and can be learnt by) anyone who is willing to stick at it hell or high-water and, vitally, who is also able to adopt a "Growth Mindset", which is being able to admit that you can improve - always.
And, as Duckworth believes, it is these kinds of people who win in the end - in all walks of life.
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