Victor Frankel learned a lot about human behavior by observing people under the most inhuman circumstances.
Victor wasn’t just observing the behaviors of others under horrible conditions. He was also living under these oppressive conditions.
Victor and the people he observed were beaten mercilessly, forced to do grueling manual labor, and randomly executed.
Victor’s observations of human behavior occured in concentration camps. There many people declared “undesirables” were subjected to brutal, inhumane treatment on a daily basis.
Victor learned from his “observations” the secret to human survival.
He noted that it wasn’t those with most physical strength who were able to endure and survive this harsh treatment.
The best survivors were people who found purpose in the midst of their suffering.
Those people who lost their purpose died.
This surprising observation, led Victor to the insightful conclusion:
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose … He who has a WHY to live, can bear with almost any HOW.”
Victor Frank documents his experiences and insights in his groundbreaking book Man’s Search For Meaning.
I encourage you to read or re-read this amazing book. I find it to be an inspiring and insightful account of the centrality of purpose to the human experience.
As I recently reflected on the importance of purpose, I identified three distinctive benefits that come from having a clear purpose in our lives.
This list of the benefits of purpose is not meant to be comprehensive. But it reflects what I believe to be the most valuable gifts we gain from knowing and living our life purpose.
I hope this list inspires you to take invest in discovering and expressing your life purpose.
Here are the three top benefits that we gain from having a clear sense of purpose in our lives.
Discovering your life purpose will give you focus.
It will help you to make decisions in a way that’s easier and less stressful.
This is because purpose helps you to identify what’s important in life. This will help you be less conflicted and experience less anxiety about saying no.
You are free to make decisions about how you spend your time, money, and energy based on whether it aligns with your life purpose.
There are lots of wonderful things that you could be doing with your time or with your money. But they are not all good things for you to do. Having a clear sense of your purpose helps you to distinguish between the two.
When I first started my career as a college professor, I was so excited to finally have position that I’d worked towards for so many years. I wanted to be of service to the students, the community, and my University colleagues.
I was overcommitted and stressed out!
I found myself getting involved with something just because it was a good idea. But, as I got more clear on my purpose I decided that I could not invest in every good idea presented to me.
Before I agreed to take on any new commitments, projects, relationships, I asked myself a critical question:
“Is this in line with my purpose?”
This was how I raised the bar in my life.
Now, it’s much easier for me to say “no” to most requests. This habit makes it possible for me to give a resounding “yes” to the opportunities aligned with my purpose.
I now have the time, resources, and energy to invest in the things that are important to me. I am able to do this without feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
My purpose has given me focus.
Having a clear advice purpose helps you to live longer and a healthier life.
A study published in the 2014 issue of Psychological Science, documents the life extending effect of purpose.
In this national study, the researchers survey people and asked them to rate their sense of purpose in life from low to high.
Fourteen years later, those participants with a low sense of purpose were much more likely to have died. All other things being equal, having a sense of purpose made all the difference in their life expectancy.
I was surprise to find this relationship holds true in every age group.
It wasn’t just for older people that having a sense of purpose help them to live longer. It was true for middle aged people and for people in their twenties.
The researchers concluded that having a sense of purpose gives people “protective benefits” to their life. Purpose enhances your physical well-being and has a cumulative effect.
So it’s actually better to develop a sense of purpose as early on as possible. This gives you more time to continue accumulating all the benefits that come with having a strong sense of purpose.
But, it’s never too late to invest time in discovering you purpose.
At whatever moment you get clear your purpose and start living out that purpose, it will extend your life.
Resilience allows you to bounce back from the setbacks that are inevitable in life.
When you’re resilient you, setbacks don’t stop you. Resilient people are able to use those setbacks as stepping stones to their success.
Resilience is the result of having a clear sense of your purpose.
Once you understand why a goal is important to you, you can overcome tremendous obstacles to acheive that goal.
Think about the remarkable survivors that Victor Frankl observed. They did not break even under brutal inhumane treatment. Their purpose gave them to resilience to endure.
I often think about Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison. Yet, he was able to walk directly into world leadership upon from his release.
I’ve spent years teaching in prisons and I know that prison is a horrible place for anyone to be. Everyday, in both big and small ways, there are constant assaults on your safety, dignity, and humanity.
But because Nelson Mandela was clear on his purpose, he was able to walk out of prison as a whole man with a vision.
Mandela’s strong sense of purpose enabled him to lead South Africa into a new era of peace and justice.
That’s the power of purpose.
When I’m talking with people about the importance of purpose, people often tell me that don’t know their life purpose. And that they don’t know how to discover it.
The best way to start uncovering your life purpose by reflecting on how you already bring value to others. Think about times in your life where you’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.
Your purpose is for others. Thinking about the ways you already add value to others can help you better understand your purpose.
Another reflection to get clarity on your life purpose is to consider the activities that place you in your flow.
What are the things you do that give you a feeling of timelessness?
These are activities that you could be doing this two hours, but it feels like just twenty minutes. That’s your flow. It’s that kind of work where you are so fully engaged in the process that time seems to disappear.
Your flow is an excellent window into your purpose.
As you clarify your life purpose, you want to highlight it and expand it. This means organizing more of your activities and goals living out your purpose.
For those who are ready to live a life of purpose that connects with your passions, join us for a FREE 5-Day Challenge to Creating a Life Filled with Energy and Passion.
This challenge empowers you to create a life of purpose that fills you with energy and passion, drastically reduces your stress, and allows you to accomplish your most important goals.
How would it feel to be filled with confidence, energy, and be extraordinarily productive?
Whether you are struggling to stay above the growing to-do lists or wanting to get the most out of each day, this 5-Day Productivity Challenge will give you simple and powerful tools to help you tap into your unique talents and energy to create the rich and rewarding life you deserve!
Get from under the pile of unending tasks, connect with your purpose, and reclaim your life. Click here to join our 5-Day Challenge to a life filled with energy and passion!
Having a strong sense of purpose benefits you and others. Commit to discovering and nurturing your purpose today!
Wishing you a life filled with meaning, purpose, and joy!
In 1928 Marguerite Annie Johnson, the great spirit that we have come to know and love as Maya Angelou, began her life journey. Maya gained strength and wisdom from her family and community that enabled her to thrive in spite of the oppressive force of Jim Crow segregation. Through her writings, Maya Angelou taught us how to transform our own suffering into triumph Click & Tweet! . As I reflect upon her legacy, I am struck by three major themes that shaped Maya Angelou’s life and writings. These themes present important life lessons to us about how we can transform our suffering, maximize our joy, and impact our world. Click & Tweet!
As a woman who enjoyed a long and prosperous career as a writer, poet, actor, and singer, it is hard to believe that Maya Angelou’s voice was ever silent. Yet from the ages of 7-12, Maya experienced selective mutism. Maya Angelou was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Shortly after her telling her brother about the abuse, the man who abused her was found dead. Maya refused to speak believing that her speaking caused his death. Even her silence was a result of Maya’s belief in the power of voice. Fortunately, Maya regained her willingness to speak and through her writings has helped so many people who were also victims of sexual abuse also find their voice.
The first of her autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, discussed this traumatic event and other painful memories of growing up under racial segregation. This book was an immediate national and international success, catapulting Maya Angelou onto a worldwide stage. It also made literary history as the first non-fiction best seller written by an African American woman. Maya Angelou’s willingness to courageously voice her truth paved the way for her success and enabled her to help countless people around the world who have read and benefited from her work.
This is the power of voice. Imagine how your life can change and how other people can benefit from the contribution of your voice. Do not shrink from the challenge of the task by playing small and suggesting that there is nothing for you to contribute. Your challenges and triumphs have given you a unique perspective that will add value to others if you are willing to give it voice. If there is something you want to say, chances are there is someone who wants to hear it Click & Tweet! . Activate the power of your voice.
Maya Angelou’s artistic career began in her late teens and continued until the time of her passing in 2014. She was always producing without recognition of the clock of ageing and cultural expectations about slowing down. Maya Angelou published her first memoir at the age of 41. She began her academic career as a college professor at the age of 53 and was invited by President Bill Clinton to write a special poem for his Presidential Inauguration at the age of 65.
Much of the reason for Maya Angelou’s longevity in her career is the vitality with which she approached life. She was always learning and growing which enabled her to continually make fresh contributions to our world. The writings of Maya Angelou are not recycled versions of her earlier work; they reflect change and growth. Maya demonstrated a willingness to engage in new forms of expression and start new careers past the age when society expects us to retire from life.
Maya Angelou serves as a positive model for aging, especially for women who are often taught to connect our vitality to youth. I remember the wisdom she shared with Oprah about the glory of life after 50. Although I was barely 20 at the time that show aired, I remember thinking how excited I am about turning 50! And then Maya returned to the Oprah show to report that 80 was even better!
Maya Angelou showed us that our beauty, vitality, and ability to make valuable contributions to the world does not stop at any age Click & Tweet! . Her commitment to life-long learning and her openness to sharing makes Maya’s legacy so impactful. She did not shrink from the painful, dark places both internally and externally. She faced them with courage, humor, and love and invited us to do the same.
Maya Angelou spent much of her time in the 1960’s living abroad. She lived in Egypt for some time and worked as an editor of the English language weekly, The Arab Observer. Later Maya Angelou move to Ghana where she worked as a freelance writer and editor of The Ghanaian Times. These extended travels outside of the United States helped to expand Maya’s understanding of herself and her place in the world. She later returned to the US to help her good friend Malcolm X build his new organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity(OAAU).
The experiences and relationships that Maya formed during her travels expanded her understanding of the human struggle and the possibilities for our collective future. Travel can do the same for us. Too often we remain in our comfort zones, interacting only with people who share our identities and perspectives. Whether we are traveling across town, across the country, our across the world, travel can disrupt our comfortable notions of ourselves and our world Click & Tweet! . This disruption is valuable because it requires developing a bigger, more comprehensive perspective that can incorporate the new perspectives and experiences of the diverse people we encounter through our travels.
Maya Angelou has given us a precious gift by sharing her life and her art with us. Although we can no longer ask her questions about the new challenges of our day, we can continue to draw upon her wisdom. We are the beneficiaries of Maya Angelou’s legacy and we can commit to making sure that this powerful legacy does not end with us. We can choose to share the courage, wisdom, and love that Maya shared with us Click & Tweet! . We can give the gift of our voice, commit ourselves to lifelong learning and growth, willingly share our contributions with the world, and expand our horizons by engaging people and places outside of our comfort zones. In doing this, we rise to greet the possibilities of each new day with the hopefulness embedded in Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning.” Please listen to the poem below and imagine Maya Angelou speaking to you about the power and potential that exists within you at this moment.
I invite you to share your own reflections on the legacy of Maya Angelou for you below.
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