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.
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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!
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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!
Being a person of action is important because it keeps us from being passive participants in life. When we commit to acting upon the world, we help to reshape ourselves and our world through our own efforts. Yet, not all action is equal.It is important to distinguish between fear based action and inspired action. Only inspired action will allow you to create the life your desire.
These two distinct types of action the produce different results in your life. Fear based action will drain your energy, alienate you from others, and undermine your health. Inspired action will produce the exact opposite effect in your life. It will provide you with more energy, connect you to yourself and others and promote your health and well-being.
So how can you tell which type of action is motivating you? I’ve identified three characteristics to help you distinguish inspired action from fear based action. Pause to ask yourself these questions, before you act. Your answer will reveal to you the true motivation for your behavior. The brief reflection will give you an opportunity to make a choice about the type of action you want in your life.
Is this ego-driven or purpose-driven? Are you performing this action because it will make you look good to others or because it is in line with your life purpose? Inspired action is any activity that expresses or advances your life purpose. It is action that you “have to” do because it is an expression of your most authentic self.
This is a question that only you can answer. The same action could be either ego driven or purpose driven. Consider for example, serving food to homeless families in a soup kitchen. That act of generosity could be driven by ego; an attempt to show to others what a good and moral person you are. The same activity could be an expression of your life purpose to eradicate suffering in the world. You are the only person who can answer this question about your behavior. Just remember to be honest and to use this question to reflect on all your actions, even the seemingly “noble” ones.
Is this motivated by fear or by love? This is a question, that only you can answer. Inspired action is always motivated by love. Dr. Martinez’s research reveals that emotions are bio-cognitive fields that can either be healing or destructive to our physical and emotional health. This means that the emotion motivating your action alters your physical and psychological state. Research on social intelligence helps us understand how these subtle emotional states are communicated to others with whom we interact.
Much like how we “catch colds” from interacting with others who have a particular bacteria or virus, we can “catch” emotions in the same manner. Emotions shape our cognitive understanding of the world and our physical health. Thus, it’s very important that we maintain our own emotional health so we don’t negatively impact others with our dis-ease.
Dr. Martinez argues that fear and love are mutually exclusive bio-cognitive states. Fear always produces damage to the immune system and love always repairs the damage and restores healthy functioning. So, the question of the emotion motivating our action, is not an esoteric one. Rather, the emotion motivating our action shapes our well-being and the well-being of those with whom we interact.
Will this action only benefit myself or will it benefit others as well? Inspired action is action that benefits ourselves as well as others. We do not need to see the world as mutually exclusive choice between our well-being and the well-being of others. Inspired action allows us to see how we can contribute to our own well-being and happiness by actions that benefit others. Happiness research reveals that activities which focus on doing good for others not only makes us happier, but makes us healthier as well. Researchers at UCLA distinguished between two types of happiness: happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life and happiness focused only on pleasure seeking and self-gratification. In their report to the National Academy of Sciences, they found that happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life promotes the gene expression of anti-viral and antibody genes. Happiness focused only on self-gratification had the opposite effect, suppressing the health of the immune system.
An important part of empowering yourself is taking the time to pause and reflect on what is important to you. As you become more clear on your life purpose and core values, you are able to evaluate your activities in light of this focus. Inspired action expresses your life purpose, is motivated by love, and places you in the service of others. This type of action strengthens your sense of meaning and feelings of connection in the world. These attributes are empirically proven to improve both your physical health and your happiness.
Inspired action is much like the Tao concept of “effortless action” (non-action). The process of being and flowing from one action to the next effortlessly, rather than imposing conscious action. Based on knowing yourself. It feels like you’re not doing anything except showing up and being who you are.
This is how inspired action puts you in your flow. You are no longer “making” yourself do things, you are simply “being”. That is more than enough. Your authentic presence brings the gifts of love, purpose, and healing to both you and others.
Inspired action is a choice. It is a choice that is always available to you at the moment you decide to act. Give yourself and our world the gift of your inspired action. Create a life that produces happiness and healing through your inspired action. Start today.
Share your moments of inspired action in the comment box below. How have you showed up and shared your authentic self with the world today? I am proud of your courageous commitment to be uniquely you and to share the gift of you with our world. Thank you!
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