Mental health & wellbeing

Building your resilience and understanding your purpose

Stuart Taylor /

What’s your reason for getting up in the morning?

For some, trying to answer life’s biggest question might make you want to crawl back into bed. However, investing the time to consider your purpose in life will set you up for success in the long run.

People who have a clear purpose and direction for their lives, find it much easier to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep moving forward. People with purpose are known to be more resilient. While some people get knocked down and stay right there, resilient people bounce back from their misfortune with a smile on their face and a spring in their step.

Having purpose makes it easier to bounce back in challenging times by providing perspective, stability, confidence and determination. It’s much harder to be defeated when you are passionate and purposeful about your journey.

One of the common traits among people who live with purpose is that they’re able to find meaning and learning in all of life’s experiences — the good and the bad — making them emotionally resilient. This ability to find meaning in your life experiences, especially when confronting life’s challenges offers a psychological buffer against obstacles. What’s more is that having a purpose allows you to bounce forward — so not just ending back in the place you were at, but improving your life for the better and enabling you to continue to deal with challenges successfully moving forward.

Purpose in life also leads to both improved health and longevity. According to the neurology department at Northwestern University, Illinois, people who feel like they have a purpose are more likely than others to have good quality sleep. Another study of “Blue Zones” (communities in the world in which people are more likely to live past 100), identified that one of the main factors shared amongst centenarians is having a strong sense of purpose. People who think their life has meaning are more likely to make a conscious effort to look after their health and wellbeing.

Additionally, the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, found people with a low sense of purpose were 2.4 times more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease than those with strong purpose. Having something to look forward to is a key contributor to maintaining a sound mind through your elderly years. Overall, people with a greater sense of purpose generally experience greater mental wellbeing and are far less likely to suffer more common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Being purpose-driven won’t add more hours to your day, but it will give you the strength and energy to not be so worn down by workplace demands. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that retiring later than 65 was associated with an 11% lower mortality risk. Not to say that your work is at the core being of your purpose, but it can certainly be beneficial when you are passionate about your chosen career.  

Read more: What Olympic champion Lydia Lassila knows about resilience and mental toughness

What’s your purpose?

So how do you verbalise your purpose? I suggest summing up your life purpose in six words (no more, no less).

My purpose is: “Living, laughing, contributing, with assertive humility”.

The Japanese concept of Ikigai could help you land on your own purpose. Ikigai is described as the Japanese secret to health and happiness. Scientists who study the Okinawans in Japan believe their Ikigai is the reason they live on average seven more healthy years than the average person in western society. To find this purpose, the concept of Ikigai recommends asking yourself the following four questions:

What do you love?

What are you good at?

What does the world need?

What can you be paid for?

Ikigai believes that it is a combination of all these things that contribute to a more fulfilling life as a whole.

To get closer to your Ikigai, understand what is important to you. If you were gifted with money, a career you’re content with, good health, good relationships and spiritual growth, and could only choose three, which of these gifts would you keep?

We’re all familiar with Confucius’ saying, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. It’s important to know that your job does not equate to your purpose, however, understanding your purpose will guide you when you need to make tough decisions throughout your career, providing stability and focus when faced with challenges.

If you or someone you know is living with mental health issues, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636. 

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Stuart Taylor

Stuart Taylor is a speaker, facilitator, executive coach and the founder of Springfox.

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