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4 Life-Changing Benefits of Having a Purpose

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Do you know where you’re going? And do you have a plan to get there? If you don’t, you’re likely to be forever drifting from one thing to another – without making any genuine progress in your life. A purpose is what you need! It is something for you to aim towards and something for you to be genuinely excited about. Having a definite purpose in your life will bring you some amazing benefits, four of which I’ll talk about right now.

Benefit #1: You’ll Feel Stronger and Braver

One of the biggest causes of fear is not knowing what’s going to happen next in our lives. This fear can be so paralyzing that it can literally stop us in our tracks. This is where having a definite purpose can really help.

Once you’ve worked out what you want, you can plan your route to get there. And not only will this set you up for achievement and success in your life – but it’ll also eliminate the unknown and unleash a hidden strength.

You’ll have drive, you’ll feel confident and you’ll feel brave. These are all traits that you’re unlikely to have if you’re currently drifting through life. You might at this point be wondering…What exactly IS a purpose?

Some people refer to a life purpose as a ‘calling’. But, whatever you choose to name it, your purpose should contribute positively to society in some way, while at the same time bringing satisfaction and a sense of achievement to yourself.

Your purpose will also provide meaning to your life. And, this will give you the mental tools you need to face the ups and downs in life that you’ll inevitably encounter on the way to reaching your goals. When you’re able to find meaning and purpose in your life, your fears will dissipate. That’s the power of knowing where you’re going and what you’re aiming for.

“Activity without purpose is the drain of your life.” – Tony Robbins

Benefit #2: A Purpose Will Boost Your Health

You may be surprised to know that finding and following your purpose will give your physical health and mental well-being a positive boost. This was confirmed in a recent study published in The Lancet, which looked at how our attitude to life affects our happiness, health and longevity.

The eight and a half year study of people with an average age of 65, found that those with the highest well-being were 30% less likely to die over the study period, living on average two years longer than those in the lowest well-being group.

Professor Andrew Steptoe, Director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, who led the study, said: “We have previously found that happiness is associated with a lower risk of death. These analyses show that the meaningfulness and sense of purpose that older people have in their lives are also related to survival. There are several biological mechanisms that may link well-being to improved health, for example through hormonal changes or reduced blood pressure. Further research is now needed to see if such changes might contribute to the links between well-being and life expectancy in older people.”

The study also found some unexpected health benefits of having a purpose, such as an increase in walking speed over time. This effect was the equivalent to the purpose-driven participants being 2.5 years younger. Imagine that.

While more research is needed, it’s clear that having a sense of meaning and purpose cannot only boost your health – but it might help you live longer too.

Benefit #3: A Purpose Will Improve Your Time Management

Another key benefit of having a purpose is the effect it’ll have on the management of your time. Let me demonstrate this through an example: Imagine for a moment that you’ve discovered your calling – to be a school teacher. You could class this calling as your major goal. But to get there, you’re going to have to accomplish several smaller goals. These would be things such as:

  • Finding a college course to enroll in
  • Finding the funding to pay for your course
  • Ending your current work/study commitments
  • Starting your course
  • Gaining work experience
  • Passing your course
  • Looking for work
  • Starting your first job

Look at that list again. It’s an ideal roadmap to accomplish your major goal of becoming a teacher. It also naturally breaks down the necessary steps into bite-sized chunks, making it straightforward and time-efficient to achieve each of them. It’s important to remember that time isn’t an infinite resource for us.

Which is why a definite purpose scores highly in this area, as it will drive you to take specific steps at specific times. Compared to someone drifting aimlessly through life, you’ll use time to your advantage and you’ll inevitably reap the rewards of your efforts.

“Clarify your purpose. What is the why behind everything you do? When we know this in life, it is very empowering and the path is clear.” – Jack Canfield

Benefit #4: A Purpose Will Help You Gain a Sense of Accomplishment

Think for a moment about the major things you’ve achieved in your life so far… graduating school, learning a new language, getting promoted, losing weight, becoming a parent, etc. These achievements will have given you a greater sense of purpose in your life, as well as boosting your confidence, health and happiness.

Now imagine that you’ve discovered your major life purpose, and you’ve plotted a route to get there. This will put a rocket booster under your confidence and drive. You’ll feel super-energized to progress towards your goal – as it something that means the world to you.

And, as you travel along the road to your purpose, you’ll begin to understand how failure and mistakes are all part of the road trip! No one is perfect, and no journey in life can be without the occasional hiccups and setbacks. But you don’t need to worry about these. As your inner drive to achieve your purpose will overcome any and all difficulties that you face.

Coming back to gaining a sense of accomplishment, you can magnify this by celebrating the successful achievement of all your minor goals as you work your way to the BIG ONE.

So now you know some of the great benefits of pursuing a purpose, and I hope you feel inspired to find and follow yours.

Leon Ho is the Founder and CEO of Lifehack, which he started in 2005 as a way to share his personal productivity hacks to make life easier. With over 30,000 articles published at Lifehack and millions of monthly readers, he is widely recognized as a productivity and management expert. Influenced by both Western and Asian culture, Leon has decades of experience in technology and the internet. Because of his pioneering work at discovering, applying and spreading the secrets of personal development to the world, Leon has been listed as Business Week's #4 "Top 24 Young Asian Entrepreneurs".

Life

7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Life

Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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Life

The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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