Building a Thriving Lifestyle: Purpose Part 1
There are many tools and elements needed to build a thriving lifestyle, which we have examined within this series. They equip us to navigate life vibrantly rather than to simply survive. Now there is one last piece I want to add to our structure--purpose. Purpose is defined as: “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc; an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal; determination; resoluteness.”  The purpose of an organization should be discovered within their mission statement. This statement funnels the efforts of its members. Likewise, as individuals and families, a clear purpose in our life gives us valuable direction. To put into words your personal purpose requires answering some deep and challenging questions which will also reflect your belief system. Yes, this takes time and energy--most things of value do, but the benefits cultivated from this process far outweigh the cost of the effort. I will share with you a secret. Being healthy is not my ultimate purpose. Rather, it is a means to accomplish my purpose. (My chosen purpose is to grow and mature into the likeness of Jesus Christ through relationship with Him.) If being healthy and having a perfect lifestyle were to consume my focus, the value of my life would diminish. Is the life of the individual with a chronic disease, sleep disorder, or overly demanding job with no time for recreation less fulfilling than one that fits the “Thriving Lifestyle” which I have previously defined? Not necessarily. The answer is determined by what their purpose is in life. Let us look to a historical figure as an example. William Wilberforce (1759-1833) is remembered for his effective work in British Parliament to end the slave trade (among many other successful campaigns.) His responsibilities were demanding and often times devastating to his health as he struggled with gastrointestinal illness--believed to be ulcerative colitis induced from stress. For him to have given up his campaign certainly would have benefited his health. However, his mission to end the slave trade drove him to make sacrifices. While there were seasons of rest from politics that he took for his health, he ultimately pushed passed the illness to accomplish his campaigning purposes--which changed history. While I am convinced that health is not a priority over purpose, the two do not have to conflict. In fact, they have been proven to compliment each other! The health benefits of purpose include protection from heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer's, sleep disorders, and depression plus improvement of brain function and immune support. Interestingly, a study conducted by the University of Florida found that purpose in life produces a level of happiness that benefits our gene expression. They termed it “eudaimonic happiness”. This emotion is related to our sense of fulfillment in life in contrast to “hedonic happiness” which results from momentary pleasures like a fun purchase or enjoying time at a fancy restaurant. Eudaimonic happiness was linked to lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and higher levels of antibody and antiviral genes.  Your purpose will define your days and ultimately your life’s legacy; and the tools of sleep, work-life balance, etc. will provide a strong foundation from which it can be launched. However, rather than concluding with this highlight of purpose, next week I will seal this series with a practical guide to equip you to develop your personal purpose for a fulfilling life.