The Right Outlook: How Finding Your Purpose Can Improve Your Life

Quick, can you sum up your life purpose in one phrase?

If you can, research suggests that you could be living up to seven good years longer. Research shows that people who know their life purpose and why they wake up in the morning live longer, better lives.

Dr. Robert Butler and his collaborators led an NIH-funded study that looked at the correlation between having a sense of purpose and longevity. His 11-year study followed healthy people between the ages of 65 and 92, and showed that those who expressed having clear goals or purpose lived longer and lived better than those who did not. This is because individuals who understand what brings them joy and happiness tend to have what we like to call the Right Outlook. They are engulfed in activities and communities that allow them to immerse themselves in a rewarding and gratifying environment.

In most blue zone cultures, this concept of purpose, this idea of “why I wake up in the morning” is an integral part of their culture. Okinawans call it ikigai and Nicoyans call it plan de vida. More importantly, we think that this strong sense of purpose may in fact reduce their chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and stroke.

So where do you begin? How do you start to craft this credo of self-awareness and make the necessary steps toward adopting the Right Outlook? It’s not as complicated as you might think; try some of these Blue Zones® tips to adapt the Right Outlook and determine your ikigai.

1. Do an internal inventory—think about your ideals, principles, standards and morals.

Then think of your physical, emotional and mental talents, strengths and abilities. Take out a blank sheet of paper and write or type for about 20 minutes. It might take awhile, but eventually you’ll clear your mind and get to what you really want to contribute to the world. You’ll know you’re getting close when you have a strong emotional reaction to something you’ve written. Then write your Personal Purpose Statement to incorporate what you like to do and where you can share your talents.

2. Put your skills into action.

Find out you love animals? Make plans to volunteer at the humane society or even adopt a pet. Spread the word amongst your neighbors and see if you can establish a dog-walking group. In short, use your passions as a launchpad for your life. Besides (or perhaps because of) the satisfaction that comes from doing good, people who volunteer have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and depression, as well as lower health care costs.

3. Dedicate a place in your house to display your passions, accomplishments, and the things of which you are proud.

Every time you walk by, you’ll be rewarded with a surge of pride and a reminder of how you fit into the world.

4. Find a partner!

Find someone to whom you can communicate your life purpose, along with a plan for realizing it. It can be a friend, a family member, a spouse, or a colleague. Use their honesty as a sounding board for your plan of action.

A strong sense of purpose can really reduce stress in your life. You’ll have less worry and anxiety, be more clear about your goals, be less motivated by the positive opinions of others and you may not fret as much about decisions.

Want to learn more?

Optimize your life for maximum health and happiness with our Blue Zones checklists, which help you take inventory of your home, yard, circle of friends, and daily life.

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