Discovering Purpose

Erik Barker, author of “Barking up the Wrong Tree” challenges many of the principles that we are taught will supposedly lead to success.  He posed the question, “Why is it that some days, I can conquer the world.  And other days, it takes me three hours to convince myself to shower?”  Through his research, he discovered one secret that must be included in your morning ritual or EMSR (Early Morning Success Routine) if you want to ensure that you are ready to conquer the world.  Your routine must include the feeling of a sense of purpose.  Here is why:

  1. Dan Pink believes that feeling a sense of purpose is one of the most motivating things in the known universe.  His definition of purpose is, “Am I doing something in service of a cause larger than myself, or, at the very least, am I making a contribution in my own world?”  
  2. Feeling a sense of purpose in the morning not only makes you feel alive, it actually keeps you alive.  Researchers at Tohoku university in Japan did a 7 year study of over 43,000 adults, ages 40-79 asking if they had a meaning in life and then tracked their health.  95% of the people who reported having a meaning in life were still alive 7 years later versus only 83% of the ones who did not.
  3. If feeling alive and living longer isn’t enough, another one of his studies found that purpose is sexy.  Erik’s research found an interaction between physical attractiveness and meaning in life, with more meaning in life contributing to greater interpersonal appeal for those of low and average physical attractiveness.

So naturally the next question is how do we discover purpose in a “normal life” without dropping everything to become missionaries in the rain forest?  Duke professor Dan Ariely suggests that you can create purpose by reframing any experience through a different lens.  You might not be able to change “What” you have to do but you can change “How” you see it.  When you look at any situation through the lens of how it can help others, you’ll find it more purposeful and motivating.  My takeaway is that all of us can start the day with a sense of purpose if we spend a few moments thinking through how we can positively impact those within our circle of influence.


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