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27 Sep 2023

The power and point of purpose

About Purpose

Having a purpose, or reason for living, researchers have proven are important parts of meaningful engagement throughout the ages. 

The need for purpose is one of the defining characteristics of human beings. It is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life.

British writer and therapist, Zoryna O’Donnell, goes even further in saying that people suffer serious psychological difficulties when they do not have it. She cites, the work Man’s Search for Meaning by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, as a case in point.

“This book was first published in 1946. It describes how the author’s experiences, as a prisoner in Auschwitz during World War II, helped him to discover that the desire to find a meaning in life is essential to the human experience, even more than the desire for pleasure or power.”

Four fulfilling factors
She documents four elements that help to promote meaning and purpose in life:

  • Physical and mental well-being (taking care of our body and mind, using stress-reduction techniques and building mental resilience).
  • Belonging and recognition (being part of something much larger than oneself, feeling valued and validated).
  • Personally treasured activities (things we do that make us feel good – hobbies, spending time with our family and friends).
  • Spiritual closeness and connectedness (a feeling that all living things in the world are interrelated). Religion can be part of spirituality, but spirituality goes beyond religion.

These factors simply reinforce that our environment, health, and engagement in life are the foundations of wellbeing.

People like Viktor Frankl show how the power of the spirit, and undying resolve, can overcome anything, in the face of seemingly insurmountable situations.

Another Purpose Perspective

生きがいThe Japanese word “ikigai” means a “life purpose” or “raison d'être.” Ikigai refers to defining your personal meaning of life in relation to your talents, passions, and profession, as well as what you can contribute to the wider world. It can be something seemingly small to larger and even more grandiose engagements. It is a fundamental part of Japanese life and culture.

Ikigai’s 10 teachings

  • Stay active; don't retire. Many of the world's longest-lived people work well into their 80′s and 90′s or don't retire.
  • Take it slow.
  • Don't fill your stomach.
  • Surround yourself with good friends.
  • Get in shape for your next birthday.
  • Smile.
  • Reconnect with nature.
  • Give thanks.

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Date Published: September 2019

Reviewed: September 2023

To be reviewed: September 2026