Purpose or Meaning?
How much would you pay for a drug that not only improved your sleep but also reduced your risk of heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s? Science hasn’t been able to come up with that drug yet, but behavioral scientist Vic Strecher has shown us a path with his work on living with purpose.
Many people in the West come to a point where they experience anxiety over the absence of purpose and meaning in their lives. Dr. Strecher points out that this is a centuries-old struggle and that while “meaning” has been elusive for most, purpose can be developed by everyone.
Dr. Strecher says that when you have goals developed around things that you deeply value and they become operationalized, then you are on the path to living a life on purpose. Start by asking yourself, “What do I care about most?”
Leading A Bigger Life
Dr. Strecher’s interest in this topic came with an emotional cost. His daughter, Julia, developed a serious heart condition after a bout of chicken pox as an infant. She was fortunate to receive a life-saving heart transplant as a young child. She died unexpectedly at the age of 19. Dr. Strecher experienced the deep grief that comes with the loss of a child. His daughter’s voice came to him during his period of grief and directed him to “get over yourself.” They had worked to make her life bigger. They had succeeded. Now it was his turn to live a life like that.
He discovered that if he was going to live his bigger life and work towards a greater purpose, then he would need to be healthier. He followed five pillars that allowed him to live more fully: Sleep, Presence, Activity, Creativity, and Eating. He makes sure to check these five boxes each day.
In addition to improving his health, Dr. Strecher also began to contemplate his own mortality. The night before her death, while they were in the Caribbean, his daughter,Julia, said to her boyfriend, “I am so happy now, Brian, I could die!”
In her 19 years, his daughter had worked towards leaving a meaningful legacy. There was little room for fear.
Dr. Strecher eventually came to the realization that he wasn’t scared of dying. He was scared of never truly living. Part of his legacy was his decision to teach his 250 students as if he was teaching his own daughter.
“If a man knows not what harbor he seeks, any wind is the right wind” – Seneca the Younger
You need to set a destination. You have to have the energy to get there, and you have to have the focus to maintain the direction. Vic Strecher calls these the “harbor, wind, and rudder.”
Dr.Strecher says that we need to give ourselves space to lead a “big life.” This is done by becoming healthier. It’s done by improving our focus and concentration. Various forms of meditation can make that easier. We have to constantly ask ourselves during our daily activities, “Could I be doing something more aligned with my purpose right now?”
We can develop purpose in the different domains of our life – family, work, etc. – and these domains can collide. We’ll be able to manage the collision as long as we maintain our energy and willpower.
Once we begin on the path to living our purpose, the only other thing we need to do is to watch how our purpose will evolve and be prepared to step into it.
When we experience the self-transcendence that comes from a commitment to love, connection, and community, we make ourselves better and the world will benefit.
Dr. Strecher’s book, “Life On Purpose” can be purchased here.