The Well-Being Journal

New Study Links Purpose to Lower Risk of Death & Disease

Cameron Bowman

Do you have a firm sense of purpose for your life? If not, you aren’t alone. Based on data measured by the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index, only 18% of the world’s population has a thriving sense of purpose, which includes liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals. Direction and purpose can help you lead a fulfilled existence but new research also suggests that a sense of purpose can have a positive impact on your long-term health.

According to a new report published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society, those with a higher sense of purpose in life are at lower risk of death and cardiovascular disease. The report analyzed and aggregated data from ten peer-reviewed studies to find association between a measurement of purpose in life and mortality and/or cardiovascular episodes. The analysis found a substantive correlation between a higher sense of life purpose and a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, even when adjusted for additional factors. It also found that a high sense of purpose resulted in a significantly lower overall risk of death.

For our national population and economy, this information is especially relevant. Those with a firm sense of purpose in their lives tend to be highly engaged in their work. They are invested in what they do and focus on maximizing the value of their efforts. When people are unable to find fulfillment or achieve personal success and well-being with respect to their purpose, it can impact areas beyond the individual, including society as a whole.

Notably, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranks the United States only 22nd in the world in terms of purpose well-being. Addressing the profound lack of purpose not only within the workplace but in our communities is of strategic concern for government leaders, health plans and providers, employers, and educators.

To see what communities nationwide are doing to promote purpose and greater well-being, click here.

To learn more about how you can create a culture of purpose and well-being within your organization, click here.

Topics: Purpose Well-Being

Live on Purpose

Jennifer Rudloff

Beep...Beep…Beep…it’s your alarm clock. Time to wake up – but what is it that gets YOU out of bed every morning? More than just that first cup of joe – it’s your purpose. When your gifts, passions and values align and are expressed in how you live your life every day, you are living on purpose.

Living on purpose is one of the keys to living a healthier and longer life. In fact, research from the Blue Zones Power 9™ indicates that people who have a purpose live seven years longer than those who don’t. And it’s not just about years in your life, but life in your years, as a recent MetLife study based on the work of best-selling author Richard Leider attests. This study found that people with a “sense of purpose in their lives are more likely to report being happy and describe themselves as living the Good Life”.

So we know that purpose is a critical element to well-being – now what? As business leaders, how do we help our employees discover their purpose? How do we connect an employee’s individual purpose to something bigger – whether that’s an organization or their community?

The answer lies in first creating a work environment that focuses on the whole person. At Healthways, we’re committed to enhancing all areas of our colleagues’ well-being – their physical, social, community, career and financial well-being. What drives these well-being domains is a sense of purpose. We believe it’s our responsibility to give our colleagues the tools to awaken their purpose as part of our commitment to their total well-being. So, in partnership with Richard Leider’s Inventure Group, we have unveiled the Power of Purpose Workshop, both at our corporate office and in communities as part of our Blue Zones Project By Healthways. During this two-hour workshop, participants:

  • Connect the importance of purpose to overall well-being
  • Reflect on their lives as a life spiral to develop a sharper picture of their past and a clearer vision of their future
  • Identify their gifts, passions and values
  • Begin drafting a purpose statement
  • Develop a plan to “live” the purpose statement and to hold themselves accountable

When participants uncover their gifts and achieve a clarity of focus on their purpose, they are more aware of how they “show up” in all aspects of their lives – whether that be with their families, relationships, work and community. It’s as if a whole new world of possibilities opens up.

At the end of our colleague workshops, we challenge participants to identify how they are living their purpose in their daily work. We ask, “How are you bringing your gifts, passions and values to our overall organizational purpose?” -- “How can you live your purpose by helping our organization achieve ours?” Sometimes that requires even tougher follow-up questions – “If there is a lack of congruency, why?” -- “What could you do/we do differently to ensure an alignment?” Opening up these conversations enables our colleagues and our leadership to ensure we are leveraging the gifts of our talent and giving them the tools to take charge of their own well-being.

The same thing can happen in the communities in which these workshops are being held as well. When citizens have a greater sense of their individual purpose, they can look at their immediate community as a place to offer those gifts. Connections are made and communities grow stronger.

Living on purpose is never a destination – rather, it’s a continual journey. The Power of Purpose Workshops are just the beginning. What’s next on the horizon? Purpose Moais. From the Blue Zone of Okinawa, the term “Moai” translates to “coming together for a common purpose”. These Purpose Moais will bring together a small group of workshop participants to regularly meet and support each other as they all strive to live on purpose. What a great way to enhance community well-being, as well as strengthen participants’ connections to their purpose?

That alarm clock is still ringing…time to wake up to living on purpose.

Topics: Healthy Living Richard Leider Blue Zones Project Purpose Well-Being

The Power of Purpose: Lessons From a Legend

Jennifer Rudloff

When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, how often do you hear IRS Auditor or factory worker? More likely they dream big or chase adventure and hope to become our future firemen, sports stars, ballerinas, or zoologist (my personal favorite). Childhood is a time of innocence where any dream is a possible dream and there are no preconceptions, practical notions and pressures creeping in to cause doubt. If a person could approach their entire life with this mentality, it would help to free them from both the real and imaginary constraints that guide their paths and allow them to experience the wonder of what might be. However, more often as we age and learn life’s lessons the pure pursuit of purpose and passion get lost amidst expectations and responsibility.

Blue Zones researchers have found that people who have a clear sense of purpose in life tend to live about seven years longer than those who do not. Yet 46% of men and 40% of women say they’re still trying to figure out the meaning and purpose of their life. Another survey found that 50% of Americans say they’d make a different choice today then they did when they first entered the job market. Perhaps pressures or expectations on them caused them to settle for something they knew they were good at rather than discovering and pursuing how they could be great.

While his life was tragically cut short by cancer, Steve Jobs understood the power of individual purpose. He stood tall in the face of adversity and settled for nothing -- always asking ‘What’s next’. This simple question is what led him to become a cultural icon that shaped the lives of millions. While he stood apart from others in so many ways, his desire to ‘put a dent in the universe’ is innate within us all. He had a firm grasp on his gifts and let them guide his passions and curiosities. And in doing so he uncovered his unique purpose and he had the courage to own it. The way he lived and experienced his life is a wonderful example to us all.

So how can this apply to your organization? Think about the engagement level you’d see if all of your employees understood their purpose and felt that they were working towards it when they stepped through your doors each day. Lincoln Industries is attempting to bridge the gap through helping their people discover their strengths and cultivate energy around individual and collective purpose. They offer life planning classes to their people which helps them develop a personalized, living, evolving plan that guides thoughts behaviors and actions toward their defined purpose.

I’ll leave you with this advice from the late Steve Jobs, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Topics: Healthy Living Workplace Well-Being Community Steve Jobs Purpose Well-Being