What gets you out of bed in the morning? Helps you grit through work that is not necessarily fun in the moment but ultimately is rewarding? Has been a long running theme in your life?
The answer to these questions is found in something you do (as opposed to something consumed) that feels rewarding. It is the basis for figuring out your life purpose. Your purpose matters. It has been identified as the single most important factor in determining one’s vitality and longevity.
The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida” says Dan Buettner in his Blue Zone theory of the world’s longest live people. Buettner’s findings show it improves both quality and quantity of life. People possessed of purpose not only sleep better, they also live up to seven years longer than others. Both Ikigai and Plan de Vida roughly translate to “reason for being” and finding them can be elusive. In fact, the soul searching and experience necessary mean that many people don’t identify their life purpose until their 30s.
In the quest to find ones purpose, Daniel Ariely’s work on motivation is very clarifying. In his book Payoff, Ariely explains the difference between short and long-term satisfaction. Short-term happiness is about immediate gratification- playing, laughing, enjoying a Margarita on the beach or being tickled. Long-term happiness is defined by purpose- a sense of meaning, accomplishment or personal involvement. Duration is important- the things that ultimately determine meaning are not necessarily enjoyable moment to moment. They take time to cultivate and bear fruit. Furthermore, it is natural to self-sabotage over emphasizing short term happiness. “We often pick the things that allow us some easy reward in a short-term, even though it’s a lower (payoff) in the long-term,” say Ariely. Stuck in a rut? “Train yourself in a few areas that will yield well-being benefits for the long run” advises Ariely. Check-out this blog on process how to do exactly that.
Motivation is a critical part of success. “If we are contributing in a way that will have no impact on anybody and is disconnected from us, it’s not very motivating”, says Ariely “if we wake up in the morning and we have a chance to do something that would help other people we’ve been agents in change, that’s very motivating”. Being connected to others and working at something consistently over a reasonable period of time are both necessary to finding purpose.
Little by Little. Regret is always worse than the risk.