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We often throw around the concept of quality of life, but when we stop to truly process it, what does ‘quality’ mean? This week, I have been watching some of the live feeds from the Stanford Medicine X conference in California and I have really appreciated being able to listen to some great speakers about the intersection of medicine and emerging technologies. One of the talks was about the aging/longevity branch of medicine in the face of quality of life issues. A patient in her 90’s, who is involved in a program to help others as well as creating new ideas, conveyed that from her viewpoint, quality of life rather than longevity of life should be the goal. In the end, we should be more focused on how we live our life as opposed to how long we live our life.
Purpose in life
During the same panel discussion, one physician was talking about our aging population and the crisis we are facing related to health care. She brought up an excellent point about how intergenerational living may be part of the solution. Some cultures and families already live in this way. As she states, one of the significant benefits to such living is that it provides a purpose and meaning for the elderly family member. It is well documented that having purpose and meaning in one’s life can improve their health outcomes and ultimately their quality of life.
In the end, each and every day we can say to ourselves that we have meaning and purpose in our lives is far more important than just living based on pure existence.
How to find your purpose in life
Dr. Susan Biali is a physician, but she is also considered to be a happiness and wellness expert. In a Psychology Today article titled Helping You Find Your Life Purpose, she asks 3 key questions:
1) What do you love to do and would do even if you were not paid for it?
2) What do other people think you are good at?
3) In order to leave this earth feeling satisfied, what is the one thing you hope to accomplish or experience?
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits talks about getting out of our personal bubble to help us find our purpose in life. In essence, this involves stepping out of our comfort zone to face the discomfort of fear and uncertainty.
Brené Brown says “showing up is our power”. I also think of this as, “you can’t win if you don’t play.” It takes courage to move past fear and rise when we fall but that is how we get to a place of purpose and fulfillment.
Write your own personal mission statement
As the late Stephen Covey said in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit 2 begins with ‘the end in mind’. He went on to say: “…begin today with the image, picture, or paradigm of the end of your life as your frame of reference of the criterion by which everything else is examined”.
In one of my prior posts, I discussed writing your own personal mission statement and I continue to believe in its power. To me, it helps us keep much needed perspective in life and allows us to follow our path, create our own story, and live our life with purpose.
Do you already have a personal mission statement? If not, Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times article titled Creating a New Mission Statement provides the following questions for you to answer to help you get started:
- How do you want to be remembered?
- How do you want people to describe you?
- Who do you want to be?
- Who or what matters most to you?
- What are your deepest values?
- How would you define success in your life?
- What makes your life really worth living?
Although I have shared this exert from Dr. Oliver Sacks’ Sabbath before, one of the last articles he wrote in the New York Times before his recent death, it seems such a fitting way to end once again:
“And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.”