Your Purpose Might Save Your Life

Written by
Steven Kotler

Your Purpose Might Save Your Life

Written by
Steven Kotler

Your Purpose Might Save Your Life

Written by
Steven Kotler

“What’s your purpose in life?”

Have you ever been asked this?

It’s a loaded question.

Some people can answer with complete certainty, without hesitation (“My purpose is to make the world a better place for animals.”)

Some people think the question is ridiculous, hyperbolic, or impossible to answer (“I don’t know what my purpose is, I’m just a random accident of atoms bouncing around in a meaningless universe destined for heat death like everything else.”)

Some might crack a joke (“My purpose is to chug as many Pabst Blue Ribbons at a Minor Threat concert as I possibly can, singing at the top of my lungs.”)

Though heavy, here’s why the loaded question is well worth asking:

Having a “purpose-in-life” (the technical term) has been shown to lower incidences of stroke, dementia, and cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, from a performance standpoint, purpose boosts motivation, productivity, resilience, and focus. And it’s a specific type of focus.

Purpose shifts our attention off ourselves (internal focus) and puts it onto other people and the task at hand (external focus). 

In doing this, purpose guards against obsessive self-rumination, which is one of the root causes of anxiety and depression.

By forcing you to look outside yourself, purpose acts as a force field. It protects you from yourself and the very real possibility of being swallowed whole by your new passion. 

To put this more technically, purpose seems to decrease the activity of the default-mode network, which is the brain network in charge of rumination, and increase the activity of the executive attention network, which is the network that governs external focus.

Finally, there’s an even greater benefit to purpose: outside assistance

Purpose acts as a rallying cry, inspiring others and attracting them to your cause. 

This has an obvious impact on drive. Social support provides even more neurochemistry, which produces an even greater boost in intrinsic motivation. 

More crucially, other people provide actual help. Financial, physical, intellectual, creative, emotional— they all matter. 

Simply put, on the road to impossible, we’re going to need all the help we can get.

But don’t expect to find your purpose and support super quickly, and find stopgap measures in the interim. 

I was a bartender for the first decade of my writing career, which allowed me the time to develop my craft without the terror of having to pay my bills off the results. 

This was critical to my success. This is also why Tim Ferriss tells entrepreneurs to start out with a hobbyist approach to their first start-up: nights and weekends.

Curiosity into passion; passion into purpose; and purpose into patient profit—that’s the safest way to play this game.

P.S. By clarifying your Massively Transformative Purpose, you get more flow in your life. With more flow, you’re much better equipped to fulfill your purpose (and have a helluva fun time doing it).

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