People don’t come out and say that purpose in life doesn’t matter. But, if you look at some people’s lives, you realize that pursuing purpose is not a priority. It’s as if, purpose is optional. It’s as if it’s like extra-credit—a good thing to have but not essential.

In reality, purpose is of the utmost importance. You can live a life without purpose. You just can’t live a good life without it.

Purpose matters in many ways.

People with more purpose and meaning in their life have, overall, better mental health. They are happier. They experience more positive emotions, life satisfaction, and self-esteem. They are less sad. They have less depression and anxiety.[1]

People with more purpose and meaning are physically healthier. They have fewer heart attacks and strokes. They are less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease. They even live longer. A study followed a large, random sample of middle-aged Americans for fourteen years. The participants with higher levels of purpose at the start were less likely to die during the study.[2]

People with more purpose and meaning have better social lives. They are involved in more social activities. They are more socially integrated. They have richer, deeper social relationships.[3]

People with more purpose and meaning have better careers. They are more satisfied with their work. They perform better. They are more committed to their organizations. They keep their jobs for longer. They are less exhausted from work. They are less cynical about their jobs.[4]

We can see the importance of purpose when we look at the lives of who have little.

Carl has been a friend for many years.[5] When he was young, Carl was good looking, fun, smart and popular. He has spent his life pursuing comfort, ease and the pleasures of the moment. He’s avoided commitments—both personally and professionally. He’s a really nice guy, but he won’t make significant sacrifices for other people. In living this way, he has created a life of relatively little purpose and meaning. He has neglected his deeper callings for so long now that I don’t know if he still even hears them. As a result, Carl is miserable. He is depressed. He is isolated from others. His life feels aimless. He is on a trajectory of despair.

[1] Ho 2010; Tholts 2012

[2] Kind 2016

[3] Hughes 2006

[4] Schnell 2013

[5] Carl is, of course, a pseudonym



Photo Credit: Federico Respini