This is the first in a new series of blogs, focusing on nine things that I reckoned I’ve learned about how to be happy and healthy. Why nine and not ten? Well, I like threes, so three squared seemed like a good number. And ten is just so very… well, DECIMAL. Ten commandments always seemed to me just a tad too many. So nine it is.
My first top tip for having a happy life is to find a purpose, something to get you bouncing out of bed in the mornings eager to get on with the day – or if mornings really aren’t your thing, let’s at least aim for not pulling the covers up over your head and wishing the world would go away.
The purpose doesn’t have to be epic or grand – although as I’ll come to in a later blog, I think that it helps if you have a sense that the purpose is bigger than you are. Depending on your personality, level of ambition, and stage of life, it might be getting your golf handicap down to four, knitting a jacket for a grandchild, or cultivating a prize-winning orchid. The main thing is that it has to be YOURS. And it’s never too late. In fact, finding a purpose late in life is quite possibly the best way to stave off old age and decrepitude. You just won’t have TIME to feel old, and will have too strong a reason to live to allow yourself to die.
Again depending on your personality, I’d recommend making it challenging, but do-able. It should push you just a little bit outside of your comfort zone. This is, by definition, uncomfortable, but trust me – the sense of satisfaction when you have taken on a challenge and achieved it will make this temporary discomfort completely worthwhile. Feel the fear – and do it anyway.
So how do you go about finding it? This is what I did. I imagined I was looking back at my life from my deathbed. What would make me proud of my time on this earth? What would make me feel I had left it a slightly better place than I had found it? And here was the real kicker of a question: was I on track for that kind of a life? If I carried on as I was, living every day as I was now living, would I end up with that kind of a life?
The answer didn’t come to me immediately. In fact, it took another few years of asking and waiting. But then, one day, the answer just popped into my head fully formed, and I knew it immediately for what it was. It was my Perfect Project.
How do you know when you have found it? You will feel invigorated, and able to overcome any obstacle. When you’re pursuing it you rapidly get into the zone, losing yourself in your activity. You’ll forget to be shy, hungry, or annoyed about that thing that happened in the office today. It becomes all-consuming. You don’t want to take time out to do anything else.
Which isn’t to say that it will always be easy. But we’ll come to that. Over the coming weeks I’ll do my best to give you some useful tips that will help when the going gets tough.
To sum up today’s Life Purpose Principles:
– Don’t think about growing older. Just focus on growing.
– Link between present action and desired future outcome: am I going where I want to go?
– Don’t do it for others. Do it for yourself.
– Courage comes from having a sense of purpose that is bigger than your fear.
[I’d welcome your feedback on this blog. I’ve drafted the first 4 of my 9, so I look forward to hearing whether you find this useful before I write my last 5!]