Archived Story

Expert: Purpose matters

Published 12:00pm Thursday, May 21, 2009

People with a strong sense of purpose not only live longer, healthier lives, but they live happier lives, too.

And by aligning their gifts, passions and environments, they can discover their true callings in life and set out on a path to fulfill those callings.

Those were the messages Wednesday during the first Finding Your Purpose workshop hosted as part of the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project.

Under the direction of Richard Leider, who is rated as one of the top executive educators and coaches in the world, about 175 Albert Leans began their quest to discover their own callings in life.

Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner, author of the New York Times best-selling book “Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest,” said research shows that people with a strong sense of purpose live a good seven years longer than those who don’t.

Leider — who has written three best-sellers — walked participants through their lives, helping them reflect on their gifts and talents, along with roadblocks that may come up along the way in life.

The man, who is the founder and chairman of The Inventure Group, a coaching and consulting firm in Minneapolis, said he started interviewing people over the age of 65 in the 1970s. He asked them if they could live their lives over again, what they would do differently.

The people said they’d be more reflective and stop to look at the big picture more frequently — and not just during times of crisis, Leider said.

They said they’d be more courageous, bringing their voice forward in life, he said. People become more alive when they are more courageous.

Lastly, people wanted their lives to matter to others when they were gone, he added.

How do people make sure this happens?

Using Calling Cards, a system developed after 25 years of research, Leider first helped the participants identify their gifts.

“One of the ways we figure out a reason for being is to figure out our gifts,” he said.

Participants were to take the cards, which had different phrases on them, and go through each card and ask themselves, “Do I love doing this?”

The cards were sorted into three piles — yes, no and maybe — and then at the end, participants identified their top five cards from the “yes” pile and finally their No. 1 card.

Then, they identified their passions, or things they care most about that move them to action.

Lastly, they talked about their environments, or themes, that describe how a person likes to operate.

Based on their top Calling Cards, participants were able to identify where they were artistic, conventional, realistic, social, investigative or enterprising.

By combining gifts, passions and environments, people can figure out their callings, whether for work, daily living or volunteer work, Leider said.

“I think this is a true testament that by sharing our gifts we can have a great life and a better community,” participant Pam Bishop said.

Buettner noted volunteers are able to lose more weight than nonvolunteers and they have fewer cases of heart disease. He’s also found that areas where people are the happiest are often filled with people who volunteer.

The workshop ended by representatives from local agencies telling of their missions and inviting people to volunteer with them.

People can find out about volunteer opportunities through the United Way of Freeborn County.

Other Finding your Purpose workshops will be held on June 9 in the evening and on June 17 in both the morning and evening. People can register for those workshops through Albert Lea Community Education.