Discover what matters in leading a good life

Published 11:45 am Wednesday, May 27, 2009

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

— E. B. White

Everyone wants to create “the good life.” Even though we don’t usually talk about its ingredients, according to a recent study, we agree on what it takes to live it.

Email newsletter signup

The MetLife Mature Market Institute published a solid study titled “Discovering What Matters.” The vast majority of Americans describe “the good life” in terms of being healthy, having financial freedom, having the time to do what is important and having a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose was the biggest differentiator between the people who reported that they were living “the good life” from those who said they were not.

The study showed regardless of age, gender, financial status or life stage, the majority of people assign the most importance to meaning-related activities and, above all else, spending time with friends and family.

Why do you get up in the morning?

How many truly happy people do you know? If you can tick off your answers on only one hand, consider a second question: Why are so few people truly happy?

One reason might be lack of purpose. Purpose is essential to vitality. When we lose our reason to get up in the morning, we start dying from the inside. Much of today’s dissatisfaction stems from failing to discover new ways to both save and savor the world. When purpose dies, vitality dies. And, even if no one else notices the deadness in our souls, we notice. We have an uneasy feeling of “inner kill” — deadness — when it is absent.

Living on purpose means both saving and savoring the world. Do you have a reason to get up in the morning? Do you, while savoring your life, have a reason larger than yourself for living? Purpose has many meanings, but one is the essential link between the word saving and the word savoring.

The ultimate test for happiness

Purpose is the driving force behind the motive to get up in the morning. The ultimate test for happiness is this: “Can you look back at your life and feel peace of mind from the reality that you have lived a purposeful life?” Can you regard your present state, no matter how limited by financial means or health, as one of living on purpose?

As part of the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project, members of the Albert Lea community are invited to participate in a workshop to explore and define their own gifts, talents and purpose. Inventure Group President Barbara Hoese and I will alternate leading four, three-hour workshops in Albert Lea.

To register, please contact Albert Lea Area Schools Community Education ( and click on the Community Education tab or visit 211 W. Richway Drive, or call 379-4834. These workshops, usually $190, are free due to sponsorship by the United Health Foundation.

Purpose is what concerns us the most; what we care about; what gets us moving. Purpose is the anchor that secures us to life, that anchors us during crisis, that keeps us going when nothing else does. It fits things together. It gives meaning in times of uncertainty or loss.

The Discovering What Matters study validates what I see every day with my clients. Younger people usually want to identify work that fits them, mid-life clients are looking to discover a sense of meaning beyond a paycheck and older clients want to stay engaged in life and make a difference.

Discovering a life purpose is the key to “the good life” for all three and requires a willingness to invest in oneself and take a hard look at discovering what truly matters.

Leider is a world-renowned author and executive coach. He has written eight books including, The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in Your Life and Work. Leider is the founder of The Inventure Group, a coaching firm, and The Purpose Project at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing. He also holds a master’s degree in counseling and is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota Carlson School’s Executive Development Center and at Duke Corporate Education.