Health, happiness and success: the benefits of having a purpose in life

Having a Life-Calling helps you to be happier, healthier, more successful and to live longer.

The research shows that if you put your Life-Calling in your work you will enjoy it more and find it more meaningful1. You are likely to work harder and be more committed, and not surprisingly, you are likely to be more successful2.

You are also likely to have a longer life3: Dr Patrick Hill at Carleton University, Canada said Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when (at what age) you find your purpose”.

Having a Life-Calling directly affects your level of job satisfaction and determines the meaning you find at work. The research1 shows that people in work roughly fall into three categories:

Job Orientation: these people see their work as a means to an end. They work to support their life outside work and do not like jobs that interfere with their personal lives.

Career Orientation: An individual with a “career” orientation is more likely to focus on elements related to success and prestige. Jobs with clear career progression appeal to them.

Calling Orientation: Individuals with a Calling describe their work as integral to their lives and their identity. They see their career as an opportunity for self-expression and personal fulfilment. They are more likely to find their work meaningful and to be more satisfied with their work and their lives.

These are not exclusive categories: someone with a Calling may also want a good salary and benefits but they are more likely to say that they would do their job even if they weren’t paid.

Individuals who have a calling are more likely to “craft” their jobs to fit their strengths and their interests. “Job crafting” is when you persuade your organisation to design your job to fit you, rather than the other way round. You can work for a big firm doing conventional stuff, and design a job you love if you are smart. A colleague was an Organisation Development Vice President at a pharmaceutical company and crafted her role so that she could be an internal Executive Coach while also managing the external pool of coaches.

It should be pretty obvious to you which category you fit in – Job, Career, or Calling orientation. If you are not sure you can go the Authentic Happiness website at the University of Pensylvania and do their brief four-question test which will tell you which one you are2. The interesting thing about the questionnaire is that it compares your scores to other people who have done the test. No surprise really but my own score on Calling is higher than 80% of the other people who have done the test through the web.

An important finding of the research is that any job can serve a sense of Calling. Life-Calling is more of a mind-set than a job. Nevertheless, the extent to which you feel able to express your Life-Calling in your job influences your well-being, life satisfaction, health and longevity. So find ways to express more of your Life-Calling in your work.

How to find or enhance your sense of Life-Calling

There a number of approaches to finding your Life-Calling and I will be running my next Discover Your Life-Calling workshop at the end of September. But don’t wait! Start by asking yourself some key questions:

  1. What are you passionate about?
    Write down a list of 5 to 8 things that you are passionate about. Things you love to experience, talk about, think about and do. Don’t think so much about the end result, the goal, but on the process of getting there. If you would love to be a rock-star, think about whether you really love music enough to spend hours practising. It has been estimated that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become world class in something 4. Are you passionate about the process of becoming really great at what you love? Another question you can ask is “Does this make my heart sing?” Make sure that this is connected to your feelings. Passion is an emotion and you need to have your heart in your Calling as well your head.
  2. What would you like to change in the world?
    Life-Calling is a wish to offer something that is both meaningful to yourself and of value to the world beyond the self.
  3. What are you really good at?
    Life-Calling + talents + a business model = success in the world. We need to check that we are actually good at what we are passionate about. Anyone who has watched X Factor knows that some of the attraction is not only listening to possible future stars but also listening to people who have a passion, but no talent whatsoever. Write down a list of your strengths and then ask yourself “Why am I passionate about using these strengths?” The value and meaning you find in your strengths is likely to be your Life-Calling. One strengths test that is very much about values, and will therefore point in the direction of your Calling is the VIA Survey of Strengths.
  4. Combine your answers to articulate your Calling
    You might say “My life-Calling is to … for myself and others. My own Life-Calling is “To help people make the most of their lives, starting with myself”.
  5. Start talking to people about your Calling
    We are social animals, and one of the best ways to be creative is in conversation with others. Talk to friends and colleagues about Life-Calling, ask them what theirs is. Explore, experiment, think outside of the box.

Don’t worry if this doesn’t come easily. My view is that it is really helpful to have external support in discovering one’s Calling, whether this is one-to-one with a coach, or whether one is exploring in a group. External feedback really makes a difference. You can be engrossed in your own inner world, while a facilitator manages the process of getting to a result. For some people however, you already know your Calling well enough that just reading this article will bring it into sharper focus.

Deep down in every human heart
is a hidden longing, impulse, and ambition
to do something fine and enduring.”

Grenville Kleiser

Notes

  1. Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Yale University’s School of Management. Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C. R., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 21-33.

  2. Achor, S. (2010). The happiness advantage: The seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. New York: Broadway Books.

  3. P. L. Hill, N. A. Turiano. Purpose in Life as a Predictor of Mortality Across Adulthood. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797614531799 Psychological Science July 2014 vol. 25 no. 7 1482-1486

  4. Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success. New York: Little, Brown and Co

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