Every day we seek out things that make us smile – but how often do we set aside time for the bigger picture? These dreamers turned their lightbulb moments into reality and found their true purpose along the way | Words by Lauren Sams
Perhaps you long to move to the country because you know you’re meant to be among nature. Maybe you want to write children’s books because you have an inkling you’d be good at making kids laugh. Or you have a day job but volunteer for charities that are important to you: you want to help, where you can, so you do.
The quest for greater meaning and drive is part of what researchers call “eudaemonic wellbeing”: a deep, long-lasting, sustainable form of happiness.
It’s different to “feel-good” happiness; the kind we experience when we sing our favorite song or eat ice-cream. And while happiness and purpose are often linked, the two aren’t always correlated in the ways we might imagine. Parents, for example, often report lives chock-a-block with meaning but low levels of happiness (anyone who’s ever nursed a sick baby or planned an intricately themed child’s birthday party will no doubt relate).
Purpose helps us make good decisions. It motivates us to improve and accept ourselves. It helps us to understand and appreciate life. Research has shown, too, that a sense of purpose has health benefits. In on recent study, teens in Canada were randomly assigned to volunteer weekly with younger students to help with homework, cooking or sport. Those who did so reported lower levels of inflammation, better cholesterol profiles and a lower body mass index than those in the control group, who were instead put on a waitlist. The subjects who reported the greatest increase in empathy and altruism scores greatest increase in empathy and altruism scores also had the largest reduction in cardiovascular risk. So doing good can help us feel better. While Some believe thesis because those with a greater sense of purpose are better at taking preventive health measures (such as Pap smears and vaccinations), either way, it’s not to be scoffed at.
Michele Chevalley hedge remembers the exact moment her life changed forever. The Sydneysider-by-way-of-New-York was sitting next to her brother Greg, a firefighter, in a New York hospital in 2013. A doctor was delivering the worst news of their lives: Greg was dying, and fast.
“My entire life shifted after that,” says Michele. “You can’t hear those words and stay the same person.” To Michele, Greg was invincible. A healthy, strapping six-foot-something 43-year-old father-of-two who’d saved lives during 9/11 – it was near impossible to think he could be felled by anything. But like many first responders who were exposed to World Trade Center debris – a deadly combination of pulverized concrete, glass, lead, mercury and asbestos – Greg was diagnosed with cancer in the years after the attacks.
Michele, a nutritionist, tried everything she could to save Greg but, tragically, his fate was sealed. “I made him green smoothies, I bought all sorts of supplements,” she says. “But Greg just looked at me like, ‘Really? I’m dying, Chel. Let me eat a burger.” It was this attitude and Greg’s death that led Michele to a new purpose: educating her clients that nutrition doesn’t have to be burdensome or extreme. And when that happened, a whole new world of clients and a side of her business opened up (as well as a more relaxed approach to her own lifestyle).
This is an edited extract from Jones Magazine, Winter 2019 Edition | The Meaning Of Life, page 77