Living life on your own terms isn’t just a quaint turn of phrase. It has huge effects on your health. A large body of research shows that the less control you think you have over your life, the higher your mortality risk. That persists even when you control for other health variables and biomarkers. It’s even true for animals. Self-agency—or even the illusion of it—appears to be a requirement for healthy, happy aging.
And unlike some of the characteristics shared by centenarians, like good genes, control is malleable. You can’t change the structure of your DNA. You can, however, wrest control over your own life. Despite whatever challenges present themselves, you get to decide what purpose you contribute to each day.
Pay attention to that voice inside urging you onward. If something speaks to your soul, answer the call. Check it out. See where it leads. It’s usually guiding you to a good place, a place of clear and enriching purpose.
This is the crux of Stoic philosophy—living life on purpose. If we don’t know at the core what we want to cultivate in our lives, one thousand other agendas will freely rush in and take over the entire event. At the end of life we’ll see that we lived other people’s interests and demands instead of ours. It’s an own your days or your days will own you kind of thing….
The simple truth is where we invest our time is where we invest our lives. How much are you aligning yourself with your purpose each day—or are you putting that off while you continually “take care” of other pressing concerns? Without care, those pressing concerns become our lives, and we’ve abandoned our visions, not to mention our self-care.
What do you want your life to be about? Being a compassionate, present parent or caretaker? Being a devoted partner? Being a committed activist or artist or entrepreneur? Being an example of inner and outer health? Being a spiritual seeker? A socially conscious presence on the planet?
Maybe a better way to phrase it is this: what do you want your legacy to be? Legacy is the outcome of the purpose we embody throughout our lives. A pile of money is a collection rather than a creation. Raising a child who is healthy and well-adjusted is a creation. Applying your gifts to a company that serves a legitimate need in the world or championing a cause that enriches a community is a contribution if not a creation. Some people are happy with what they have, while other people are happy with who they are. The Stoics asked us to appreciate the difference.
Purpose, like health, can and should be the centerpiece of each day. Integrity of purpose begins today. Like health integrity, it obliges us to get real about our choices and whether or not they’re in alignment with that purpose. Each day the better guidance isn’t asking ourselves what we want but what kind of people we want to be.
Perhaps more than at any other time in human history we have the opportunity, the privilege really, of discerning our overarching pursuit – our main objective in life. What is it that we really want more than anything else? What would bring us the most peace, the deepest gratification, the most genuine fulfillment?
Knowing we had dedicated our lives to a central interest could offer us the most satisfaction and peace at the end of our days. That is our purpose—the interest and organizing principle we must live out and guard as we go through this life, which after all is only the succession of our daily choices. Choose purposefully today.
For More on Life Purpose:
7 Ways To Use Stoic Philosophy To Improve Your Health and Happiness
Does Life Purpose Enhance Longevity?
How To Move Through Life With an Edge