Barbara De Angelis
“In every difficult situation is potential value. Believe this, then begin looking for it.”
Norman Vincent Peale
“The secret of success is constancy to purpose.”
A strong purpose in life can help you increase happiness, overcome obstacles, and live to be 100.
Nazis stormed into Stanislavsky Lech’s home, arrested him and his entire family, and sent them to a death camp in Krakow. Soon after, Lech’s family was shot before his eyes and his son was murdered in a gas chamber. Somehow, Lech continued living. He was forced to work as a laborer clearing dead bodies from the camp. Soon after his imprisonment, Lech looked at the horror around him and decided that he must escape.
Escaping from the death camp became Lech’s sole purpose in life, his obsession. Every thought, every step, every action revolved around answering the question, “How can I escape?” You might think that everyone stuck in this nightmare would share Lech’s obsession to escape, but most prisoners seemed to have lost their purpose of living. For weeks Lech asked the other prisoners, “How can we escape this horrible place?” The answers he received were always the same: “Don’t be a fool, there is no escape.” or “Don’t torture yourself, just work hard and pray you survive.” But Lech wouldn’t accept it. One day, while being forced to clean the gas chambers, he saw a huge pile of bodies that had been shoveled into the back of a truck. Instead of asking, “How could the Nazis be so evil? How could God allow this? Why me?,” Lech asked, “How can I use this to fulfill my purpose?”
As the end of the day neared and the work party headed back into the barracks, Lech ducked behind the truck, ripped off his clothes, and dove naked into the pile of bodies. He remained completely still and pretended to be dead even as he was crushed by more and more bodies heaped on top of him. He was surrounded by the smell of rotting flesh and the rigid remains of other dead prisoners. After several torturous hours of waiting, Lech heard the truck’s engine starting. Soon, the truck stopped and dumped its cargo into a giant open grave outside the camp. Lech remained there for many more hours until nightfall. Then, when he was sure no one was there, he climbed out of the mountain of dead bodies and ran naked 25 miles to freedom.
The above story is from the book, Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins and it articulates an important point: finding your purpose in life is the most important thing you will ever do. A strong purpose saved Stanislavsky Lech’s life. That purpose, the burning desire to escape, is the one thing that separated him from the other prisoners that shared his same circumstances. Whether you find yourself held captive by your circumstances, your relationships, or your emotions, you can quickly take back control by harnessing the power of purposeful living.
Living To 100+ With Purpose
A strong purpose of living is a powerful tool that can not only help you overcome adversity, it can also help you increase happiness and live longer. In Blue Zones, Dan Buettner describes regions of the world where people commonly live active lives past the age of 100 years. Buettner discusses a particular Blue Zone located on the northern part of the main island of Okinawa. He calls this place ground zero for world longevity because people in this zone have the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. These Okinawans live about seven good years longer than the average American. They also have one fifth the rate of colon and breast cancer, and one sixth the rate of cardiovascular disease. An interesting fact about the Okinawan language is that there’s no word for “retirement”. Instead, there is one word that the Okinawans live their entire life by: “ikigai.” Roughly translated, this word means “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.” Whether its teaching karate at 102 or learning to fish at 104, the Okinawans maintain a very strong sense of purpose for their lives. Buettner believes that this intimate relationship with their purpose of living is why Okinawans often live to be over 100.
Your purpose in life if your direction towards a goal and your means of achieving your goal. In my previous post, I discussed how I was stuck in Graduate school a year longer than I wanted to be. The one thing that helped me persevere through this difficult period was expanding my purpose in life. First, I strengthened my original purpose, which drove me to work around, over, and through obstacles between me and my degree. Second, I added to my original purpose by asking myself new questions. Instead of only asking “How can I graduate?,” I started asking “How can I graduate?” AND “How can I enjoy life and generate influence while waiting to graduate?” The answer to the second question came in the form of creating and contributing to this blog. A year later, by the time I was given permission to Graduate, I had built a website in line with my overall purpose of living.
In my next post, I’ll discuss how the difference between a high quality purpose of living and a low quality purpose of living. I will also give an overview of how you can identify and focus on your purpose in life.