There is a great deal of talk lately about living a meaningful life and finding our purpose. While the concept is pretty simple, it can be quite confusing. What is our purpose? How do we find it? Many feel they have found their purpose in their families, jobs, or through volunteerism or activism. Some may feel even with family, a great career, and outside activities they are still lacking. Where is our purpose? That is the greater question. Is it outside ourselves, or does it reside within our own untapped stores of talents and desires. Is it right in front of us, or is it on a mountaintop in Tibet?
The Brain, Heart Connection
Recent research shows that people who follow a purpose, who have meaning in their lives tend to have healthier brains and hearts. We often associate emotions, courage, and motivation with the heart, rather than the brain which is of course the accurate source. Science has not quite pinpointed a particular region of the brain responsible for emotion and emotional responses, but rather several structures working together,  indicating that there may be more of a connection between the brain and the heart than simply one controlling the functioning of the other.
According to the American Heart Association, individuals who fully experience life, living with meaning and purpose are more likely to stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Recent research findings are consistent with Erik Erickson’s theory on aging and despair; when a person reaches retirement age and their children are grown with lives and families of their own, they begin to question their purpose and even their value. None of this is to say that we should suddenly discover our purpose in our older years to counteract Alzheimer’s; learning to live a meaningful life is something that should be taught from childhood. Instead, we are most often set on the path toward fulfilling goals for success and survival and not for personal meaning.
The Purpose Within
We may not be the discoverers of the next medical breakthrough or techno-wonder. But, if we look around ourselves, it is possible to find meaning in everyday people, things, and experiences. It might just be that our purpose is simply to be the best person we can be in each moment we live. Try an experiment. For the next ten days perform simple acts available to us all that have meaning. Take a moment to smile at a stranger, a real smile involving the eyes. Stop and help an older person with a task. Take note of nature, stop for just a few moments each day, and absorb the sights and the sounds. We often fail to recognize and rejoice in our connection to the natural world around us. By simply taking stock of our surroundings, of truly experiencing our place within our immediate environments, we might find our purpose resides solely within who we are, and how we live each moment, each day.
To learn more about finding your purpose, to finding your path towards a meaningful life, visit Think Big Therapy; our purpose is to help you discover your purpose.
 “Brain Health,” www.heart.org, accessed September 16, 2018, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/brain-health.
 “What Part of the Brain Controls Emotions? Fear, Happiness, Anger, Love,” accessed September 16, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/what-part-of-the-brain-controls-emotions.
 “Having a Purpose in Life May Improve Health of Aging Brain | American Heart Association,” accessed September 16, 2018, https://newsroom.heart.org/news/having-a-purpose-in-life-may-improve-health-of-aging-brain.
 “How Purpose Impacts Your Brain,” Alzheimers.Net (blog), January 25, 2016, https://www.alzheimers.net/1-25-16-how-purpose-impacts-your-brain/.
 Kendra Cherry, “Integrity vs. Despair: A Stage of Psychosocial Development,” Verywell Mind, accessed September 16, 2018, https://www.verywellmind.com/integrity-versus-despair-2795738.