Living With Purpose Is The Secret To A Long and Healthy Life

June 8th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

I met Oleg a few years back while I was working as an FBI undercover agent. Oleg was a Russian spy sent to the U.S. to steal proprietary technology. My job was to find the answer to two questions: 1) what specific technology was he trying to steal, and 2) could I turn him a double agent?

Inspiration - river canoe

I wasn’t sure how to go about pursuing these questions at first, but Oleg provided one of the answers soon after I met him.

I made arrangements to attend a seminar that I knew he would be attending. The seat next to Oleg was empty, so I wasted no time in gently shoving a gentleman out of the way so I could get there before anyone else.

As Oleg and I chatted, one thing became obvious: he was bored with his job. It wasn’t that Oleg couldn’t talk about certain aspects of his overt job (not the spy part),  it was that he didn’t want to talk about them. He couldn’t drum up enough enthusiasm about it to even keep up a good conversation. His lack of engagement in what he was doing was a clue that he was not doing something he felt passionate about.

Turns out Oleg isn’t the only one who is dissatisfied with his career.

A recent Harvard Business School survey indicates that we have a 23-year low in job satisfaction and 84% of Americans say they want a new job.

Most of us are passive spectators in our life. We plan careers, retirement nest eggs, and vacations, but we do not plan our life. 

Mentally tough people live their life with purpose and meaning. They are an active participant in where their life is going.

Here is the real clincher—having a sense of purpose may add years to your life. Recent research has concluded that purposefulness is a strong predictor of longevity. In the past, behavioral scientists have understood that having a positive outlook and strong relationships contributed to living a longer and healthier life. 

New studies, however, suggest that purpose itself is what drives longevity.

Finding a direction for life and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you live longer. Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We may think we know what our goals are, but if we aren’t living our life around them, then we’re not living our life on purpose.

Over 80% of Americans do not have goals; 16% say they do have goals but don’t write them down. Less than 4% actually write them down. 

Research has shown that people who regularly write down their goals not only life longer and healthier lives, they also earn as much as nine times more than their counterparts who do not write down goals.

Start living a longer and healthier life by thinking about your own experiences and the things that are important to you.

Here are some simple ways to dig down and find your purpose:


  • Start a log.
  • Jot down activities, people, circumstances, and experiences from your day.
  • Notice when and how your attitude changes.
  • Look for patterns.


  • Make a list of what you’d do if money weren’t an issue
  • Remember what brought you joy as a child
  • Enjoy those memories for a few moments
  • Reflect on what brings a smile to your face today


  • Pinpoint your attitudes and habits of behavior.
  • Acknowledge your fears.
  • Accept your strengths.
  • Identify your desires.

As the psalmist says, “Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life.”

What is standing in your way of finding your purpose? How can being authentic help you be a better leader? 

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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11 Responses to “Living With Purpose Is The Secret To A Long and Healthy Life”

  1. Nick Heap says:

    It’s useful to hear that having a purpose is so useful and life enhancing. You and your readers may be interested in two tools that can help people find theirs. The first is a “Life Goals Map”. You simply list your goals in a grid. Across the page you go from “now” to “always” and down the page from “My goals for me” to My goals for the Universe. It’s very powerful. My favourite goal is for “Human Beings” and “Always” “For all Human Beings to be proud of being human”! You can see more and download a blank grid here

    The other tool is “core process”. You look at the most satisfying times in your life and discover your unique talent and purpose in just two words. It’s all public domain, details here

  2. Wow LaRae, it was amazing to me the percentage of people that do not have goals! We need to change that! You have offered some great suggestions in getting people a little kick they need to get moving. Life is about enjoying it not just enduring it. Thanks for always writing great material.

  3. Alli Polin says:

    Those are crazy statistics, LaRae! Shocking that 84% want a new job and 80% do not have goals. I wonder how the 84% is going to prioritize finding something that feeds their purpose and passion without making it a goal. Opportunities rarely fall into our laps but we can create possibilities that are meaningful and aligned when we work towards them with focus and intention. Love your lessons on mental toughness always insightful!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Alli, I agree the stats are shocking.

      I believe that many folks DO believe opportunities will fall into their laps…too often their only response when they opportunities do not pan out is to blame others, instead taking the blame themselves.

      Success is a choice, not an entitlement….

  4. I really enjoyed your post, LaRae.

    One thing I have noticed is how my sense of purpose has changed over the years.

    With each passing decade, I’ve gone through a specific transition that redefined what was most important to me at the time.

    Today, as I dream about the next stage of my life, stepping away from what I am doing right now and playing golf, fishing seven days a week, or even traveling more is not how I would define a purposeful retirement. Sharing wisdom of what I have learned and making a positive impact on others, however, is front and center in my thoughts. You offered some great exercises to help clarify that process better.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Bill, my vision and passions have changed over the years as well.

      Good for you to have noticed! Too often, people 1) don’t seek out their vision, or 2) don’t revisit it after a few years to see if there is clarity or shifting of priorities. Thank goodness I’ve changed (grown) over the years. As I’ve matured, so have my dreams 🙂

  5. Living or working without purpose is so challenging and oftentimes debilitating. We all need to feel that our journey is moving in a meaningful direction, and one that reflects our values and core beliefs.

    I love the idea of keeping a journal indicating how we feel about the different activities in our life. After a period of time it should be obvious where we get our energy and strength from.

    Great article LaRae!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Journaling is an excellent way to track mental progress as we move through life; it’s also a great way to get both the emotional and thinking brains talking to one another so that one doesn’t over-ride the other.

      Thanks for stopping by, Terri!

  6. Karin Hurt says:

    Great post. It’s also so important to realize that you have more options than you may think. I often see people who are deeply disatisfied but figure at this “stage of the game” they must keep going in the same direction. Now I must saying moving from a Russian spy to an America spy is pretty extreme, most changes don’t involve such a clear switching of teams and alliances 😉

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Great point, Karin!

      People do have more options than they give themselves credit for. Even Oleg had more to offer than he saw for himself…he had boxed himself into a way of life that was deeply unfulfilling for him. When offered the chance to 1) use his skills 2) in a different way, he jumped at the chance.

      No one wants to feel boxed in by life, no matter their profession…

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