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How a Sense of Purpose Can Impact Emotional Health

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What is your passion? What gives meaning to your everyday life? What are your aspirations? What gets you out of bed each day? What are your talents? Are you willing to share your gifts with the world? Bottom line: What is your purpose?

When you don’t have a purpose, life is simply something to tolerate. When you do have one, life becomes an adventure.

Fulfilling your purpose consumes each waking moment. If your purpose is positive and life-giving, you will experience a sense of synchronicity and Divine assistance. At times it may seem as though all of the stars are aligning to help you.

We all can agree that emotional health is as important as physical health. It nurtures the mind and spirt. How can purpose define emotional health and how are they connected? Let's start by understanding the definition of emotional health.

Definition of Emotional Health

The Mental Health Foundation defines emotional health as "A positive sense of wellbeing which enables an individual to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life; people in good mental health have the ability to recover effectively from illness, change or misfortune.’

Dr. Doris Jeanette defines emotional health as:

"Emotional health is defined by the degree to which you feel emotionally secure and relaxed in everyday life. An emotionally healthy person has a relaxed body, an open mind and an open heart.

The more emotional health you have, the more self-esteem you have. This means you do not frequently react with knee jerk responses, anxiety or panic to the events that occur in your life."

Emotional Health When Purpose Falls Away

Many find their purpose within the context of their current identity. People define themselves based on life roles such as being a parent, a business owner, a spouse, an artist, a teacher, and so forth.

But what happens when that role comes to an end? What happens when the children move away, the marriage dissolves, and the job ends? What comes next?

When people lose their purpose, emotional health generally suffers—they tend to become depressed, hopeless, and anxious. They feel an intense sense of loss, which takes place in predictable stages.

5 Stages of Grief and Loss

5-stages-of-grief-and-lossIn her seminal 1969 book On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described the 5 stages of grief and loss.

  1. Denial and Isolation

    At first, people tend to deny the reality of their loss. They’re felled by grief, so they hide behind denial and rationalize their overwhelming emotions.
  2. Anger

    The second defense is anger, which protects the mind from overwhelm. Anger allows the grieving person to avoid the painful feelings at the core of the issue. Anger can be self-directed, which leads to depression, or it can be directed at others in harsh and cruel ways.
  3. Bargaining

    As anger fades, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness begin to surface. The mind games begin: “If only I did this,” “If they did that,” “What if this or that?” or  “Oh please God, I promise this time I will change if you help … ”

    However, we cannot bargain or think our way out of an emotional issue. Emotional issues need to be dealt with through emotional tools, and bargaining is an intellectual tool.
  4. Depression

    In this stage, reality hits. Faced with the enormity of the loss, people descend into depression. Positive thoughts and exercises don’t help. When depression is the driving force for substance abuse, it's referred to as dual diagnosis. The person suffering seeks something...anything...to help numb the pain.
  5. Acceptance

    In the final stage, people accept what has happened and make a decision to move on with their lives. Once people arrive at acceptance, there is a tremendous opportunity for growth. This phase allows people to see and appreciate the blessings and opportunities that arose from their difficult time.

Purpose: Change Is The Only Constant

Some might say that the only person you can count on to stay the same is yourself … yet simply by virtue of being alive, human beings are constantly changing!

Every seven years, every single cell in the human body dies and is reborn. This process happens without our conscious control, but it’s up to us to do the work of change on the mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.

Holding onto the past will keep you stuck there.

By contrast, taking small incremental action steps today can lead you into a future of your own design. 

Purpose and Planning for the Future

When your prior purpose ends, you will feel a sense of loss. But at the end of the grief there is a wonderful opportunity. Now that you have a clean slate, what do you want to accomplish?

In the past, many of your obligations were dictated by your prior purpose. Maybe you needed to work to support your family, but now your children are grown and you’re free to retire if you wish. Since your circumstances have changed, it’s time to create a new purpose.

Ask yourself: What makes your life worth living? What brings you joy? What are your talents? What would you like to do next?

Since we are living longer and healthier lives, we have an opportunity to walk many different life paths. No longer must one work for the same company for 25 years or give up an entrepreneurial spirit.

Transitions afford you a chance to expand on what you want to experience in this life. Your past gave you a foundation to stand upon; now, you can build upon it by daring to dream about what you really want.

Purpose Exercise: What Do You Want?

Don’t overthink your answer, just respond. Let your inner self communicate.

What do you want?

It takes courage to ask for what you really want, but you can do it. List out what you want, allowing your thoughts to flow freely from idea to idea.

Once you’ve written down everything you can think of, read over the list and look for common themes.

Purpose Exercise: Living Vision

Imagine that you've already achieved your vision of what you want.

Write out your vision in the present tense, as if it were actually happening in this moment of time. We call this Co-Creation.

Where are you, and what is going on? Who is with you? Include all of your senses. What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling? Emotions will energize your Living Vision.

For example, you might write:

“I am so excited. I just got my dream job and I couldn’t be happier! I am very well compensated, I love what I’m doing, my contribution is valued, we are doing great work, I have my own office overlooking the ocean, and my coworkers are incredible. I feel so at ease here. My new secretary is bringing me some cookies. Oh my gosh, they smell delicious! Thank you so much …”

Purpose and The Power of Visualization

Take the time to immerse yourself in this scene. It may seem strange or self-indulgent at first, but visualizing the life you want is actually a key step toward living it out.

Top athletes take time to mentally run through their routines each day in order to prepare for competitions.

Why? Because they know that visualizing an ideal outcome is a powerful step towards making it real.

So today, take time to embrace a purpose of your own creation and imagine how you might live into it.

As you do, remember the wise words of Dr. Wayne Dyer: “Don’t die with your music still in you.”


Gregg Makuch

This post was written by Gregg Makuch

Gregg helps get the word out about The Clearing. When he’s not riding his bike and enjoying the beauty of the San Juan Islands, Gregg loves to cook and spend time with his family.

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