PurposeI have seen the power of purpose in action where a dying person stayed alive long enough to see a loved one or witness an event. But I’ve yet to hear of one case where a person lived longer because they didn’t want to die. It is not fear that motivates us; it is purpose.

Comedian George Burns for many years claimed he was booked to perform in the Palladian in London when he turned 100. Perhaps that had something to do with his living into his 100th year. Clarify your purpose, set goals that will lead you in that direction, work on those goals each week – and you have a greater chance of leading a long happy, fulfilled life.

Having a sense of purpose in life not only allows us to set goals compatible with our personal values, it also allows us to retain a positive self-image even if we don’t achieve them. Purpose addresses what we are as opposed to what we do.

It is said that the chemicals in our body, on today’s market, would probably amount to about $3.00. Thinking in these terms, we’re not worth much. But based on the number of atoms within each person, the human body could generate enough atomic energy to be valued at $85 billion!

Skip Ross, in his book, Say Yes to Your Potential, asks this question: “Just what are you really worth, not in dollars, but in personal power?” He feels we are all geniuses, created by God and equipped with certain talents and individuality. But most of these abilities lie untapped.

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying the average person uses 2 percent of his intellectual capacity. Using more of our potential, and directing our skills and talents towards a worthy purpose, would not only make an impact on the world, but would do wonders for our self-esteem.

You could fail to achieve a goal; but it’s difficult to fail a purpose. A purpose is a reason for living. As Robert Ringer, author of several books, including Winning through intimidation and Looking out for #1 feels that man’s real purpose is not to achieve goals, but to constantly strive towards them. He provides another benefit of having a purpose in life when he quotes Victor Frankl: “If there is a reason for happiness, happiness ensues. It is a side effect of having a purpose, a meaning to life.”

“A life purpose encompasses all of your goals,” claims writer and seminar leader Sybil Stanton.” And since it’s your purpose that determines your goals, you don’t fall apart when your goals do.”

This makes sense. But where does the purpose come from? How do we develop a purpose in life? Stanton, in her book, The 25-hour woman , suggests you think of a scenario like this. You are celebrating your 80th birthday when you are approached by a publisher who wants to print your autobiography. Right away he needs a title for your life story. What will you suggest? “Naming your autobiography is a start to nailing down your purpose. The title you ascribe to your life has something to say about what you count most important and, therefore, what you are living for.”

Your purpose may be condensed into a brief sentence or take up a whole paragraph; but it will express your aim in life. It could be as simple as the one developed by a psychiatric nurse in one of Sybil Stanton’s seminars: “Learning to love and express love in all aspects of my life.”

Goals can be thwarted by a sudden change in your employment, health, or family situation; but your purpose remains constant. To quote Stanton, “Imagine yourself luxuriating in an exquisite estate, surrounded by a loving family and a host of servants. Then think of living in a refugee camp, subject to squalor and starvation. If you can realize your purpose in both places, you have something worth living for.”

Activities should be derived from your purpose, not the reverse. And yet many people, convinced that happiness and fulfillment depend upon setting and achieving goals within the work environment, become so engrossed in their profession that work becomes their reason for living. Their status, friendships, self-esteem and identity are all connected with their position at work. When that connection is severed their life collapses.

Ironically, the things that most people count as important in their lives are not the things they are remembered for –if they are remembered at all. Bob Shank, author of Total Life Management uses an interesting exercise in his seminars. He asks people to jot down the names of the greatest people in history (e.g., Joan of Arc Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein), then to note the one thing that distinguishes them as great. Seldom do these things relate to their material possessions, incomes, hobbies, travels or recreational preferences. Most of them had a single-minded purpose to which they dedicated their lives.

To quote Shank, “The great men and women of history were not great because of what they owned or earned, but rather for what they gave their lives to accomplish.”