Live with Purpose

January 3, 2017, 10:23 am | Kristi Cooper, Laura Sternweis

AMES, Iowa -- Being physically fit, eating nutritious foods and getting enough rest are important, but not enough to make people truly satisfied with life. Purpose is the number one factor in living a fulfilled life, says Kristi Cooper, human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Volunteers Serving“Living a purposeful life means being intentional about living out our unique purpose through our social, financial and community connections,” said Cooper, who specializes in family life issues.

According to Gallup research by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, the five essential elements of wellbeing are a sense of purpose, a positive social network, financial stability and security, physical health and a reservoir of community resources and connections. Richard Leider with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, states that purpose is a combination of a person’s gifts, passions and values.

“You can express your sense of purpose through a job or career, or through volunteer roles within a community. When we use our natural talents and skills – the things we are good at and love to do – then we bring the gift of joy and happiness to others as well as ourselves," Cooper said. "Our passions guide our goals and reveal where we direct our energy. Our values are the underlying driving force about what really matters to us."

People who live with a sense of purpose live longer, have a higher quality of life and are better able to adapt to challenges they face in life.

“Ask your friends and family to name something you are good at. How would they describe you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Is there an activity or role in which you lose all sense of time? That makes you feel rejuvenated or ‘in the flow’ when you do it? These are clues to finding your gifts, passions and values,” Cooper said.

“Our purpose is unique to each of us. When you discover those threads, notice how they influence your attitude and sense of accomplishment in your daily life,” Cooper said.

Cooper offers the following tips for living with purpose.

  • Be intentional about doing things that allow you to express your gifts, passions and values.
  • Build energizing activities into your daily routine. That could include spending time with others who share similar passions or offering your gifts to others for whom that task is difficult.
  • Invest time, money and other resources on those things that fulfill your purpose and also fill a need in the larger community.

Having a sense of purpose is closely related to social wellbeing. ISU Extension and Outreach will offer “What About Me? My Wellbeing,” an educational workshop series in 2017. Human sciences specialists also offer healthy relationship education classes to professionals and individuals. For more information about living a fulfilled life through healthy relationships, visit the Human Sciences Extension and Outreach website,

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