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The Secret of Real Happiness

By Dr. Alan Zimmerman

"Be crystal clear about what your purpose is, and then do it, do it, do it."
--Lois Quam, healthcare executive

You have a purpose. You really do. As author Christine Qunintasket put it, "Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission."

Unfortunately, a lot of people don't know their REAL purpose. And those people - who are devoid of purpose - have a lot of problems or cause a lot of problems.

Some of them mistakenly pursue the wrong things in life. They mistakenly pursue fame and fortune, thinking that's their purpose. But it doesn't work. As Hollywood actor Jim Carrey clarifies, "I believe everyone should become rich and successful so they can see that is not the answer." And other people who don't know their REAL purpose end up feeling empty or indifferent. And the indifferent rarely make a difference ... because they're takers instead of givers.

In fact, the Stella Awards were created for people who seem to have no purpose other than taking from others. And for those of you unfamiliar with the Stella Awards, they were named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald's in New Mexico where she purchased the coffee.

If you read the Stella Awards, you'll be dumbfounded. The fifth place award, for example, recently went to Terrence Dickson. As he was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned. Dickson wasn't able to open the garage door, and he couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house was locked.

Dickson was forced to subsist for 8 days on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food. It was the only food he could find in the garage. So he sued the homeowner's insurance company ... claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury agreed and ordered the insurance company to pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. I don't know who was more mindless, clueless, and purposeless ... Dickson or the jury.

By contrast, those who know their REAL purpose - who live their REAL purpose - find great benefits. As Dr. Beatrice Berry puts it, "When you walk with purpose you collide with destiny." You tend to get the best life has to offer.

For example, a 2005 study of 12,640 middle-aged Hungarians found that those who felt their lives had meaning had much lower rates of cancer and heart disease than those that didn't feel this way. And Dr. Harold G. Koenig, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center, says, "People who feel their life is part of a larger plan and are guided by their spiritual values have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, a lower risk of heart attack and cancer, and heal faster and live longer."

Another study by Dan Buettner has looked at the world's longest living people. He says that having a purpose or "having a reason to get out of bed" was a common trait among those people who lived past the age of 100.

Of course, if you're like a lot of people, you might say, "That all sounds well and good, but how do I discover my purpose?" To give you a brief answer here and now ... your purpose is found within the boundaries of two questions: "What are you good at?" and "What really stirs you?"

You may be good at working with people, yet care passionately about solitude. If you sell out to the first, the other will work against you. But as Bob Buford says in his "Halftime" book, "If you look deeply enough inside of you and are honest about combining your competence with your passion, you will find the mission that is best suited to you."

Please note that Buford talks about looking inside yourself to find your purpose. And one of the world's greatest psychiatrists, Carl Jung, affirms that. He said, "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your own heart. He who looks outside, dreams; he who looks within, awakes!"

Now I realize that may be a tough task for many of you. So let me give you a list of questions to help you look inside. The questions come from my work as well as the work of Dr. Bev Smallwood.

Look at that first question. "What are you good at?" You may be gifted with numbers, work well with children, or able to lead others. At any rate, take some time to reflect on the following questions that focus on what you're good at.

  • What do you do that gets a positive response from people you respect?
  • What do you do that - regardless of the difficulty - does not seem like work?
  • What do you do that causes doors to open with ease for you?
  • What are your dominant gifts, greatest talents, or best skills?

Now look at that second question. "What really excites you?" Again, take time to think and write out your answers.

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What desire will not release you?
  • What is motivating you in the times you are most productive?
  • What do you do that makes your heart and spirit feel good?
  • What would you do if money wasn't an issue?
  • What do you want to accomplish that would ignite not only your enthusiasm but also your endurance?
  • What infuriates you the most? (Your anger is a clue to a problem you want to solve.)
  • What do you love spending time on? (Your love is a clue to what you value.)
  • What grieves your heart?

Put another way, according to Frederick Buechner, your purpose or "Vocation is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

So I encourage you to find your purpose and live your purpose. Without it, you may never experience REAL happiness and REAL success. As technology entrepreneur Jack Jia puts it, "If you refuse to do something you believe in, your mind will never leave you alone."

Action:
Spend 30 minutes writing out your responses to the first set of questions above. And then a few days later, spend another 30 minutes writing out your answers to the second set of questions.

As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman has taught more than one million people in 48 states and 22 countries how to keep a positive attitude on and off the job. In his book, "PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success," Dr. Zimmerman outlines the exact steps you must take to get the results you want in any situation. Go to Alan's site for more information.

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