Experts: Interviews

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An Interview with Richard Leider

You focus on helping people live their life "on purpose." Can you explain this?
Purpose. A hard word to define perhaps and yet, we're born with it. It may not have a name or a face. We may not see it as purpose. But it is there. So, what is it? Purpose is the lifelong quest to be connected with something larger than our own life. It is an answer to the big question, "For the sake of what?" For the sake of what am I living, working, existing on this planet at this time? On a very practical day-to-day basis, purpose is grounded in the question, "What makes me want to get out of bed in the morning?" "Living on purpose" means being able to answer that question and it means embodying the answer in our day-to-day choices and actions.

How is this better than just going with the flow?
Purpose dramatically affects vitality and aging! Science is beginning to validate what many people have known intuitively all along: when it comes to the transitions and challenges of life, purpose is essential. Purpose is what gives us the will to live. Without purpose we die. With purpose we live with meaning and dignity. It is the one thing that cannot be taken away from us. Think about the will to live that empowers terminally ill people to extend their lives beyond expectation. More and more studies are indicating that when we believe in something larger than ourselves, "have a reason to get up in the morning," we strengthen our ability to cope with stress, transitions and tragedy in our lives.

What are some ways to determine one's purpose?
Historically, healers understood the link between purpose and well-being. Healing and purpose were inextricably linked. In many cultures, priests and shamans were the gateways to purpose and they enlisted the power of people's purpose to restore their wholeness. To help determine your purpose, simply ask yourself, "What makes me want to get out of bed in the morning?" or "What am I doing during the best part of my day?" Today, people continue to seek gateways to purpose and well-being through prayer, ritual, gratitude, forgiveness, art, music, nature, social connectedness and acts of generosity. All of these factors give us reasons to get up in the morning; and, all give us a larger framework for our lives.

Is there general purpose-related advice that you would give to everyone, regardless of specific situation?
Purpose is what makes us human. Nothing gives vitality and meaning to life like a worthy purpose. Self-absorption causes "inner kill,"  the art of dying without knowing it. The antidote for self-absorption is having a reason to get up in the morning larger than our own lives.

Are there day-to-day activities that can help us live our lives on purpose?
I've spent my work life writing about this. So, here's one simple practice that sums it up. Find fulfillment in serving others. Give your time, talents and treasures away. Give your stuff away. Give your gifts (talents) away. Be a mentor. Before you pass on, pass on your legacy to the world around you. Your legacy is your message to the future. It can be a thing, a story, an act of love, a display of courage. Ask daily, "What will be my act of legacy today?"

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