Harvard colleagues agree people can find happiness through purpose

In an article appearing at FiftyPlusAdvocate.com, two colleagues who worked together at Harvard Medical School agreed people over 50 can enjoy both happiness and purpose.

Quoting Mark Twain, who said, “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why,” Dr. Sanjiv Chopra and Gina Vild said it’s very important to maintain a sense of purpose throughout life.

“We often talked about happiness and why some folks appeared more prone to being happy despite experiencing life’s turbulent waters,” Sangiv explained.

That discussion led the duo to join forces to write a book titled, “The Two Most Important Days: How to Find Your Purpose and Live a Happier, Healthier Life.” Rather than focus on how to be happy in life, they opted to show people the role purpose played in achieving happiness.

“We saw there was a gap in the literature, and that we could offer fresh and valuable advice on how one could be happier,” Gina said. “There were certainly a variety of books that identified the problem, but few that offered that magic sauce of both practical and inspirational advice on how one could boost their happiness quotient.”

Finding purpose leads to happiness and other benefits, too, they explained.

“Those who identify as being happy enjoy more satisfying relationships, have better cardiac health, sleep better, and research is even showing happiness may lead to greater longevity,” Sanjiv added.

The authors distilled their findings to focus on what they call the four tenets of happiness:

  • Friends
  • Forgiveness
  • Serving others
  • Living with gratitude

All four of those elements make sense to me. Who among us can be happy when focused solely on themselves? Few people, I imagine.

Just going out to dinner with a friend is infinitely better than eating alone meal after meal. Getting together to play games or watch a movie at home creates a level of camaraderie that lifts spirits and creates a sense of happiness.

Forgiveness is important, too. I just went through this with a woman who has a very hard time forgiving her ex-husband. It is slowly eating away the joy in her life as she obsesses over things that took place nearly 20 years ago.

That’s a common tactic employed by our enemy, Satan, to keep us bound to anger and unforgiveness. I had to deal with that myself a few years ago when I felt unjustly treated by an organization for which I was volunteering my time.

Ultimately, God told me to pray for a blessing for those people who hurt me the most. That was hard! But, after a while, Satan got the message. As soon as he sought to remind me of the injustice, I turned to God and prayed a blessing over those involved.

Satan does not want us to turn to God for any reason. So, when repeatedly praying a blessing on someone who hurt you, trust me, Satan will stop bringing it up.

At Forward From 50, we always say that it’s impossible to have a genuine purpose for your life unless it involves serving others in some capacity. Doing that works to magnify happiness because you know you’re doing something important, and that makes you feel good.

Plus, the person or people you are serving are often grateful for your help and tell you so. That reinforces positive feelings for helping another. It’s a self-replicating cycle. Serving leads to happiness and a desire to serve even more.

If you’re struggling to think of a purpose for your life, simply volunteer your time somewhere. I assure you, that you will soon find something to become passionate about.

Living with gratitude doesn’t sound like it would lead to happiness, but I can see how it would.

When you are grateful for what you already have, it’s hard to be envious about things you don’t possess, or even to be jealous about people who have something better or different than you do.

So, the bottom line is simple. Do you want more happiness in your life? You’ll find it by pursuing a purpose that serves others.

The Two Most Important Days: How to Find Your Purpose – and Live a Happier, Healthier Life,” is available on Amazon and at other bookstores.

If you order Sanjiv and Gina’s book from the link above, Forward From 50 may earn a small commission at no extra charge to you.