Baking is one of my favorite things to do. However, eating my baking is what gets me in trouble—I eat too much of it!
Therefore, my neighbors often inherit these goodies, and they love it. Of course, they are more than happy to indulge in my baking. I think I have finally perfected salted caramel-chocolate brownies. And I have to say, they are pretty darn good.
As I go for my walk to share my baked goodies, I get a chance to sit and talk with some of my neighbors. One, a man in his 80s who lost his wife to ALS, loves to share his stories. Recently, engaging in a heartfelt conversation on his marriage and his wife’s illness, we were both brought to tears. These tears were not from sadness.
What was beautiful was even till the last moments together, they started that day with a purpose and ended it with gratitude, even in the depths of her pain and their struggles.
No matter what our circumstances, we can still find a sense of purpose in our day.
I remember after a major surgery, one of my delights was just being able to walk to my mailbox. One day I remember having a large smile as I brought my face towards the sun, and saying to myself, “yes,” at the delight of accomplishing my purpose that way.
I believe if I had not started my day with that intent, maybe I would not have done this, or not even paid attention to the warmth of the sun on my face. It is amazing when you have been inside for two weeks how good that feels.
We all need purpose, small or large, work or personal. By having a sense of purpose, we have some focus while our world is often spinning around us, sometimes out of control.
Researchers found that a stronger sense of purpose leads to improved health, decreased mortality (Alimujiang, et al, 2019) and increased self-esteem. This would make sense when people retire and do not have a sense of purpose; it is not unusual for them to pass.
Purpose can be as small as getting the dishes done to finishing a chapter in a book, getting the car washed, or completing a deal with your boss. It truly does not matter what it is. The key is to start your day with feeling excited about your purpose, even if it is doing the dishes.
What we also know is that people who lack a sense of purpose are more likely to struggle with boredom, anxiety, depression, addiction, and a lack of hope. So, if your purpose is to do the dishes, you are beating the chances of having any of the above issues.
It is amazing how gratitude can change our brain and our sense of self. Victor Frankl’s book “A Man’s Search for Meaning” talks about even while being in a concentration camp, the men who had a sense of purpose and had some form of gratitude lived longer, felt better and were more likely to survive.
I remember reading articles on gratitude and how important it is, how it gives us a better sense of self, a much more positive attitude towards life, just by taking time every day for gratitude.
I tended to have some skepticism towards this idea. How can doing something so small make that sort of difference? Isn’t it just playing Pollyanna and pretending life is not difficult?
I admit—they are right. Taking time each day to be grateful, even when life is throwing punches at us in all directions, helps us keep our head above water. And on those days when life is great, it just makes it even better.
I only spend two minutes a day sitting in gratitude and it is amazing how my brain is constantly looking around all day at what to be grateful for. The birds seem to sing louder, the sun is brighter, people are kinder. Well it is not that these things are true, it is just that my brain is more focused all day on what is wonderful in my life and allows me to work through the challenges with less stress or concern.
Thank you to my neighbor for reminding me how important having a purpose and gratitude is in my life, and hopefully also in yours.
As British philosopher Thomas Carlyle once wrote, “The person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.”
And as to gratitude, author Melody Beattie wrote that “gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”