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Mindful : February 2019
CULTIVATE AWE + GRATITUDE Feeling connected to some- thing larger than ourselves can also kindle a sense of purpose. As Dacher Keltner at the University of Califor- nia, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center has shown, awe can provide the emo- tional foundation where a sense of purpose flourishes. Of course, it’s not enough to just feel like you’re a small part of something big; you also need to feel driven to make a positive impact on the world. And that’s where gratitude comes in. Research finds that people who count their blessings are much more likely to try to contribute to the world beyond themselves. And it’s reciprocal. People who engage in more altruistic behaviors, like volunteer- ing or donating money, tend to have a greater sense of purpose in their lives. “It may seem counter- intuitive to foster purpose by cultivating a grateful mind-set, but it works,” says psychologist Kendall Bronk. Where in your life do you experience wonder and awe? What do you feel truly grate- ful for? How might you pay it forward? TELL YOUR STORY Purpose often arises from curiosity about the nar- rative arc of your own life story. One study found that those who see meaning and purpose in their lives are able to tell a story of change and growth. In other words, narrative can help us to see our own strengths and how applying them can make a difference in the world. PARTING THOUGHT THE DIFFERENCE YOU MAKE Sometimes you can discover a greater sense of purpose simply by paying attention to what people thank you for. You already make a difference in someone’s life. Might you expand your reach? “ We all have the ability to make a narrative out of our own lives,” says Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning. “It gives us clarity on our own lives, how to under- stand ourselves, and gives us a framework that goes beyond the day-to-day and basically helps us make sense of our experiences.” By writing her memoir Refocusing My Family: Com- ing Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God, Amber Cantorna took her own struggle—and strengths—and used them as a tool to help others fac- ing the same kind of pain and rejection from their faith community. “My sense of purpose has grown a lot with my desire to share my story—and the realization that so many other people have shared my journey,” she said. What obstacles have you encountered? What strengths helped you to overcome them? How did other people help you? How can you use this knowledge to make life better for others? ● 22 mindful February 2019 how to