According to Psychology Today, back in 2008 Toshimasa Sone and colleagues at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine concluded a seven-year longitudinal study of 43,000+ Japanese adults. "The researchers found that individuals who believed that their life was worth living were less likely to die than were their counterparts without this belief."
The Japanese word for this sense of purpose is ikigai. It means believing that your life is worth living. Google the word, and you're likely to find an image that looks like this:
Here's how Psychology Today summarized the researchers' results. "95% of respondents who reported a sense of meaning in their lives were alive seven years after the initial survey versus about 83% of those who reported no sense of meaning in their lives."
Now imagine that you are one of those fortunate professionals who believe that your abilities are not fixed. That is, with effort, you can grow your abilities. Here's my picture of what that means:
The yellow represents the growth in your "What You Do Well" circle. Through persistent effort, it gets bigger. As it gets bigger, the potential overlap increases between your best abilities and the other three circles.
To put this simply, you get more ikigai.
Can I prove that doing this will extend your life?
But would I take that bet?
Here's the deal. You can't control whether a volcano will erupt in your backyard, or whether your boss will suddenly decide to hire his daughter and fire you.
But you can control the amount of effort you invest in expanding your skills, growing your experience, and opening your mind. All of these are likely to deepen your appreciation of your life and the role you play in our world.
May you enjoy more ikigai with each passing year.
Photo credit: chibitom/Flickr