Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.
I would have thought it was self evident that a sense of purpose would prolong your life. On the other hand, death seems pretty arbitrary—so perhaps not. Certainly, I can think of a number of driven people who have died before their time. In short, self evident is an opinion. It isn’t evidence—and I will confess a weakness for evidence.
Recent research by Patrick Hill, an assistant professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and his colleague Nicholas Turiano of the University of Rochester Medical Center have come up with data which suggests that people with a sense of purpose have a 15 percent lower risk of death than their peers—and it doesn’t seem to matter when people find their direction. It can be in your 20s, 50s, or 70s.
Hill says he isn’t clear why a sense of purpose tends to keep you above ground a little longer. He comments that purposeful individuals may lead healthier lives—or perhaps a sense of purpose protects against the harmful effects of stress.
I give thanks every day that I changed career direction and opted to become a writer—but I have to say it is scarcely a stress free occupation. Apart from the creative challenges, book writing is akin to tightrope walking in a high wind financially—and then there is the issue of social disapproval to deal with. A surprising number of people don’t regard book writing as a proper job. After all, it doesn’t provide a regular paycheck. Accordingly, I appreciate all the stress protection I can get.
Still. whatever about the stress of being a writer, the truth is that I rarely feel stressed while actually writing no matter how difficult the project. On the contrary, while actually writing, I spend most of the time in the zone—which is about as stress free as it gets (and pretty damn wonderful). In fact, it’s much better than anything I used to imagine.
It’s not like the transient thrill you get when you win a prize or watch a good movie. It’s a continuous pleasure which you get to experience pretty much all day every day.
In the past, I have described writing as living with failure—because you never write quite as well as you want (or, if you do, you raise the bar).
Well, the other side of the coin is that is that it appears that in terms of sheer satisfaction, certain types of failure may be seriously under-rated.
It is something I feel exceedingly fortunate to have found out.