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How Purpose, Optimism, Values, and Beliefs Work Together

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We can have all the goals and plans we want and work hard to achieve them. But without purpose, all that would be meaningless.

Purposiveness can be defined as “finding meaning in life.”

Without a sense of purpose and meaning, we might accomplish things, but they would feel insignificant.

Victor Frankl wrote that our search for meaning “is the primary motivation in life.” (from Man’s Search for Meaning)

Martin Seligman wrote, “Optimism and hope cause better resistance to depression when bad events strike, better performance at work, particularly in challenging jobs, and better physical health.” (from Authentic Happiness)

Optimism doesn’t just happen – it is learned.

The science of psychoneuroimmunology teaches us there is an interaction between the brain, endocrine system, and immune system and to this degree belief becomes biology.

Optimism is a biological phenomenon that creates a definite physiological response within an individual. It reduces anxiety and stress and its accompanying physical symptoms. Other studies reveal that when optimism was used as a primary coping strategy, people were less anxious and had fewer physical symptoms.

—Witmer & Rich, 1983

How do we develop the skills of optimism and purpose for our lives?

In studies by Maslow, we learn that having a definite philosophy of life and religion are as important as sunlight, calcium or love.

We can have the most beautiful and desired of homes, but without a meaningful purpose, we remain unhappy, constantly searching for that next thing.

We cannot live and survive without strong ethical and defined moral standards.

Valuelessness is the ultimate disease of our time. It leads to vague illnesses: apathy, alienation, hopelessness, and cynicism which lead to psychological, physical, and social illnesses.

Having a meaningful purpose in life helps us develop optimism.

Understanding the value of our beliefs enables us to develop a moral compass to guide our behavior. Morality guides behavior that maintains our well-being, along with giving respect and compassion to others.

Spirituality and optimism and a belief in God go hand-in-hand.

optimistic women

What do you believe and what do you value?

Beliefs form the foundation of our value system. Values are the personal worth we place on anything we deem important to us.

Sometimes we learn those values growing up, often by observing the role models in our life, such as parents, teachers, etc.

For some kids it is the movie and TV characters they see.

Other times it is a discovery as we go through tough times.

Our beliefs and values guide most of our behavior.

What do you value most in life?

Your kids, your marriage, your relationships? Perhaps it is your career or achieving success. Maybe you put a high value on your iPhone, iPad, or other electronics you have come to depend on?

We spend time with those things we value the most. If family is important, we will spend time with them. If our relationships are important, we will spend time with those we care about. If God is important, we will value the time we spend with Him and His Word.

The values we hold form a blueprint or guideline for the choices and decisions we make. They affect our choice of occupations, marriage partners, family and social interactions, political and religious activities, and future plans. Are values are more than just a set of rules and regulations.

When our beliefs and values and behaviors are incompatible or at odds with each other, we will experience conflict and stress.

If we are doing things that go against a deeply held belief or value, we will find ourselves in internal conflict. This creates a stress that will affect every aspect of our health: psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical.

Identifying our core beliefs and the value we place upon them is crucial to living a healthy life.

Moral values are based on right/wrong – good/evil. They form the basis for judgments or moral responsibility. They guide ethical behaviors such as telling the truth, keeping agreements and not injuring others, etc. They often contain words such as should, never, always.

Non-moral values are based on tastes, preferences, and styles. There is no sense of obligation or moral responsibility attached. It is preferred vs dictated. They express our attitudes towards all kinds of things.

Both beliefs and values are very powerful. We will die for them. We will kill others for them. We will give up comfort and safety for them. We need them.

Healthy values are life-enhancing, realistic, flexible, and owned. They allow us to meet our basic human needs.

Healthy values encourage us to live in the present while still learning from the past and making plans for the future. They encourage us to problem-solve based on current situations and expand our learning base.

Unhealthy values, on the other hand, are rigid, introjected, unrealistic, and life-restricting. They diminish self-esteem and create a life that holds little joy or pleasure. They form rules that discourage thinking, problem-solving and evaluation. The rules are laws that cannot be broken – you must and have to follow without question.

In a fast-paced world that gives us little time to think and evaluate, we often find ourselves at odds with what we believe is truly important. But the time spent stepping back and evaluating our beliefs and values can be critical for our lives and that of our children.

What are some of the beliefs and values that govern your life?

Why do you place a value on them? Why are these beliefs and values important for you and your children?

What beliefs and values do you want to live by?

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