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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Having a Purpose of Life

     Including my own comments two research sources are used during this blog entry.[i]  I am now approaching both my 72nd birthday in October and my retirement date, which will be at the end of August.  
         Over the past several years my wife, who is ten years younger than I am, has had to struggle with a slowly recovering broken leg. Her leg is vulnerable to stressors as are other parts of her body. She frequently spends 4 or 5 hours standing on a cement floor painting in the art gallery at Kwantlen. Sometimes she takes Advil to reduce her pain.  She is not in constant pain; it comes a goes.
         Herdberg et al, using the Purpose in Life Scale (PIL) reported that:  “…it is not surprising that musculoskeletal symptoms, including back pain, difficulty in walking, pain in the legs and joint pain, were significantly associated with purpose in life for women.”
         It is important to keep in mind that the men and women investigated in the study were all 85+ years old.  If I live that long I don’t know what kinds of losses and gains I will have experienced. When I think about what’s happened lately in the Middle East and Japan I get somewhat worried.
         The PIL has 20 items that can be used to evaluate our sense of well-being.  I will respond to the ones that I think are currently important to me and also put the entire list at the bottom of the blog. If you want you can ask yourself the relevant questions.

1.  Usual level of boredom versus excitement.  I think the last time I was really bored was when I had to wait at the airport for five hours before my plane took off. After waiting about three hours, I found a bookstore, purchased a book and read the rest of the time. I am never bored when I’m reading.

2. Clarity of goals in life.  Over the last five or six years I have slowly begun preparing for retirement.  I have also helped my wife create the Intergenerational Centre for Action Learning ( and Community Building for Research and Action ( In addition, along with the creation of this blog, I have been preparing several workshops including, Retirement, Wisdom, & Memory.  I would say my goals in being socially active are quite clear.

 3.  I think I have a meaningful and purposeful Iife.  From my early childhood I have achieved success by helping others. I intend to continue doing that as long as I can.

Purpose in Life Scale

1. Usual level of boredom versus excitement

2. Whether life seems exciting versus routine

3. Clarity of goals in life

4. Sense of meaning and purpose in life

5. Whether each day seems new or the same

6. Satisfaction with this life

8. Progress toward life goals

9. Happiness versus despair about life

10. Worthwhileness of life lived so far

11. Sense of a reason for existing

12. Sense of meaningful place in the world

13. Whether a responsible person

16. Whether ever contemplated suicide

17. Ability to find meaning and purpose in life

18. Sense of personal control over life

19. Pleasure in daily tasks

20. Purpose and meaning in life found so far

[i] Marsh, A., Smith, L.,Piek,J.& Saunders, B. (2003). The Purpose In Life Scale:                      Psychometric Properties For Social Drinkers And Drinkers In Alcohol Treatment.   Educational and Psychological Measurement, Vol. 63(5) 5, 851-879

ii Hedberg, P., Gustafson, Y., Brulin, C. (2010). Purpose: In Life Among Men and Women Aged 85 Years and Older. INTL. J. AGING AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, Vol. 70(3)  213-229

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