Remembering your purpose
Farmers have told us that one thing that has helped them cope better with the ups and downs of farming, is to remember why they got into farming in the first place and to think about the contribution they make to their wider community. Keeping the bigger picture of life in mind, and not just being caught up in the endless day-to-day tasks of farming, can be protection against burnout and loss of physical and mental health. Wellbeing expert Hugh Norriss explains how having a clear sense of your purpose helps on a day to day basis.
A sense of purpose is better for our mental and physical health
Having a sense of meaning and purpose in life has been shown in many scientific studies to be better for our mental and physical health and even help us live longer. However, these studies have also shown that having meaning and purpose doesn’t necessarily make us happy right now, but it does contribute to deeper long lasting feelings of satisfaction.
As we go through our changing life stages, it’s easy to lose sight of what our bigger picture goals are and long-term life plans. Farmstrong champion, Wendy Coup, realised just this and made adjustments to her life so she could explore her creative passions as well as continuing to farm and draw enjoyment from it. Wendy’s story can be found here.
There are some well-known historical examples of people with a strong connection to meaning and purpose that got them through extreme circumstances. Victor Frankel survived the Nazi concentration camps as he sought to look for the positives in human nature and went on to write the perennial best seller Mans Search for Meaning. Nelson Mandela endured 18 years in the harsh Robben Island prison to become one of the most respected leaders the world has known.
We don’t have to endure these high levels of hardship to find meaning and purpose in our life and our aspirations can be simple. The entrepreneur Richard Branson’s life’s statement is simply ‘to have fun in my journey through life and learn from my mistakes.’
Find out what gives you a sense of purpose
A lot of farmers have found meaning in contributing to programmes aimed at benefitting their own and wider community, such as Farmstrong. As Wendy Coup points out, it’s a risky approach to identify with your farming business as your only purpose in life. This leaves you vulnerable to burnout and business setbacks.
To reconnect with your own unique meaning and purpose in life, the following questions are useful to consider:
- What activities throughout the day make you feel more positive and energised and what do they have in common?
- What have you always wanted to do, but never got around to doing?
- Consider your life looking back as an elderly person, what have been your proudest moments and what would you prioritise?
If you’d like to take a more objective approach to this topic, then try the scientifically validated VIA Character Strengths survey on line here.
Your results from this survey will help you confirm what you really value and what your personal character strengths are. Once you’ve worked through this, chat through them with someone else and start prioritising what you need to do to make changes that help you fulfil your life goals.