At some point during my assessment, I ask every single patient, “So tell me, how is your condition impacting your life and how does that make you feel?”
They usually reply with statements such as, “I can’t do my activity XYZ so I’m feeling down, I can’t cook for my family so I feel useless, I can’t sleep at night so I am more moody which is affecting my relationship with my partner, I feel like I don’t have a life anymore, I even have trouble finding a reason to get out of bed, etc.”
When chronic health conditions take over one’s life, they also destroy the persons previous sense of purpose or whatever it was that motivated them to wake up and do something.
Purpose: “the reason for which something is done or created” or “an intention to achieve a goal that is personally meaningful”
The inability to be physically active often destroys ones purpose; and a lack of purpose negatively affects the motivation to be physically active. A vicious intertwined cycle.
“…research has shown that purpose in life, the belief that one’s life is meaningful and goal-directed, is associated with greater engagement in self-reported physical activity.” – Hooker et al 2016
Based on a Joe Tatta’s Podcast, Stephanie Hooker, PhD states the following fascinating findings supported by research.
People who have a stronger sense of purpose…
Believe that they have a life that is worth taking care of, so they generally engage in better lifestyle behaviours, i.e. better diet, better sleeping habits and are more physically active
- Have lower risk of developing chronic illnesses
- Have slower physical and cognitive decline that is associated with aging
“Purpose in life was positively associated with objectively measured movement and moderate to vigorous physical activity.” – Hooker et al 2016
So how can we know if a patient has a sense of purpose? And if they do, what is it?
Simply ask them, “What are the things that are most important in your life? What do you value?”
Although sometimes challenging, our primary goal must be to help patients sense that they are moving closer to their desired goals with a purpose that is meaningful to them.
However, most of the patients we see have one purpose, which is to have their pain eliminated. I certainly don’t blame them for that, but that purpose is rarely fulfilled in chronic conditions. The challenge with the purpose of pain elimination is that it focuses on what they DON’T want.
A meaningful ‘purpose’ must always focus on what they DO want!