The Case for Cultivating Purpose in Life Through Sport

First, what is purpose in life?

Purpose is a personally meaningful aim or intention that a person has for their life. Because purpose is a life aim, an individual needs to focus on working toward their purpose. Also, the aim of purpose is directed beyond than the self — like other people, social cause, or just impacting the world.

Examples of purpose might include being a good parent, working toward social justice, promoting world peace, making the world more sustainable, and artistic or athletic endeavors.

Second, why is purpose in life worth having?

When someone has purpose in their life, they often report having a better quality of life and satisfaction with their life — compared to those without a sense of purpose in life. Also, purpose in life provides both mental and physical health benefits.

Mental benefits include less depression and anxiety. Physical benefits include better sleep and more physical activity. Purpose is also associated being resilient in hard times. There is even an association between purpose in life and greater income and net worth.

Third, when should a person begin to think about and develop purpose in life?

Purpose can be cultivated during the teenage years or early adulthood. Children do not quite have the brain capacity to think about their purpose in life at a young age. Even just searching for one’s purpose in life is associated with overall wellbeing for teens and young adults.

However, when middle-age adults do not have a purpose in life and they are still searching for one, this is not associated with overall wellbeing. This actually looks more like a mid-life crisis or an existential crisis. So, it is best to help people develop their purpose earlier in life and not later in life.

The pros outweigh the cons when it comes to developing purpose in life.

Fourth, so, how is purpose developed?

Well, first let talk about how purpose is not developed. It is not “discovered” nor “found. ” Instead purpose is cultivated or developed over time. And, there seem to be a few prerequisites (aka necessary first steps) before that can happen.

Some prerequisites for purpose include empathy, a sense of self, and an orientation toward the future.

So, why should we care about developing purpose through sport?

Young people already benefit from purpose-focused interventions through various institutions: educational, religious, philanthropic. And developmental research shows that young people indeed describe extracurricular activities, like sport, as purposeful for them.

Sport and purpose have been studied and utilized separately to promote positive youth development, but how these two important concepts interact is not understood.

Given the popularity of sport as an extracurricular activity, as well as its use in the promotion of positive youth development, there is a critical need to understand the role of sport in developing purpose.

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