How to find purpose in life and be happy? Tips from a top Boston doctor and author
Dr. Sanjiv Chopra, renowned liver diseases expert and leadership scholar, shares his wisdom on how to lead a happy and fulfilling life:
In your talks you often quote Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day when you are born and the day you find out why.” So how to find one’s purpose in life? – Yes, so this is a great question! So let’s talk a little bit about happiness and then living with purpose. So my next book, which will be published this December by St. Martin’s Press, I’ve written with a colleague and a friend. Her name is Gina Vild. She is Associate Dean for External Communications and Chief Communication Officer at Harvard Medical School. And the whole book is about happiness and living with purpose. But when we were coming up with the title, we discovered with our literary agent Trident Media in New York that there are more than 200,000 books with the word “happiness” in the title. In our book, we are putting much more focus on living with purpose. So we came up with the idea to have a little play on Mark Twain’s quote. And Mark Twain once said: “The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.” So the title of our book is going to be “The two most important days”, then the subtitle “How to find your purpose and live a healthy and happier life.” So my reflections and some of my research and discussion with amazing colleagues, some philosophers, is that there are four traits of the happiest people on this planet. They include having a cadre of good friends. Your friends are your chosen family. Robert Louis Stevenson said, “A friend is a gift that you give to yourself.” Kahlil Gibran said, “Friendship is a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.” James Rohn, a best-selling author has said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” So select your friends and celebrate everything, small or big, with your friends. That’s number 1. Second trait is ability to forgive. Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison. When he was released, he’s asked a question, “Mr. Mandela, do you have a resentment or bitterness against your captors?” He does the most beautiful answer. He said, “I have no bitterness, I have no resentment. Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies. It will only kill you.” The third [trait of happy people] is a take from Albert Schweitzer, Nobel laureate of 1952. He got the Nobel Peace Prize, he was a physician, theologian, humanitarian. And he once said, “I don’t know, what your destiny will be, but one thing I’m certain of: The ones amongst you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” So look at medicine. We are in that amazing profession, where we can be of service every single day, whether we are on the wards or we’re doing research, we’re doing public policy. So I’ve distilled it into three Fs: Friends, Forgiveness, For others. But there’s a fourth one, and it begins with the letter G. And it’s not God. It’s Gratitude. If we express gratitude on a regular basis, you’ll be happy. So those are the four keys for happiness. But in order to have sustained happiness, one has to find and live one’s purpose in life. And once you do that, it will resonate for you. And we can all come to that – either by thinking about it, or sometimes one witnesses is something very stark, jolting, and negative. And then one has the courage and the fortitude to say, “You know what? This is unacceptable! I’m going to make a difference.” And I can tell you many stories about some amazing people who’ve found their purpose in life by first witnessing a tragedy. It’s a wonderful quote by Mark Twain and it’s so true. We are definitely looking forward to seeing your book! When does it get out? – December 26, St. Martin’s Press. – This is definitely is going to be very interesting book! – Thank you!