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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

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Finding a Purpose-Driven Life


James H. Rimmer, Ph.D., Director
James H. Rimmer, Ph.D., Director
There is a wonderful book that was published a few years ago and read by millions of people all over the world called, The Purpose-Driven Life. The focus of the book was to offer people a greater perspective on life and to get them to think more about why we're actually here. For many people, this is a difficult question that is usually avoided since there are no clear answers and everyone seems to have their own opinion. But all of us have to occasionally step back for a moment and take an aerial view of our lives with respect to why we're here and what we're planning to do to reach the summit.

Many of us have chosen a human service field where we're given the opportunity to assist others in making their lives a little better, a little more enjoyable. It's a tough road out there and perhaps part of the reason we're here is to assist others through the journey. Each of us has our own memories of encountering someone who was kind and caring - a nurse who checked on a family member regularly with alacrity; a waiter who made the effort to accommodate your every need; a cab driver who was friendly and sincere; an airline clerk who went the extra distance to rebook your flight. These acts of kindness seem trivial, but in essence, they may be one of the most effective ways to get something out of life. The difference between doing your job because it is what you have to do to get a paycheck at the end of the month and doing it because you enjoy helping others can make a huge difference in what you get out of life.

How then do we derive the same sense of fulfillment from a life devoted to increasing physical activity among people with disabilities? I would argue that movement (i.e., physical activity) certainly leads to better health, and better health increases quality of life and happiness. While not diminishing the importance of finding good jobs for people with disabilities, physical activity should be an equally important goal and the two should be inseparable. Usually when people are physically active, they have a tendency to eat better and maintain a more positive quality to their lives by not abusing their bodies with alcohol, tobacco, or other dangerous substances.

So what is your purpose in life if you are in a field that involves physical activity? Perhaps it's to assist, and ultimately empower, youth, adults, and seniors with disabilities to manage their own health and to use physical activity as a guide for dealing with many of life's stressors. Even if you chose to work, teach, or coach people without disabilities, your purpose in life just might be to keep people with disabilities involved in the community through the medium of sport, recreation, or exercise, and to learn effective ways on your own time for doing so. Many people with disabilities are dealing with secondary conditions such as pain, fatigue, social isolation, depression, and weight gain, and each of these can be greatly improved with an instructor who has a purpose in life.


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