A Conversation About Purpose

Bryant Adibe, M.D Chief Wellness Officer, Mount Saint Mary’s University https://www.msmu.edu/resources-culture/wellness-at-mount-saint-marys-university/meet-the-chief-wellness-officer/

Dr. Adibe is Chief Wellness Officer at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles. He received his medical doctorate from the University of Florida, and completed clinical clerkships in Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Stanford University Medical Center. He completed graduate coursework in Evidence-Based Healthcare and Research Methodology at Oxford University. Prior to joining MSMU, he served in the Obama Administration as a Fellow within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Jacqui Burge CEO, Desk Yogi https://www.desk-yogi.com/jacqui-burge/

Desk Yogi founder Jacqui Burge has been practicing and teaching fitness, nutrition and yoga for more than two decades. The motivation behind Desk Yogi began with Jacqui’s own realization that even the way we sit affects our long-term health and wellbeing. Her mission of offering wellness to everyone that wants it in the spaces they need it most has become her calling card for contributing to a healthier lifestyle and reducing our daily stress.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Bryant Adibe in Los Angeles and we had a conversation that I wanted to share with all of you about the importance of meaning and purpose in our everyday lives and our how our use of time impacts meaning and purpose. Please take a look at our talk below.


Jacqui Burge

Jacqui: There is so much information out in the world now about “wellness.” As a physician how do you define it and is there a difference between wellness and health?

Bryant: Wellness at its core is a relatively simple concept. I like to think of it not as something you do or as something you pursue, but more as something you become. We should view our personal wellbeing in the context of a journey and a process, not a singular act confined to a time or day or place.

While wellness means many things to many people, the underlying principle is the same: it is about inspiring you to live at your best. And true living means being present and having a growing sense of awareness, which allows us to engage with our environment more meaningfully. To me the source of that meaning is closely tied with our personal satisfaction… with our feeling of being centered, and with that peripatetic journey for which all mankind seems to have been in search of from the beginning of time: the search for peace.

We also know that health and wellness are not necessarily the same. Some of the healthiest people we know, can be some of the most unwell. They’re stressed out, they’re angry, they’re unsatisfied with their lives or find no meaning in their work. Conversely, we’ve all met people who are battling serious health issues, but are the most centered, inspiring, and empowered people we know.

Jacqui: You have a unique concept of time, can you explain that for our readers? And with that, what does it mean to be meaning-and-purpose-driven in your utilization of time?

Bryant: Nowadays we are more connected than ever before. And with that we have lost the traditional boundaries for when work begins and when it ends. Instead, for many people the expectation is that they are constantly available, by phone or email, and as such the stress that is attached to work is never fully switched off. This constant connection keeps us needlessly busy and stressed, and even when we aren’t working we’re still thinking about it or anticipating the next “urgent” message.

We need to rethink our concept of time and shift it from purely activity-based to meaning-and-purpose-driven. Right now most people will tell you they are too busy — too busy to spend extra time at the gym, too busy to cook healthy meals and fundamentally improve their diet, too busy to spend additional time reading to their children at night, and too busy to find time for themselves. And yet, more often than not these simple activities — like improving our health, spending time with our loved ones, working on a hobby or personal interest — are the experiences from which we draw meaning, they give us vitality and infuse our lives with a sense of purpose.

Over half of all Americans are unsatisfied with their jobs. Which means most people spend a majority of their time on things that are unfulfilling and that add no value: we drown in a pool of emails, we die a slow death at weekly budget meetings, or we invest significant time and energy into projects that invariably go no where.

Time is our most precious commodity — at the end of our lives when we reflect on how we used it, we’ll want to know that we invested it wisely in the things we really care about.

Jacqui: So how can people go about doing that? How can we add meaning and purpose to our everyday lives and shift our perception of time?

Bryant: Living with meaning and purpose, in my mind, is at the core of personal wellbeing. It starts with self-reflection — identifying what you value most and what role those things should play in your life. Most people have a general idea of their values and what matters most, but few actually take the time to write them down, regularly review them, and ask themselves the difficult questions like, “If this is so important to me, how much of my time do I regularly spend on it?”

To add meaning and purpose to our lives requires a longer-term perspective. If you’ve ever learned to paddle-board you know that staring down at your feet makes you more inclined to sway (and possibly fall!) with each wave of the water, but if you keep your head up and eyes on the horizon you become more balanced and better able to adjust and stay firmly in place. Life is similar, if we want to live with meaning and purpose we have to look out at the horizon and ask, what gives us a sense of fulfillment and purpose? What dreams can we accomplish? What will be my most significant life’s achievement? What stories do we want to be told about us in the end?

When you think this way, you realize that each day we live is a unique piece in the mosaic of our lives. And the best part is, we each have the power to create what the final picture will be.

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