Finding Your Purpose

Having a meaningful reason to get up in the morning can add years to your life, and Blue Zones Project – Umpqua can show you how.

Story by Juliete Palenshus, Engagement Lead Blue Zones Project – Umpqua

Are you thriving? Do you know your life purpose?  

In a Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index survey, conducted locally in 2016 by Blue Zones Project —Umpqua, fewer than 53 percent of people said they use their strengths daily. Only 48 percent said they were thriving.

These numbers ranked our community lower compared to both Oregon and national averages.
Studies indicate that people who have a clear goal in life live longer and stay more mentally sharp than those who don’t. Research has shown that people who are clear about “living with purpose” can add an estimated seven years to their life. When time, gifts and passions are focused on things of importance us, we are said to be living with purpose.

A visit to the original Blue Zones — five communities around the globe where more people are living long and happy lives than elsewhere — shows what living with purpose every day looks like.

People from these five areas have a strong sense of purpose throughout their lives and into their older years. Okinawans call it ikigai, and Nicoyans in Costa Rica call it plan de vida.  Both phrases roughly translate to “Why I wake up in the morning.”

Regardless of others’ views, they know their life has meaning. 

Blue Zones Project — Umpqua, a local well-being initiative, recently began helping community members explore their life purpose through interactive workshops. In January, two workshops drew more than 90 people, with many others placed on a waiting list for the next one.


During each workshop, participants tried to clarify their purpose and set goals that could help them live a more satisfying life. They learned to identify their own talents and draft a plan for themselves. 

Most people don’t think of supporting strong social connections as a health-improvement strategy. However, the landmark Framingham Heart Study, a long-running research project that began in 1948, found that people with the most social connections tend to live the longest. 

In Okinawa, people have formed Moais — groups that have formed for a common purpose — to provide one another with social support and connection. Children placed in these small social circles at a very early age have maintained long-term friendships over the course of their lives.

Sherm's Thunderbird manager and Leadership Committee member John Robertson.

Sherm's Thunderbird manager and Leadership Committee member John Robertson.

Being part of a supportive group that shares a desire to live healthy and meaningfully is thought to be a powerful way for people to improve their lives. Purpose Moais are an element of Blue Zones Project — Umpqua. Each Moai is a group of five to seven people who meet regularly for 10 weeks. The idea is to help one another put his or her gifts, values and passions to work.

“We talked for almost two hours, and I think our group members enjoy sharing, even with strangers, and learning from each other,” Purpose Moai participant Christine Smith said after just two meetings with her group. “We got pretty personal, and everyone was very engaged and respectful.”
“It started off a little awkward, but by the end we were all sharing. It’s really neat that we have a range of people from their 20s to their 80s and we can all learn from each other.”

The next Purpose Workshop is scheduled for March 27, and additional Purpose Moais will be launched to inspire participants to make new friends, get to know their community better and find ways to give back.   


Explore Your Purpose

Tuesday, March 27, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Ford Family Foundation, 
1600 N.W. Stewart Parkway, Roseburg.

Attend a free Purpose Workshop and find your true purpose — that unique thing that makes you your best. Start living with purpose and add seven years to your life. Take home tools you need to be the best possible you!


Go online to or register through the Blue Zones Project – Umpqua Facebook page.