Highlights from this week’s conversation include:
Abundant Aging is a podcast series presented by United Church Homes. These shows offer ideas, information, and inspiration on how to improve our lives as we grow older. To learn more and to subscribe to the show, visit abundantagingpodcast.com.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 00:07
Hello, and welcome to The Art of Aging, part of the abundant aging podcast series from United Church Homes. On this show, we look at what it means to age in America and in other places around the world with positive and empowering conversations that challenge, encourage and inspire all to age with abundance. Our guest today I’m so excited is in a hall. Anna Hall is the founder of the purpose equation, Evidence Informed framework that helps anyone at any age, flourish in their personal and professional lives based on the most powerful innate tool that exists. Purpose. Prior to this Ana spent over 25 years in program and Technology Management, particularly in the senior living space. Her philosophy and purpose is derived from research, intuition, and willingness to experiment. Most of all, her years of interacting with people in their 80s and 90s taught her the power of purpose, and the wellness crisis that results from a lack of it. And it began building the purpose equation in 2018. And it has now expanded to include workshops, individual group and team coaching, and courses that are designed to ignite purpose, spark joy, and provide tools for becoming at any age. And in every moment. Welcome, Anna.
Anna Hall 01:28
Thank you so much for having me.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 01:31
It’s my delight. So first of all, you tell us about the purpose equation, what is it? And why are you so passionate about helping people connect with their purpose?
Anna Hall 01:42
Oh, Beth, I am so passionate about helping people connect with their purpose, because purpose is a matter of life. And purpose is a matter of health. And growing up in the senior living world, I have had and continue to have the privilege of interacting with people who have a lot of years to their life in their 80s and 90s. And they have shown me what it looks like to live with purpose. And we’ll go into that more. But I’m passionate about it. Because people who are connected to their sense of purpose, get more out of everyday life, not by doing but by knowing who they are as beings. So I’m passionate about purpose. Because when we as an individual can live with a sense of purpose, we automatically positively impact everyone in our orbit. And I think the world really needs that right now.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 02:40
Absolutely. I know that you started this because of your work with older adults. And that’s what you originally thought you were building. But I noticed as I was reading your introduction and preparation for today, that you are emphasizing it at any age. And so how have you? How has that transpired? What have you noticed as you’ve started this journey,
Anna Hall 03:04
it’s so exciting that I have is it okay to call you, Beth? Oh, absolutely. Okay. Okay. So what I’ve noticed is that purpose is meaningful at every single age. And of course, I did the research to back that up. But the original impetus for creating the purpose equation was twofold. One, in my career in senior living, I was engaging with older adults who were talking about themselves in the past tense. I used to play tennis, I used to lead a team, I used to fill in the blanks. And I was looking at a person before me who I admired, who I aspired to be like, who I saw this vibrancy of life. And I thought, what is it that’s causing you to think about yourself in the past tense when you’re still here, and you have so much more life to give. So that’s why I developed the purpose equation to help people change that mindset from I used to, to I am and I do, and I will and I can’t wait to and I get to. And I wanted to figure out what are the building blocks that create that mindset. And it led me back to purpose. And that led me into all types of research about self determination, subjective well being, flourishing, personality theory, etc. So I started experimenting, as you said in the intro with people who are in their 80s and 90s, in assisted living in an assisted living home in California. And it was incredible to see my very first experiment. Jane light up when she felt seen and heard, for who she is as a person, not just based on what you do or no longer do and there’s parallels to this with the Montessori method and with habilitation and senior living, but then And I talked to James daughter, and she wanted her purpose equation. And then the granddaughter was starting college not sure about what major to choose. So just through living life and being open to possibilities, what I’ve discovered is that the purpose equation is a framework because it’s evidence informed, that helps people of all ages discover purpose, and we need purpose because it’s a tool to help us bring the best of ourselves to life and to adapt to change. And those skills are required at every age.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 05:34
Exactly. I’m reminded of Twyla Tharp. Her book came out a couple of years ago, and she was a dancer and choreographer. And she said, her quote, I’m gonna mess this up. It’s something to the effect of, so you used to do six pirouettes to the left? You know how to do that. That’s not the question. Now, the question is, what do you do after you do six pirouettes to the, to the left? So your purpose? Your position is that the purpose in life is innate. And it’s something you can’t lose, but you build on it, right? So talk about that reconnection, you’re not, it’s not something that just kind of comes out of the blue. Oh,
Anna Hall 06:22
Thank you for asking this. You know, I don’t think of myself as an expert on purpose. But I think of myself as an obsessive, lifelong learner about it. And so I’ve recently updated that language about, people will talk about losing their sense of purpose. And what I’ve realized is you can’t lose it, because it’s part of you, you’re born with it. And it’s not your choice. And it’s based on a lot of different biological, psychological, chemical, things that are out of our control that are part of the framework of how we’re built of what makes us and what makes us unique. And so it’s not a matter of losing purpose. And this is what gives me hope . It’s a matter of reconnecting with that innate, empowered source of light that is inside all of us. And the empowerment lies in the fact that look, there are many ways to discover purpose, the purpose equation is one of those ways. There’s different ways that you can do it through yoga, through meditation, through spiritual practices, like I did it through research, which then led me to a much, much richer spiritual life. But it’s a part of us. And isn’t it really, why we’re here to figure out who we are, and what the building blocks are, that make us unique, because no one else can be you and no one else can be me. So finding out how we make meaning and how we bring that to life, I think, is really why we’re all here. Yeah, and
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 08:00
I think I’m gonna ask you to give an example of purpose here in a minute. And what’s coming to mind is, I had a conversation in a workshop recently with a gentleman who he’s finished with his primary career, and he’s finding great joy in woodworking, and he set up, you know, his studio in the garage. And as we were talking about thinking about our future selves, he and I said, what gives you purpose today, the way you express that today is not going to be how you express that necessarily in the future. And he just was, he kept on coming back to that and pushing me on that, because he cannot imagine 10 to 15 years down the road, that he may not physically be able to continue to do the type of woodworking that he’s doing today. So I think we use that word purpose in a variety of different ways. So why don’t you just find what is the purpose and maybe an example of purpose. Perhaps woodworking isn’t his purpose, but there might be some deeper things at play there that woodworking uses, helping him to tap into.
Anna Hall 09:14
Okay, so I define purpose as how we innately give and get meaning and joy every day. So innate goes back to that conversation about connection. It’s part of you. So how do you connect to yourself to give and get which is an exchange? I feel myself and then that fuel shines out of me on to you and we fuel together and you feel the impact of my purpose, and then meaning and joy, it’s about meaning making. So how do we define meaning making? It’s about what makes you tick. What draws your attention? How do you perceive the world? What are you focused On, intrinsically like without making a decision. And so what I help people do is look back at this thread of meaning throughout their life, and identify it. And we do that through the evidence based perspectives of looking at your joy fuel, which is really how you calibrate your energy. Humans need joy, right? A little bit of joy gives us a lot of purpose, your values, our strengths, our personality, and then we look for purpose systems. So for that gentleman that you described what working, you’re exactly right, to help him discover what is the meaning making in that activity? Because something physical, cognitive, mental, emotional, environmental, that’s beyond his control, externally, could change. So what is it that he loves about the meaning of woodworking? Is it that he’s building things to help other people or is he building furniture to make a legacy of his life that he knows will be passed on through generations? So does he have a concept of time? That gives him a sense of meaning? Does he like sensory activities does he like to touch the wood is this really about creativity, and he builds each piece a slightly different way, each time with a new sketch or a new pattern, looking beyond the doing to what is the meaning making of his being is really the key for humans to be able to adapt at all ages, because change is inevitable, within ourselves and beyond ourselves, and when you can have that internal infrastructure of understanding yourself, you can keep the meaning making, and the purpose is everything else changes.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 11:51
Exactly. Life is changing and aging. And
Anna Hall 11:56
We are lucky enough.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 12:00
Exactly. So why do you think people get disconnected from their purpose?
Anna Hall 12:08
I made a list. Because it’s really important. You know, like I’ve learned in life, sometimes life is more of a process of elimination of what you don’t want, and then you land on where you are. So okay, so why do people get disconnected from their purpose? The biggest mistake people make is that they identify their meaning based on a role, or a goal, both of which change. A lot of people hit what I call a retirement cliff. You know, we work so hard our whole life, to have this concept of what we call retirement, which I think people think of like an extended vacation, you know, a loss of responsibility for stress. But actually what happens when you’re on an extended vacation, most people will say, after two weeks or a month, they’re ready to get back to meaning making. So it’s about understanding who you are beyond roles and goals, shooting themselves, a lot of us walk around saying I should do this, I should do that. I should study this major in college because it will make my parents happy, or I’ll make money shooting is guilt and guilt is not helpful. Fear is another reason fear is actually helpful. Fear is evolutionary to keep us away from the lion. But we don’t have lions now. But we do have moments for growth, moments to take risks, moments to try new things that may or may not serve us and it’s good instead of to just be stopped by fear, to say, fear is telling me something, what is this and purpose helps us identify that fear, realize what it is and then move around it or through it or move in a different direction. And then not having the tools to adapt. People get stuck. And in this mindset they’ll try to keep doing the same thing over and over again, which we know is the definition of insanity. But when people are tied to that role, or a goal, that stuckness can keep them from discovering really what it is that makes them tick.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 14:20
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, this period of life that traditionally we call retirement, which is not a period and a phase of life, it just tells us that person used to work. Yeah, you know, it’s an opportunity, particularly for folks to really identify what gives them joy and wonder they want to continue to do and so, you know, one of the new ways of thinking about this period of time is not necessarily that Today I’m working and then tomorrow I’m retired and I don’t work, but you know, kind of affect multiple cover stations with people who get to this period of time, who still have energy, and they have health. And they are very, they continue to be passionate. And they continue to be fueled by certain aspects of what they were doing previously in their previous position. And there are a whole heck of a lot of things that they also did that were very draining for them that they don’t want to continue. And I think that one of the, one of the benefits, and the real possibilities about this period of life is for people to be able to begin to say, Yeah, this is what this is, what my purpose is now. And that may be connected to what I did previously, where it may be taking things that we did in a previous role, and doing them in new arenas, new fields. And really being able to say, I’m gonna do this because it brings me joy, and I have the flexibility to say, I’m not going to do that stuff that we didn’t have the flexibility to do previously.
Anna Hall 16:00
Yes. And the beauty of this mindset and opportunity, when one is older, is that you bring so much knowledge and wisdom and depths of experience to that mindset. It really bugs me when this is going into ages. But this gets me fired up. When people compare older adults to children, there is no comparison. You cannot Right? Or Oh, she’s so cute, like a child to an older adult. This just happened the other day, and we had to have an intervention. Because it’s not the same. It’s not the same. The wisdom, the experience, the understanding of work, the ability to see patterns, that type of knowledge is priceless. And so why don’t we banish the word retire, retire from what?
Anna Hall 16:55
Right? Why don’t we call it transitioning, we have lots of transitions in our life, right? What are you transitioning to at this stage of being able to really dive into meaning making, and making the difference and exploring and learning that’s what this time is about and giving back? I mean, talk about purpose.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 17:18
Yeah. And I think that we are struggling to come up with the term. On the one hand, the common experience is that we all used to work. And it comes to a point. Most of us when we don’t work in that primary career anymore. But because we are approaching this period of time from such different perspectives. I’ve heard people talk about this as renew means I’ve heard people talk about this as the prior meaning. I’ve heard people talk about this as a period of time for inspiration. Apparently, there’s no word in Spanish that translates the same as retirement. And so when they talk about this period of time, they talk about Juba, what we would translate as Jubilee. You know, how what, how different is that for us to think about approaching particularly early,
Anna Hall 18:16
early, later life,
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 18:18
This period of time, what different and all of those words, we know when we inspire Jubilee, those are all connected to purpose is to me, I mean, that’s what I think they all have in common. So let’s talk for a minute about what do people lose when they become disconnected?
Anna Hall 18:44
Hmm, health. That’s just the blunt way of saying it. So, as we get older, we are more likely to experience certain health conditions as a matter of longevity. But there’s also health consequences for younger people. One of them is depression and social isolation. When we are disconnected from our purpose, we lose that motivation, that sense of being enough and that sense of excitement about what’s going to happen tomorrow. And it can cause us to disconnect socially. And we all know, social disconnection or isolation is worse than smoking a pack of cigarettes every day, regardless of your age. For older adults, disconnection from purpose can result in a higher likelihood to have cardiac challenges to have a stroke. Being connected from purpose can slow down symptoms of cognitive decline because one is engaged in life. It can help recover faster from illness, it can help maintain mobility longer. It’s just a plethora of ways to live. Look at whole body, mind and spirit wellness, with this one thing purpose as the thread that can keep all of those things going. Yeah,
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 20:11
you’ve been more, there’ll be three questions we’re gonna ask at the end. But one of those is about what we call abundant aging influencers. And these are the people that we look at who are aging ahead of us. We say when I am their age, I want to be just like them. And when I hear people make those comments, I think what they are identifying in that older adult, is there is an older adult who has purpose. There is an older adult who is connected to their joy. And that’s not they can’t identify that. I mean, they aren’t verbalizing that per se. But when you can get at that with them, well, why is that person you’re going to be an aging influencer, I think it’s all related to this piece. So I think most people have made similar observations that you have about older adults. And we just haven’t been working at it the way you have. And so that’s why this is so important. So what are some of the outcomes that you’re seeing from people who have participated in the purpose equation?
Anna Hall 21:16
Okay, Beth, let’s talk about you for a second. Okay, your service equation. So one of the elements of your purpose equation was that you love learning. And we took this from the evidence informed perspective of positive psychology. So yes, you are a curious person, but we really pinpointed that it’s learning. And things like this are part of the equation, they make a difference for you, and any human to have words, because that’s how we think, to define and then activate words as tools to live on purpose. So curiosity is taking an interest in things like all around us, you have that and a love of learning, which is a deep dive into mastery of bodies of knowledge. And that was a core piece of your purpose. So what has it been like for you to now live with this? Knowing about part of what makes you? Well, for me,
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 22:19
I used to talk about, okay, this is my nerd is coming out, you know, I’ve just read this thing while talking about it. And I don’t feel quite as embarrassed by that anymore. Because I know that I do like to learn and I have been reading and and so I feel like I’m able to take ownership of that and claim it for myself better. You know, another piece of my purpose equation was my understanding of my being connected to creation, and I was, I’m just looking out the window earlier thinking, I need to go take a walk before it gets dark. And because that’s a part of what fuels me. So that leads to the next question that maybe not, isn’t something we had talked about specifically, but talk a little bit about joy fuel. Oh, what is that? How do you describe that? And why? How does that connect? Okay,
Anna Hall 23:17
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 23:18
Anna Hall 23:20
Joy fuels our connection with our purpose. Next level, everything is about energy, we are made of energy, the universe is made of energy. So really, purpose and joy fuel are about calibrating our energetic systems. So I say that joy is the energy source for our ability to exchange energy or exchange purpose. So Joy fuel is something that you do that makes you lose track of time, lose track of self, be absolutely delighted when you’re doing it, and afterwards feel refreshed. So that’s my dictionary definition of this joy field term that I made up. What that means, well, I had to make it up because there was just not a good enough word in the English language to say, it’s beyond self care, right? We even self care. But this is self care, sadly, in our society there is a sense of, Well, I’ll take care of myself after I’ve taken care of everyone else, or I’ll take care of myself when all the work is done. But what I realized is that, no, what we really need is for every human to be living it with a deep connection of their sense of purpose, because that’s how they rise. That’s how we navigate challenges and transitions and get through the hard times and life. Purpose is joy, but we really need it to get through the hard times because life can be hard. So Joy fuel is a way of getting and prioritizing peace. Your joy fuels energy for oneself, so that you can go out and share your purpose with other people. And you know, the joy fuel has shown me in a more tangible way the resilience factor humans have, because I prescribe to people 15 minutes of joy per day, in order to have a couple of days worth of energy for purpose. So a little dose of joy brings a lot of purpose. And you all can all look at my website. But the main ways that humans get joy is through moving your body, being curious and adventurous. getting enough rest of mind, body and spirit all at once an energetic connection with other people or in a spiritual, transcendent sort of way. We all as humans need all four of those ways of feeling and gaining joy in order to move through life and share our purpose.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 26:07
I love that. And I really like your differentiation between joy, fuel, and self care. You because self care seems like it’s a prescribed list that we’re all supposed to do. And you know, quite frankly, soaking in a tub and taking a bath is just not something that does it for me. But give me a walk outside. That yeah, definitely energizes me more than a soak in the bathtub. So well, it’s, it’s your
Anna Hall 26:37
joy, fuel and purpose equation, the way that purpose reveals itself, is by looking at each individual through the same evidence based lenses. So we take the same framework, but we’re able to derive unique factors from each person in yours. There is clearly a sense of connectedness, to nature, to the universe, to the bigness, to spirituality. And that for you, Beth informs how you learn what you learn, how you connect with people, and how much you care about the overall wellness of society, because you’re built to look at and experience the world that way.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 27:28
So heat up the roll. But it was really a joy to be able to participate in this. And I should have disclosed that at the top that I have been through the purpose equation before. One more question here and I know that you’ve been working on this since we first met and engaged over a year ago. And again, this is the introduction. But what do you do? How are you able to use this with teams, with groups of people?
Anna Hall 27:59
So the purpose equation, the evidence informed framework is really the basis for everything I do, because I know it works, right? It’s lots of experimenting for people of all ages and stages of life. So what I do then is I can create experiences that pull from the success of the purpose equation. So here’s an example of team building. If you really want to work well with a team and know how to collaborate and know how to communicate, wouldn’t it help to know what makes the other people on your team tick? What gets them out of bed in the morning, what their values are, what they care about, what their strengths are, how they perceive the world. It skips a lot of steps, and saves a lot of time to understand people at that level of their purpose. So that’s what I help teams do. Do I help teams develop a comfort level, build psychological safety? And understand how to reduce the friction well, should she do this? Or why doesn’t he think like that? I say all that’s a waste of time. It let’s get rid of the shoulds in the what ifs and let’s accept people for who they are. Look at them from a lens of everything that’s right. And then use their words like Beth, if I want to get you engaged, I’m going to talk about learning. I got your attention, right. I might by mistake use the word explore or courage or curiosity, which would still pick up your purpose sensors. But if I’m a team leader, and you’re on my team, I’m going to use that word and, and create an environment and projects for you that are around that concept. And so we just saved a lot of time figuring out how to get you excited and keep you motivated, right? I don’t need to train you to be motivated. Now, the truth is, there’s no training that does that. But when you know the purpose of each member of that team, then you can really weave together an environment, a culture, language, even how meetings are run, that touch on how each person is wired and performs at their best, not because of performance, though, that’s the outcome. It’s because they mean making things at work. And that’s what we need to help people do.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 30:35
Absolutely, absolutely. So is there anything else you want to say about the purpose equation in particular that we haven’t covered to make sure that people know about what you’re doing?
Anna Hall 30:49
I want people to know that when you are connected with your sense of purpose, you are going to do things that you might not expect, things that surprise you. Because it gives you an internal courage to understand that you matter, and that what you bring to the world is something no one else can bring. And so when people discover their purpose, and they, it’s a feeling you feel that connection, and then we give you words, that’s the intellectual cognitive piece to layer on the feeling, you will not look back at your life with regret. Because you know what meaning making is, and like you and I know best from our work in senior living. When people look back at their life, when they’re, you know, at the end of their life, they don’t look back at goals or roles. They look back and say to the people that I know that the people that I love, know that I loved them. Did my legacy touch people and their hearts and their souls and their minds to leave a lasting impression and, and a lasting goodness in the world? And so it’s a relief? It’s a relief when people discover their purpose, because it’s the ultimate answer to why am I here?
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 32:16
Yeah, yeah. Well, thank you for this conversation. And you and I could have a much longer conversation. But as we bring this podcast to a close, we’re going to ask you, as you know, we ask our guests three questions about aging. But before we do that, how can listeners find out more about you and the purpose equation,
Anna Hall 32:41
Please go to my website at purpose equation.com. Also, I post a lot on LinkedIn with just inspirations that come to me from working with clients. And you can see how I worked with senior living communities to build purpose into every step of the journey of residents and employees, because that, again, it’s going to have the outcome of retention and engagement by starting with meaning making it mattering. So check out my website and my LinkedIn.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 33:14
Great, thanks, Anna. Okay, are you ready for the questions? I’m ready. Number one. When you think about how you have aged, what do you think has changed about you or grown with you that you really like about yourself,
Anna Hall 33:27
I like myself way better with aging. I am 46. And proud of it. I have gotten more comfortable in my own skin over the years. You know, I’m gregarious, I’m assertive. I’m passionate. I love what I get to do every day. And I am fascinated by people. And you can probably tell from the podcast. Thank you, Beth, that I just don’t hold back anymore. Because every minute matters. And I don’t know when this time that I will be here is going to come to an end. So just being more comfortable with myself and being more vulnerable and letting it all out. Is making life way more fun every year.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 34:14
Wow. And can I just say you are at the low point of the happiness curve. And if you are this happy already at the low point, look out world in the coming years. Okay, question number two. What has surprised you most about you as you have aged?
Anna Hall 34:36
How much fun life is because of the way that our society talks about aging? I thought that as I got older, life would get grayer and less exciting. But it’s actually more exciting. I know more. But I also know that the more I know the less I know like I can never know everything and that’s so exciting. Life is. I’m surprised and delighted that being 46, with my changing physical appearance, which does make me a little bit sad, I’ll admit, sometimes when I look in the mirror, I’m like, Oh, you don’t look like you used to. But the joy that I feel as a being, it just overwhelms that.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 35:23
Fantastic. Thank you. And as I alluded to earlier, your last question, is there someone you’ve met in, you can’t list them all. So I just wrote it, you know, I had a list. A person who’s aged ahead of you that set an example for you about aging, someone that inspires you to age abundantly.
Anna Hall 35:44
Okay, I won’t give you the list. But you know, I grew up in senior living. So I have a list of about 50 people who do it. I know. Okay, men, women, people, I’ve worked with residents, but I will pick one right now. Okay, I’ll pick two. There are two people who are really making a difference in my life. There’s Gary, who is in his 80s, who is the elder in my life. He teaches me every single day, by showing me how to live with grace, with curiosity, with tenacity, with love, and patience. And then Barbara is continuing to work for her not for profit organization to create changemakers in the world, and she’s 75 and just getting started. So both of them again, show me that retirement is a word I’m gonna erase from my vocabulary. I want to keep transitioning and keep growing and they’re showing me what that looks like.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 36:52
Phenomenal. Thank you. And I’m so sorry that I had to limit you to one or two.
Anna Hall 36:56
But I’ll forgive you.
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 37:00
So thank you, Anna. Thank you to our listeners for listening to this episode of The Art of aging, part of the abundant aging podcast series from United Church homes and we want to hear from you. What’s changed about you as you’ve aged that you love? What has surprised you most and how do you define abundant aging and who is your abundant aging influencer? Join us at abundantagingpodcast.com to share your ideas. You can also give us feedback when you visit the Ruth Frost Parker Center website at UnitedChurchHomes.org/Parker-center. And Anna, tell us again where can people find you
Anna Hall 37:47
Go to thepurposeequation.com or you can email me Anna@thepurposeequation.com
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 37:57
Thank you very much for your time, Anna.
Anna Hall 37:59
Thank you so much, Beth.