“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I will learn.” Ben Franklin
Of all the topics I’ve examined over the years, this may be one of the most important. That’s because the subject matter has the unique power to help you make a difference in the lives of others, while simultaneously helping to make you both healthier and happier.
According to Patricia A. Boyle, a neuropsychologist and researcher for the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a longitudinal study of 1,500 men and women conducted over a period of 25 years, research has shown that having a “purpose” not only helps stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia, but leads to a longer life.
Said Boyle: “Those who reported having purpose in life showed a 30% slower rate of cognitive decline than those who did not. Having purpose reduced the risk of Alzheimer's and its precursor, mild cognitive impairment. Even those whose brains had the plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer's had better cognitive brain function. It's a remarkable finding.”
What is Purpose?
The definition of “purpose” is anything that serves as one's intention or objective in life. Boyle went on to say: “It's the sense that your life has meaning. You're engaged in things that energize and motivate you, and that you think are important on a broader level, beyond just yourself.”
But let’s face it, even with a textbook definition, the word “purpose” is akin to looking out over a lake or ocean and trying to determine what’s beneath the surface. Simply, what’s good for you may not be desirable for me. But the one thing that Boyle’s research showed was common to everyone in the study, was that the happiest of all the purposeful people were those who decided to become mentors.
The Social Benefits of Mentoring
“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” Poet Robert Frost
Mature people understand what it takes to survive and thrive. And it’s perfectly natural to want to pass that wisdom and experience along to others. Let’s face it, we’ve been there. We’ve dealt with bullies and bad bosses and unfairness, and we’ve overcome it and still thrived.
So, socially speaking, what does mentoring provide to either you or the mentee?
- Social connections
- A form of continuing education
- A way to give to others
- A way to give back to the community
- A great use of your time
- A way to change the direction of someone’s life
Just about everyone I know who has a positive outlook on life, can search their mental database and come up with a period when a coach, a spiritual advisor, a teacher, someone, reached out to them and acted as their mentor.
Imagine the strength and cohesiveness of a community where every mature person acted as a mentor to a younger person?
Now that would be a place worth living.
The Health Benefits of Mentoring
Having touched upon the social benefits of mentoring, what about the health benefits?
Studies such as Boyle’s have shown that mentors:
- Have higher cognitive abilities than people who choose not to mentor
- Have lower blood pressure
- Have a 30% slower decline in mental faculties
- Have 40% less incidence of depression
- Are less prone to alcohol and drug addiction
- Tend to have a lighter body mass index
- Have a more positive outlook about life (than non-mentors)
- May actually live an average of 4 years longer (than non-mentors)
The results are in: The next time you are looking for a way to have a positive impact on the world, become a mentor. It will not only improve your health and outlook, it may very likely change the direction of a young person’s life.
“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson