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The Four Pillars of Purpose

The late Norman Cousins gave us a famous aphorism: “Belief creates biology.”

Life is belief in action. The mind directs the body. Tibetan Monks can slow their heart rates using the power of their minds. Marathon runners break records every decade because they believe they can shave off more time, every time.

If you believe it can be, it already is.

Beliefs have tremendous impact on our lives, especially those that hit us frequently with emotional force. Mental and emotional well-being depend on the level of esteem we put in our social circle including family and friends, the level of esteem we have for the self, and the level of esteem we have for what we do on a daily basis.

Beliefs can be channeled towards our own well-being. I want to take a moment to encourage you to pursue what I call the Four Pillars of Purpose:

  • Finding esteem
  • Creating challenge
  • Inspiring others
  • Discovering creativity

“I have purpose when I am creative, have a sense of esteem, can grow, and inspire others.”

1. Finding Esteem

Esteem is the wings of the gods. The power that lifts you above the ground shapes who you are as a person. Self esteem comes from surviving hardship, fighting for a goal, learning from failures, and achieving some element of success. Only when you begin to respect yourself can you begin to build self-esteem.

Now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But now. Take a pen and write down times that you survived hardship, or fought for a goal, or failed and picked yourself back up. If you draw a blank at first that’s fine. Force yourself to write something down and come up with at least five examples. Next, circle two or three that you believe are the most salient in your life.

2. Creating Challenges

Without a wall, you will never know how to climb. Without challenge, you can never grow. If you have a job that creates healthy challenge for you then your are in an enviable position. Through challenge you can grow.

If your job does not challenge you, then consider shifting roles in the company. Or, if that’s not possible, consider starting a hobby that will allow you to grow and develop skills. You need a sense of growth to feel human.

3. Inspiring Others

A crucial step in living a purposeful life is giving purpose to others. By bringing purpose to someone else, you unlock a chain reaction of fulfillment that spreads like a fire. Your inspiration gives the next person encouragement which causes the next person to find inspiration, and so forth.

You can inspire someone with words, or through example. Don’t be afraid to share with others what you find remarkable in life.

4. Discovering Creativity

Some believe that being creative is the highest form of living. Look around us. Nature is creating all the time. Creation gives meaning and biology. If you want more purpose in your life, start creating on a regular basis. Write, play music, paint, draw, build arts and crafts, shoot a short film, plant a garden, start a small business. Put aside TV time at home for creative time. Soon you will discover a whole new side that inspires you.

Remember, your reality is your belief system. Learn to control your beliefs to create Esteem, Challenge, Inspiration, and Creativity. These Four Pillars of Purpose will stand long after the Acropolis of Athens.

The positive side of belief – the ability to make change – is within your reach.


by Dr. Charles Chaney

President, The Depression Health Network

The Four Pillars of Purpose

Dr. Charles

Dr. Charles Chaney is a leading pain medicine physician and psychiatrist in Southern California who specializes in women's health. He completed training in interventional pain medicine at UCSD and in general adult and reproductive psychiatry at UCLA. He has several publications in peer-reviewed academic journals, and has given numerous talks at medical conferences.

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APA Reference
Chaney, C. (2014). The Four Pillars of Purpose. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 24 Nov 2014
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Nov 2014
Published on All rights reserved.