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In his classic work, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote about the importance of having purpose in life. A survivor of Auschwitz, he lived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. His experience there and his subsequent research confirmed that people who lose their sense of purpose can will themselves to die. In the camps, everyone was stressed, hungry, and sick; but Frankl observed that sometimes prisoners who learned that their wife or child had been killed in another camp lost their will to live and would die. It was as if they just flipped a switch and life was over within days.

Sadly, within 18 months of leaving the farm, he was dead. All his outdoor exercise, his routines and his sense of purpose were gone.

Sounds like an extreme example, but it’s not that uncommon. When I was growing up, we farmed next to an elderly neighbour. In his late 70s, he still drove a team of horses, worked hard every day and, frankly, was stronger than his teenage neighbours. When he turned 80 years old he was pushed to sell the farm, move into town and “take it easy.” Finally he agreed, even though he was still healthy and strong. Sadly, within 18 months of leaving the farm, he was dead. All his outdoor exercise, his routines and his sense of purpose were gone.

Humans need a purpose, something for which to strive. We need to stretch ourselves until the day we die, or that day will come much sooner than we would like. As an entrepreneur, you’ve always had loans to pay off, properties to buy, places to go, new product lines to launch, new distribution methods to pursue, new markets to explore and competitors to beat. If you sell your business, and have nothing comparable to fill the void, you’re in danger of losing your purpose and your will to live.

So if you think that when you retire or slow down from your business, you can become a couch potato, think again.

Everyone needs goals

When you transition yourself and your business, you’ll still have to do something. So what’s it going to be? What new idea, new cause, new purpose will excite and motivate you to get out of bed in the morning?

Think about the challenges you still need to address, puzzle you want to solve, project you still need to complete and hills you have yet to climb. Not only will you get more done and continue to be true to your entrepreneurial self, you’ll be extending your life and be more fun to live with.

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