Hi, I'm Vic Strecher, and I'm the professor of this course, Life On Purpose, how living for what matters most changes everything. I teach in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, and I'm just super excited to teach this course for you. I'd like to start the course off actually with a story, a very personal story that comes from a book that I wrote called "Life On Purpose". June 20th, 2010, 5:15 AM in my kayak, a few miles from shore, paddling hard, Lake Michigan smooth and ice cold. My kayak cutting through a thick, silky curtain of water off the bow. Still in boxers and t-shirt, hadn't thought about dressing for the chilly morning air. Wasn't really thinking. I'd been woken by a dream, climbed out of bed, and a minute later pushed off into the lake. Not very smart. Lake Michigan owns hundreds of ships and certainly its share of puny kayaks. I didn't really care. "Maybe I'll paddle to Wisconsin." I thought. But the sun stopped my paddling as it broke over the horizon. I turn toward the east and sat still perfectly quiet. Suddenly, a billion gold flecks of light surrounded me as the sun rose. In that moment, I felt the warmth and love of my daughter, Julia. "Get over it dad." She was telling me, I almost tipped over. It was startling to hear her voice. She had died just a few months before. The crossroad of my life was right there, two miles off the shore of Lake Michigan. The signs were clear, when arrow said, change everything, the other said death. Julia wasn't derisively telling me to get over it, she was telling me that if I was to survive, I'd need to get over myself and live for what matters most. When I came back to shore, I realized it was Father's Day. This is her gift to me, the gift that would save my life. When I came back to shore, because I did decide I needed to change my life. I decided to open a book that somebody had given me. It was called "Man's Search for Meaning". It was written by this guy, Viktor Frankl, a guy who had gone through three concentration camps. He went through these concentration camps as the physician of the prisoners. One thing that he found was that if you weren't murdered outright or starved outright by the Nazis, one of the things that he found was that purpose was a big predictor of whether you would survive. If you lost your purpose, you would start getting sick and you would start dying. That was really profound to him. In fact, he said this from the concentration camps. He said, "Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost". So that book really hit me. I started thinking, "Wow, I didn't go through concentration camps. I didn't lose my family, my whole family, the way Viktor Frankl did in these camps. But something horrific happened to me. Something tragic happened to me and my wife. How do I find some degree of meaning or purpose from this? Can I repurpose my life after this?" So I started reading a lot of books, and some of those books were, science books some were, philosophical books, some were, very ancient books. But I started reading a lot of different things, some neuroscience studies. After a while, I started realizing this is really an amazing area to start thinking about, and as I started trying to rebuild my own purpose in my life, I started just realizing this is good for everybody, and if I can't fix myself, what good am I as a behavioral scientist? If I start learning as a behavioral scientist that this is important, then I should start helping other people. So I started reading more research in the area. It turns out it's pretty amazing. There are over 750 studies since 1980 that have cited, "Purpose in life". So there's a lot of work that's been going on since Aristotle, since Socrates, since Plato started talking about this, even since Viktor Frankl started talking about having a purpose in life and the importance of this. Now we're applying a lot of that philosophy to frame the research that we're involved in now. So now we know, for example, that if you have a strong purpose, you have an increased likelihood of being resilient. Even your DNA is repaired. We'll talk about that a little bit later. Physiologically, your genes are producing more antibodies, which is amazing. You live longer. There are four studies that show that after controlling for a lot of other factors, such as your health status or your health behaviors, you live longer if you have a strong purpose on average. Also, people who have a strong purpose over time have fewer sleep disturbances. They can change their diet more readily, in fact, improve their diet over time. They're better able to manage diseases like diabetes, so they can manage their HbA1c. Oddly enough, some of the side effects are pretty good, like you make more money, you even end up having better sex on average. So there's a lot of amazing side effects if you end up with a strong purpose in your life. Also, there's a decrease likelihood of having conflict. We're always conflicted and we'll talk about this later. But if you have a strong purpose, you know which direction to take. So that's amazing. If something is running up to you and threatening you, you have a lower fear response and you bounce back faster into, "Okay, what am I going to do about that?" Also, you have less pro-inflammatory cell production. Amazing. You're less likely to develop depression, or stroke, or heart attack. At retirement, if you can repurpose your life, you're 2.4 times less likely seven years later to develop Alzheimer's disease. We'll talk about all these studies. This is pretty amazing. You're even less likely, in your job, if you find meaningful work to get burned out by your job. In other words, if this were a pill, everybody would be taking this pill, and it's free. This purpose pill, this idea that you can just build greater purpose in your life seems to be a really important thing. So you have to wonder, why don't we in public health and medicine start getting more excited about this?