Excellence Reporter: Dr. Chopra, what is the meaning of life?
Sanjiv Chopra: I found that to answer this question it required a lot of reflection and soul searching. I am certain that over the ages there has been a lot of commentary on this topic by philosophers, poets, scientists, and theologians. Their responses undoubtedly have some common threads, but also subtle or even major differences.
The early formative years in our lives, the stories we heard from our parents and grandparents, the places of worship we went to (if we did so) shaped our own understanding of life and its meaning.
Life in order to have meaning has to have purpose. Each one of us has an unique purpose in life. We can realize this purpose in one of two ways: either by reflecting on it or for some by “witnessing” a tragic event. Experiencing that can kindle a deep desire to redress the wrong. I am privileged to have met individuals who found their purpose in life after being moved to do inspiring work after experiencing a starkly jolting, yet momentous event.
The Buddha once said, “Every life has a measure of sorrow. Sometimes it is this that awakens us.”
Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out way.”
Meditating regularly brings clarity and fosters grit and fortitude.
When we fulfill our purpose in life, perhaps by learning and teaching, healing and leaving the world a better place than when we have arrived as our life has found meaning. It doesn’t have to be totally awe inspiring and have a positive impact on millions of individuals. Living simply, being kind to others and putting a smile on a stranger’s face can have as much meaning.
Here’s what LIFE means:
L is to Love and to Laugh.
I is to have Integrity and to go Inward (to meditate).
F is for Friendship and for Forgiveness.
E is for Empathy and for Exploration for one’s purpose in LIFE.
~Sanjiv Chopra, M.D., MACP is professor of medicine and former faculty dean for Continuing Medical Education at Harvard Medical School. He’s also the James Tullis Firm Chief, Department of Medicine, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He also serves as a Marshall Wolf Master Clinician Educator at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston. For 12 years he led the most robust academic Continuing Medical Education enterprise in the world, reaching out to 80,000 clinicians in 150 countries each year. Dr. Chopra is also editor-in-chief of the hepatology section of UpToDate, subscribed to by more than a million physicians in 190 countries.
Dr. Chopra was designated a Master of the American College of Physicians in 2009, and has earned a number of awards, including the American Gastroenterological Association’s Distinguished Educator Award. In 2012, he was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for “Exemplifying outstanding qualities in both one’s personal and professional lives while continuing to preserve the richness of one’s particular heritage.” Dr. Chopra is best selling author and a sought after motivational speaker throughout the United States and abroad.
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