Purposefulness as a critical factor in functioning, disability and health

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Abstract

Guided by theoretical frameworks of health and illness such as the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF), we seek to describe the importance of purposefulness in the context of rehabilitation. We argue that ascribing meaning to life events, particularly changes in health, and acting in a manner that is driven by purpose is a universal characteristic of human beings. The ability to contextualize purposefulness within the broader biopsychosocial model of illness may provide a greater understanding of the relationship of purpose in the process of rehabilitation.

We support the notion that purposefulness is an ever-present component throughout our lives and it exists as a convergence of personal factors, past experiences, and our personal narrative. Having a sense of purposefulness and being able to understand the meaning of different aspects of our lives is what allows us to find purpose while experiencing a health condition. More importantly, and in the context of rehabilitation efforts, we believe that if purposefulness can be identified or collectively defined by the individual, then rehabilitation outcomes may be enhanced.

In a variety of contexts ranging from disease, aging, severe trauma, and even war, purposefulness and its component elements consistently distinguish themselves as being essential for regaining a sense of direction and facilitating one’s response to any health condition.

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