Come on now, I wasn’t exactly dawdling this morning, in fact it felt as though I was walking rather briskly.
But the truth is, I was a mere tortoise in comparison to the hare who zoomed past me.
A tall gentleman, he was accompanied by no fewer than three dogs.
Although all were of different breeds, it was clear that none had exactly been blessed in the leg-length department, so somewhat comically they all raced along at the heel of their human, doing their level best to keep up with him.
Having just completed a month of dog-sitting for a Stanford friend myself, I empathised with this guy.
My guess was that he was exercising the animals before heading off to work – probably to do something important on the Stanford campus – so recognised that it was better for all concerned if he put some pep in his step.
Fail to do so, and you risk your dog(s) getting distracted by just about everything and anything.
Did someone say Squirrel?
It got me thinking about the way in which having a sense of life purpose makes a profound impact on our psychological well-being.
And as the researchers Ryff and Keyes showed in 1995, what they termed “eudaimonic living” (living a life that’s intentionally underpinned by six key aspects of psychological well-being) can actually boost physiological, as well as psychological, health.
Among other benefits it can strengthen your immune system, for example.
The thing is, though, I don’t think this sense of life purpose must necessarily be one huge, overarching mission.
It doesn’t mean you have to become a Buddhist monk or devote your whole life to mastering the ukelele.
I believe, instead, that we all benefit when we live our lives purposefully.
The man who raced past me this morning was almost certainly not a professional dog walker, nor, unless he’d left his robes at home, was he a Buddhist monk.
Frankly I saw no sign of a ukelele, either.
It was, however, clear that he was approaching his morning purposefully – maybe before getting down to his other, hopefully purpose-driven, work.
We all have days, sometimes months, when it may feel we’ve temporarily lost our sense of purpose, and when this happens it’s probably not sensible to hope that we’ll somehow find some giant sense of direction and meaning, when it’s taking every ounce of our energy to just get out of bed in the morning.
Better by far, perhaps, to aim to act more purposefully in daily activities, even little ones.
Taking a shower, for example, could be a humdrum routine.
Or you could approach it with a renewed sense of purpose.
Pop a towel in the tumble dryer so it’s warm and fluffy when you need it.
Take a radio into the bathroom to enjoy Handel’s Water Music, while you lather up with the scented shower gel that’s at the back of the cupboard.
Relish the sensation of drying your skin afterwards, taking a few seconds longer than might be strictly necessary.
Of course it’s fantastic if you do have some kind of mega-mission driving your life.
But I’m certain that adding a sense of purpose to normal, everyday tasks can be almost as good for us.
And of course it can be contagious, spreading ripple-like to those around us, and motivating us still further.
Just ask those low-slung doggies.