Dr. Andrea Hollingsworth
Hollingsworth Consulting

When I was teaching graduate courses on neuroscience and spirituality, the topic of Near-Death Experiences (NDE’s) was always a favorite. There’s fascinating research out there on people who have been pronounced clinically deceased, but then somehow, come back to life.

What do they experience? And how does it affect their life afterwards?

Many of these rare and fascinating people report experiencing similar phenomena during the time they were clinically dead. They describe feeling enveloped in unspeakable light—as well as peace, warmth, and love. A good deal of them see beings, or hear music, or have other sensory experiences they can’t really put into words. The phenomena they describe are often strikingly similar, despite cultural and religious differences.

Resilience Superheroes

Now I don’t know what you make of this. Some believe such experiences are nothing more than a big endorphin or opiate release within a dying brain. Others believe it’s evidence of God or the afterlife.

Whatever your take, one thing that cannot be disputed is what tends to happen to people after they die and come back to life.

Research shows that most of these individuals emerge from the experience as resilience superheroes. They are some of the most peaceful, grounded, hardy, inspired, unrufflable people you’ll ever meet.

One woman struggled with daily anxiety and panic attacks. After her NDE? Calm and cool as a cucumber. Another man was constantly angry, notorious for holding a grudge. After his NDE? The most hard-to-offend person you’d ever meet. Another person was obsessed with their own wealth and status. After their NDE? As selfless and generous as Scrooge on Christmas morn.

What’s the common denominator underneath all these transformations?

One word. Purpose.

Researchers have found that folks who have NDE’s often come to a sudden new understanding of their lives and their priorities. They see their reason for existing with new eyes. And because of this, they are clear, confident, and committed to their deepest values and aims. Such as:

  • Increased love and compassion for others
  • Lessened concern with material gain and status
  • Greater desire to serve others
  • Increased belief in and commitment to God/the Divine
  • Greater appreciation and zest for life’s small pleasures
  • Increased focus on the present moment
  • A renewed commitment to truth and honesty
  • A deepened appreciation for animals, plants, and nature

NDE folks are almost invincible in their sense of purpose. This means they tend to thrive through life’s remaining challenges. After all, they’ve faced the worst-case scenario (dying), and lived to tell the tale. So they set their sights on what matters most to them in the time they’ve got left.

Clarifying Your Purpose

The NDE research I just told you about is part of a much bigger body of research. Tons of studies suggest that people who feel a strong sense of meaning and purpose in life tend to be happier and more resilient. As Nietzsche puts it: “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”

Leaders driven by purpose—by a sense of being passionately committed to something beyond themselves—tend to thrive through challenge and change, and to pave the way for others how to do the same.

So let me ask you: What’s your purpose? Where do you find deepest meaning and inspiration in life?  Here are some questions to help guide you.

Six Questions

  1. If today were your last day alive, what would you do and say?
  2. When, where, and with whom do you feel lightest? Most free? Most yourself?
  3. If a wise, elderly version of yourself suddenly appeared and gave you advice for living, what would you hear?
  4. What is something beyond you that you feel deserves your passion, loyalty, and commitment? A principle? A path? A person? A value? A way of life? A movement? A cause? A place? Something else?
  5. What, if anything, do you think should be meaningful and purpose-worthy for everyone?
  6. What, in your opinion, is most certainly not worthy of ultimate meaning and purpose?

Take a moment to ponder these questions. See what comes to mind. Maybe jot some things down.

There’s an unshakable strength that comes from rooting down into your life’s purpose. May that strength be yours today.

About Andrea

Dr. Andrea Hollingsworth is Founder and CEO of Hollingsworth Consulting, author of the bestselling book The Compassion Advantage (2024), and one of today’s leading global experts on compassionate leadership. Since 2008, she has been studying, speaking, and writing about the science and spirituality of human emotions and relationships. Her articles have been published more than a dozen times in peer-reviewed journals, and she has taught at prestigious institutions like Princeton, Boston University, and Loyola University Chicago. In addition, Dr. Andrea has delivered talks to audiences at some of the top-ranked universities in the world—including Cambridge University in England and Heidelberg University in Germany.

Dr. Andrea spends most of her time inspiring leaders and teams to use The Compassion Advantage to build supercharged organizations through cultures of care— especially in times of challenge and change. Andrea lives with her family in Minnesota where she cheers hard at her son’s soccer games and relishes every opportunity to visit the north shore of Lake Superior.