Finding a Sense of Purpose in Retirement

Do you remember being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Later in life, when we are close to or even in retirement, the question pops up again. Except now it’s about finding a new purpose.

Post-career, one’s purpose might collapse. We knew what we were doing to create a ripple effect by making a difference in the lives of others and or a business. But not anymore. We ask ourselves, “Now what?”

Richard Leider speaks often about the power of purpose. He is also the author of Who Do You Want to be When You Grow Old?

In a recent presentation, he explained the process of self-discovery and figuring out one’s sense of purpose is not always easy.

“Purpose is not a goal; it is an aim to make a difference in the lives of others,” he said. “Don’t ask ‘What is my purpose?’ Instead, ask, ‘What is my life asking of me right now?’”

By working with scientists who studied the impact of purpose on the brain, Leider learned how living with “intentional purpose” is essential to living a longer, healthier, more fulfilling life.

The Two Forms of Purpose

Leider sees two forms of purpose: The “Big P” and The “small p.”

A “P” purpose, he explained, connects us with a cause, and it’s often daunting.  A “p” purpose is just as worthy and valuable, however on a smaller scale. Not every act has to save the world for it to be noble and meaningful. A “p” purpose has you contributing daily to others.

He emphasizes growth and giving play an active part in one’s purpose, regardless if it is a “P” or “p.” What will you do to grow? How will you educate yourself, stay relevant, remain curious, and challenge yourself? What will you give every day to make a difference in the lives of others, creating a ripple effect?

Working with my client, Elizabeth, is a good example of this.

Elizabeth was a rock star when it came to selling. She won awards and was always eligible for year-end bonuses, affording her the opportunity to take vacations to Africa, her favorite destination. She loved safaris and spending time with wildlife, and was especially fascinated with giraffes.

When discussing her, “now what?” Elizabeth was stuck and didn’t have a clue how to answer the

question. She was confounded by finding a new sense of purpose in retirement.

I shared what I learned from Leider, and then we went through a process drilling down to find something she believed in, would feel valued doing, believed would make a difference, and also allow her to grow and give.

Elizabeth is now planning on becoming an animal conservationist volunteer, focused on preserving and saving giraffes in her next life chapter.

How to Discover YOUR Purpose

Whether one decides on a “P,” a “p,” or both, asking and answering these questions are key:

  • What will be the opportunity for my personal growth?
  • What will I be giving every day, bringing with it a ripple effect by making a positive difference in the lives of others?

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