“Sense of purpose” is a topic I have researched and thought about for many years. Time and again my personal journey has led me back to the concept that people who have a sense of purpose as they approach retirement seem to live a more satisfying life as they age. I define “sense of purpose” as the answer to this question: “What will give meaning to my life as I approach retirement?”
Finding a sense of purpose can have broad implications on how a person begins their walk toward retirement. It can lead to a healthier emotional, spiritual and physical lifestyle. Dozens of studies have shown it can reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s.
After selling my business and retiring at 46, I had no sense of purpose for my life and began my personal journey to find that purpose. I examined the educational, emotional, spiritual and physical areas. During this time, I thought: “What am I here for? What is the meaning of my life?” I was hesitant to talk about the discomfort I was experiencing because I believed my feelings were unusual.
Now all these years later, I know that my uncomfortable feelings about not having sense of purpose were not unusual at all, but rather it is common to feel this way when approaching retirement. Many of us spend years, even decades, working the same job or managing the same career. When retirement approaches, it can be a difficult and confusing time to adjust to a new lifestyle.
After much deliberation and prayer, I decided my sense of purpose was to pursue a career in counseling. I did not reach this decision quickly. There was a lot of trial and error prior to reaching this decision. This is a normal part of the journey.
As I have continued to learn more about this topic, I found in my personal journey it helped to discover my purpose by setting small and large goals for myself. One of my largest goals was to return to graduate school. I wanted to play an important part in the lives of others by helping them with my acquired counseling skills. Goals could also include: caring for pets, gardening, pursuing new friendships, spending time with grand kids, volunteering at church.
I truly believe senior adults who look for and find a sense of purpose in their life will live emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthier lives. I know I am a living example of just that! It is worth the journey!