Hello everybody, welcome to episode 165 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Now our asker today is wondering about how to live with purpose, specifically after retirement. I think it’s no secret that there’s immense value in this – particularly after retirement as it’s important to not only fill your time, but to keep sharp. Let’s see what’s on his mind and try to help him out…
QUESTION: “I’m 53 and I find more and more that purpose is what I struggle with. I love my family and I am thankful for every day, but as I get closer to retirement and not working my job I have been at for 32 years, I wonder about my time after work.
When I was younger, I knew what I was doing every minute of every day. In my case, I imagine being “busy” and having a “purpose” gets blurry. I was busy for 25 years with normal life, working, married, kids raising a family, redoing my house etc. But after I got divorced and my kids had grown up, I started to realize all the busyness was ending. I still had my job, but that's not a “purpose” in my case.
I have not felt like I am living with purpose and intent since the late 90's when my career was taking off and I woke up in the middle of the night sometimes excited about going to work and my kids' soccer games. It's been a while since I felt that zeal for things. I’m still searching for that. I should say too that I am happily remarried to the love of my life and wouldn’t change a thing of my past.”
The Brink of Retirement
Ok, what an awesome question to be asking on the brink of retirement. Thank you for sending this one in!
I especially like your distinction between being busy and being purposeful. That’s a pretty significant realization. These questions about purpose are always tough.
I’ve said before on here that I have some suspicions about the idea of life purpose. I was just complaining about it as recently as our double header in episodes 150 and 151 and we started talking about it as early as episode 2 if you want to check that one out for a throwback.
But let’s see what we can conjure up here about finding a sense of purpose in retirement specifically.
Think Back Over the Years
I think there are a few layers you can dig through to find what you’re looking for. The first layer isn’t really high science; experiment with new things or things that you’ve been inspired by in the past but didn’t follow through on.
Think back over the years. Were there any interests that came and went because you didn’t have quite enough free time? Perhaps it’s time to look to these things.
And mind you, they can become hobbies you pick up or you can look for volunteer or even entry level work opportunities.
I really wouldn’t count out the idea of working part time, especially if you cite some of the zeal you felt in the past as coming from when you were early in your career and starting your journey. You’d be cracking into a new and exciting project, and that’s stimulating at all ages.
By that same logic of mirroring past inspirations, you might also want to consider doing things for your kids – maybe building things for their houses. I imagine this would be a good use of your time if you enjoyed taking them to their soccer games as well as redoing your own house in the past.
And don’t be afraid to go even deeper into your past to look for more ideas like this. Don’t disregard childhood interests you might have had that faded away as normal adult life set in.
It could be something that you loved doing like drawing or biking.
Or it could be as simple as spending more time with friends and maximizing relationships that have had to take a backseat over the years.
Contributing to Causes You Care About
Now the second layer would be about contribution. So this would mean reflecting on what causes you care most about and who you feel needs the most help in this world. This would actually be another opportunity to look to your past, because we often love helping those who were once in our shoes; passing on lessons to others that we’ve learned, but wish we’d learned sooner.
Maybe spend some time questioning what a past version of yourself didn’t get enough of (even if that past version was childhood), and how you can help him get that.
Or if you’re like me, you have a soft spot for animals. As soon as it’s time for my retirement, you people are on your own. I’m going to save the animals. Hate to tell ya.
The point is that there’s a lot to be said about picking something that you’d like to see made better in the world and sticking to it. Contribution to those less fortunate goes a long way and very few find it to be a waste of their time. It even has a way of helping to take emphasis off of one’s own struggles.
Retirement Conclusion: Doing Things Purposefully
And finally, the third and final layer that I’ve come up with today is a bit sobering, and that is to do things purposefully rather than to live and die by a life purpose.
To me, scrambling to find a life purpose can be kind of silly and daunting. There’s no shame in not having the answer to what your whole existence should be about.
So, asker, if you’re simply looking to live with more intent and purpose, you can do that every day by making purposeful decisions.
What are your values, and how can you make sure they’re supported in each decision you make rather than going into things thoughtlessly?
Care about your relationships? Be engaged in conversations and offer meaningful and supportive ideas rather than half listening and formulating your next response before they’re done speaking.
Care about staying active? Go for walks and enjoy the fresh air whenever possible rather than staying on the couch all day or driving somewhere that’s half a mile away.
These are the choices we’re faced with every day, and the more we shy away from them and ignore our values for the sake of doing what’s easy, the more our discomfort builds over time. If you start paying attention to these invitations, you live purposefully, regularly progress in areas of life that matter to you, and for what it’s worth, that’s a great way of breeding bigger passions.
And that brings this one to a close, my friends. Thanks so much for listening today. I’m really hoping that not just the asker, but everyone of all ages and all stages of life had some good takeaways about purpose today.
As you can see, there are many small questions you can ask yourself to help chip away at the big question of “What should I do with this time I’ve been given?”, and you can ask yourself these things and stimulate your growth until the day you croak. Good note to end on.
If you’ve got a question of your own you’d like help with, you know you can email it on in to advice AT oldpodcast.com, and we’ll be happy to help you out on the show. So don’t be shy.
Be safe out there, everyone. I’ll see you in the next one.