What is my purpose?

So many of the retirement books talk about living your life’s purpose, leaving behind your legacy, and making a difference in the world. In many cases, a satisfying retirement is said to be dependent on articulating and then living according to your life purpose.   Every time I read about purpose, or hear a speaker talk about life purpose, I get a little bit sick to my stomach.   I feel like I won’t meet life expectations if I have not identified my life purpose …and even with a lot of reflection, I have not been able to articulate my life purpose!
One way recommended to figuring out your purpose resides in answering the question “what have you always wanted to do?” What is your passion? What moves your heart and engages your mind so that time just disappears?   Some people are lucky and know their passion from an early age.  They “always wanted to” fly kites, collect baseball cards, or make music.  Some find their passion later in life, but it’s similar so by the time they reach retirement transition, they know – I want to be a yoga teacher, make quilts, take pictures, spend more time volunteering with animal rescue, make a difference with teens, have a food truck, climb mountains & ski down them, learn about European history, or take care of my grand-children. (Yes, every one of those passions is a person I know.)  So I’ve done the deep introspection, and nope, never felt a strong desire to do anything.  No childhood dream that was never realized. No passion burning below the surface today. I’ve even checked with my Mom, my best friends, and even my oldest friend for insight – nothing!

Another way recommended to figure out your purpose is along the lines of “saving the world”. Where do you want to be making a difference for your family or community? Which volunteer organization best fits your interests?    This assumes of course that giving back of your time is a core value.  If you don’t feel the need to give back, are you doomed?  Or just selfish and immature?
I explored other words for purpose to see if they offered help: life meaning, life fulfillment, personal mission, true calling. I tried (unsuccessfully) the exercise of writing my obituary on what do I want to be remembered.   And then there was the advice of “don’t worry, your purpose will find you”.    Still waiting here….
My Ah-Ha Moment — My purpose right now doesn’t have to be “save the world”… it can be “live an active healthy lifestyle”.  In retirement I will finally have time to get a life that is not all work and no play.
For me it came down to creating a life vision of who I wanted to be. And then working on a portfolio of activities/pursuits that are important to me, focusing attention on what I love doing and those I love being with. When you have a sense of the direction you want to head (my five year vision), you can set goals and choose activities/pursuits that move you towards that direction. Then you live life in a way that proclaims: “This is who I am”.
I am no longer wasting time searching for my singular passion or my life purpose. One might emerge over time, but even if it does not, I have come to realize that a meaningful life is one that is lived according to one’s values, utilizes one’s talents, and leaves this world (whether that is family, friends, work place or community) in a slightly better place from me having been there.
And so, no great life purpose. But I hope my blogging about insights on Retirement Transition is perhaps leaving this community of readers in a slightly better place, in a small way!


Picture Credit: Pixabay

10 thoughts on “What is my purpose?

  1. I am with Maureen, no great passion in any of the jobs I have left and I have been feeling my way as regards other activities in retirement. In these early days, I am all over the place, just enjoying being able to do whatever comes up, such as some online courses. At the end of the day, very few people leave much of a mark on History. Most leave their legacy to their friends, family and associates.

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  2. >> “I am no longer wasting time searching for my singular passion or my life purpose. One might emerge over time, but even if it does not, I have come to realize that a meaningful life is one that is lived according to one’s values, utilizes one’s talents, and leaves this world … in a slightly better place from me having been there.”

    I could not agree more! The notion of finding one true “purpose” is probably great for selling books, but it just doesn’t seem realistic. How many people do I know who could clearly articulate the *single* thing they live to do? Maybe a couple, at most? It just doesn’t seem like a realistic depiction of the diversity of interests, hobbies, and activities that most of us enjoy. Great post!

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    1. Thanks Matt. If only more people would be open about it, we wouldn’t feel like failures if we haven’t found our life purpose. Maybe I should write the book – Life is Great without a Life Purpose! Think it would sell?

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  3. Really like your post. I too have felt guilty about not having a retirement passion. This is on top of never having a career passion, hence I mainly worked for the money. My role model is my father who has spend the past 30 years living a very happy life puttering through activities and people he enjoys…. no second career, no major volunteer passion. Just enjoying each day as it comes…. i.e. living in the present. That’s what I’m enjoying so much about retirement – living in the present, not focused on what I’m going to do 5 weeks, 5 months, or 5 years from now.

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    1. Maureen – thank you so much for that phrase… “living in the present”. I have read about mindfulness, but your description of your father so brought this to life for me. Puttering through activities and people he enjoys… just enjoying each day as it comes. This might become my newest affirmation! Even if I know I need to have something planned out, I will focus more on living in the present.


  4. I wrote about this very subject on my blog soon after I retired. I, too, didn’t feel like I had a real PASSION for anything in particular. Interests, yes. Things I wanted to do, of course. But, not the passion I thought other retirees had. I came to the same conclusion you did. I’m enjoying many pursuits and exploring a lot of interests and I’m finding that it’s just fine. If a passion should arise, great! But, in the mean time, I’m living life well and am enjoying engaging with others.

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    1. If so many of us struggle with it, why do all the books still imply it’s the “only way”! We are given the impression that all retirees have found “it”, but I think it might be 50/50 of those who have found a passion/purpose and those who are just very happy living life well! I am so glad you join me in the just very happy living camp. Maybe we need to shout it a bit more to overpower those who say passion in the only way?

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