A Purpose-driven Retirement?

I’ve read repeatedly that the traditional retirement is considered to be a thing of the past. The older retiree stereotype of working for one company, living frugally/saving well, and retiring to a lifestyle of leisure activities and a snowbird lifestyle… no longer a valid profile.

Oh dear, I fit this profile!

The 21st Century Retirement is considered to be about more about creative pursuits, second careers, urban lifestyles, personal growth, and giving back.

How did this new profile come to pass?

  • With the increase in longevity, 30 years of leisure activities is considered, in our still Puritan-based culture, self-indulgent (i.e. not a good thing).
  • With the increase in longevity and decrease in savings (between the downturns in the market, the keep-up-with-the-Jones’ lifestyles, and the kids must have everything they want/ I think they need), 30 years of no compensation is often just not possible for most people.
  • More Baby Boomers were free thinkers who sought personal growth and purpose, who fought the status quo, and with downturns and downsizes, had to change careers and employers multiple times.
  • Add in the Millennial culture shift to the gig economy and everything being about a side-hustle. How can you not be monetizing your hobby/passion?

The new retirement profile is a Purpose-Driven Retirement.  And I continue to struggle with the ideas of purpose and legacy.   My gut clenches when I see the rhetorical question “how is the world a better place because you’ve lived in it?” My Comparative Inferiority Complex raises its mighty head as I feel like every other retiree has figured out their purpose and is living it. I feel like a failure for not being able to articulate my (grand) life purpose. Yes, I know all of this is a self-limiting belief.

What if I want my retirement lifestyle to be mostly about self-indulgence and freedom from responsibility? I spent most of my working years delaying gratification and being responsible.  Yes, I know the data suggests that having a purpose contributes to resiliency, longevity, and life satisfaction. But I also know how data can be manipulated! (I spent a big part of my career looking at data to find what supported our in-going beliefs!)

A big part of purpose is giving back. If I wanted to find something to “give back”, how do it in away that does not re-instate my workaholic tendencies?

I read somewhere: Your purpose is the full expression of who you are… lived out in hobbies, relationships, and activities.  Your purpose is in the activities for which you have passion.  I am still searching for my “passion project” – the thing that makes my heart swell and my eyes light up, the activity that gives me a burst of energy, or when barrier busting feels exciting and not burdensome.

I know I have a minor love affair with words – a passion-ette, you might say.   I am not a massive, nor high-brow, reader, but I like to read. I enjoy writing – putting words on paper that help me figure out my thoughts or synthesize things I’ve read about. Blogging is satisfying my writing urge.   Yes, some would say I am a “mere blogger”… not writing a fiction book in my field of expertise, or a non-fiction novel, or even a creative short story. The”mere” in blogging is because I am not actively trying to increase readership of my blog, nor monetize it.

Can I find purpose in my hobby blogging? Does my blogging contribute to the wellbeing of others and the common good beyond myself? (Those are often sited as key elements of purpose.) I do know that when my blog resonates with someone, makes someone think, or inspires someone to try something – I feel a sense of accomplishment.

I also know that what you believe about yourself & the world around you creates your reality.  Do I just need to say my life purpose (right now) is blogging? Align my thoughts with that life purpose & curate my life for that path?

Does being a blogger sound like a purposeful 21st century retirement vision?


Picture Credit:  Me!  Big boy surveying his domain, Africa Safari, 2017

32 thoughts on “A Purpose-driven Retirement?

  1. “The new retirement profile is a Purpose-Driven Retirement.  And I continue to struggle with the ideas of purpose and legacy.”
    I personally identify with your sentence 100%! This is what drives the FYB, The Forever Young Brigade, who really miss out on the final stages of life with its reflection, mindfulness, and “preparing oneself” for what inevitably comes next. Dr C and I retired exactly 10 years ago, and 5 years before normal retirement age. It was a shock to our systems because we had planned financially to perfection, but had absolutely no idea what to do with ourselves! We were being incessantly pestered by ex clients and organisations to “come back”, but thankfully resisted. We spent weeks thinking, reflecting, travelling, before we finally got it. Now we are reviewing again as we downsize our home in a “different” way to meet even older age. Blogging is an essential element to us, one for our travels, one for our education work in Nepal, one to let off steam about our politics, philosophy etc. It works; no goals, one day at a time, sharing everything as we have done for 50 years, the only planning we do is for travels, sometimes together sometimes separate. Thanks for your post, very insightful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dr B – I had to chuckle at “we spent weeks thinking, reflecting… before we finally got it”. I’ve spent 3 years and still don’t feel like I’ve got it! We also retired early with all the financials planned…and nothing else. My blog is the journey on the everything else. I call my blog my life coach! I appreciate your one-day-at-a-time thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve blogged about decluttering! We just downsized (3800 sq ft to 2000 sq ft) and hubby is a hoarder. What a challenge! If you have not looked into Marie Kondo’s approach, I encourage you to…. I found it helpful even if I didn’t completely execute it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My wife is the hoarder, but my secret weapon is our minimalist grown up daughter, just visited us and sorted her mums wardrobe! I bought the “other book” this morning, The joy of less….

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Pat –
    Are you writing this post about my life? I’m am totally relating to your words. I often feel like an awkward teenager again confronted by too many choices.

    And the blogging. I stopped for 8 months because I was struggling with the purpose of it as well. But I’m back and putting less pressure on myself to “perform” while enjoying the process and the community a bit more at the same time.

    I guess that’s been my philosophy in 2017. Just try it. Just do it. And enjoy the ride. It’s hard to let go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marian,
      In a post I am currently drafting, I just wrote yesterday “OMG, I’m still a 12-13 year old on the inside”! The line might not make it through the editing of the post, but talk about relating!!

      My philosophy for 2017 was “live” as in live your best life (yeah, I stole it from Oprah). I’m thinking on what my 2018 will be… it might be “Live Joyfully”. I am also working on trying things and to
      stop procrastinating (I need to revisit my own “what are you waiting for” post !). So again, totally relate to you!

      My blogging goal is one a week…. and I DO NOT pressure myself or feel bad if I don’t hit that. But I’ve found that if I go too long without writing about my life in transition, I get more bogged down in negativity. My blog is my own self-coaching. And it helps me connect to others to help me realize I’m not alone on this journey, I’m not a failure because of the feelings/doubts I’m having, and I’m among supportive men & women who want the best for me. Yeah, some of my blogging purpose is totally selfish! And that’s OK too.

      Thanks for joining in the conversation.


  3. Hi Pat:

    I followed the link here to your blog from Karen’s Profound Journey blog, and what you have written really resonates with me. I have just retired 5 months ago, and I spent the two years prior to that fretting about whether to retire and when. One of the things that I really worried about (and blogged about) was what my purpose would be, once I was no longer contributing through my work. Donna, from Retirement Reflections wisely suggested that it wasn’t necessary to have one grand purpose; a life with many meaningful elements could add up to my purpose. Similarly, Janis talked about passionettes and Karen alerted me to the fact that the retirement transition was a process and that one shouldn’t jump into a pile of commitments in the first stage. I have learned so much from my blogging buddies!

    So in this stage of retirement, I have multiple purposes: to write (includes blogging); to do art; to be a grandma; to be present in the lives of my adult kids, spouse, family members and friends; to be engaged in my community; to live a healthy life; to travel; and to contribute to creating a better world. Yep. I need to do that last one too. It was a purpose that motivated my entire career, and it still feels important to me. Presently I am doing it by being part of my grandchildren’s lives, by continuing to do some academic work, and by my involvement in a service club.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jude – You’re doing so many cool things, I’m getting a twinge of my Inferiority Comparison Complex going! I just joined up with a philanthropic group for next year – to do grant reviews. I’ll see if I like it, and if it helps me feel like I’m giving back a bit more. That is definitely an area that continues to niggle at my mind in my transition. And you are correct – I too continue to learn from my blogging buddies! Thanks for joining in this conversation.


  4. Oh Pat, I can relate to your post, and I love all of the comments. I have always been a little too goal-oriented, trying to plan (and even control) the future. I have spent the past year learning to live in the moment. It’s not always easy, but it is worthwhile. I know somewhere there is a balance between accomplishing things, making a contribution to the world, and just being joyful in the moment. I also love the rock analogy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The 21st Century retirement is still evolving, so if blogging doesn’t ‘fit’ that definition yet, then perhaps you are simply a trailblazer. Have a go at saying your purpose is blogging. If it doesn’t end up feeling right or working for you, then change it. You have the power!

    I realised that I will never have a massive, single-minded passion or purpose. I enjoy learning new things too much. I might focus on something for 2 or 3 years, but then something new comes along. I felt bad about it for a while, but I’ve recognised that for me, wanting a driven passion or purpose is just another way of keeping up with the Joneses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mrs ETT, When I got out of college, I was asked to write a few articles for the Society of Women Engineers newsletter. (yeah, I’m an engineer – from when there were only about 10% women graduating in that field). One of those articles was called “I Didn’t Think I Needed to Be a Trailblazer”. As a trial-end Baby Boomer, I often thought others would have laid out the path(s) before me. And then just as often have found that is not the case. One of the things I love about the blog-o-sphere is finding others who are on the same trailblazing path I seem to be on. I love your “have a go” attitude! And the “keeping up the the Joneses” comment really hit home for me. I’ve tried very hard in life to not be a keep-up-with the Joneses person – finding my own trail – not needing the latest gadget, the best car, the newest fashions. Thanks so much for your comments! Really connected with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Pat,
    I read your post when it came out and then dashed away to add a reference to it to the post I’ll be putting up tonight. So, once again and always, we are in the same place.

    Having delayed in responding, I’ve now had the benefit of reading everyone else’s comments and can add “Me too” or “Ditto” to their sentiment that you should do what you want. However, if we’re similar in this, and I imagine we are, I can be fine with doing what I want now and for the foreseeable future, but can’t quite imagine this lifestyle forever. I worry that I’d get bored or too old too fast because I wouldn’t have enough to occupy my mind.As I say, that isn’t even a remote possibility now given the pleasures of learning new things and having new experiences, but I do wonder if it’s sustainable for the long haul.

    I recently read a quote from Jungian analyst Marion Woodman. She said “our job is not to transcend ourselves, but to uncover ourselves.” What I want to suggest, and where I’m personally heading with this whole purpose thing, is that you do indeed have a purpose and it is personal growth. A lifestyle of “self-indulgence and freedom from responsibility” is a very different life than what you’ve lived to this point. In trying out what you call self-indulgences (which are reading, blogging, relaxing, learning – how exactly are they self-indulgences?), you are going to discover new things about yourself. You are going to uncover yourself. And then, who knows? Who knows what you’ll feel inspired to do or when? What I do know for sure (channeling Oprah here) is that you’ll be awake and aware and ready to take the next step.

    Years ago, I went on a three day retreat offered by Tama Kieves. She’s a Harvard-trained lawyer who gave it all up because she wanted to be a poet. I went to the course fully intending to come away with a five year plan. Tama disabused us of that notion the very first night. She said, “A creative life – a life where you are wide awake, curious, learning – can’t be planned. It is much more like jumping from rock to rock as you cross a river. Sometimes when you are standing on one rock, you can’t see the next one. But then the water shifts a little and the rock is there. When you see it, leap to it.” In practical terms, she told us to watch for what intrigued us and pursue it. For example, if a movie came out that we wanted to see, go see it.

    I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t do any of that before now. I was just so busy, I didn’t even see the damn rocks. If it wasn’t on my to do list, it wasn’t in my world. What an incredible pleasure it is now to have the time to follow what intrigues. So, to end this very long comment that I probably should have written as a post (and still might), relax in this wonderful spot you’re in, realizing that when and if it’s time to do something else, you’ll know it – for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Karen, I love the rock analogy and being open to possibilities. I’ve recently dug into some writings on adult development – yeah, might turn into a blog, but it has opened up my thinking on personal growth again!

      I am a planner, so I do have a one year plan (not a five year plan) but I hope it is also flexible enough to watch for those possible rocks to jump onto and explore. Like the writings on adult development, or the volunteer work I signed up for in the new year (4 week committee to review grant letters – fits my research and anatyical-judgement-based mind). And thanks for pointing out that blogging and reading is not self-indulgent. It is all how we think about things isn’t it.


  7. I agree with Janis! I don’t think your “purpose” has to have some big, noble, label to articulate! As for me, I figure my “purpose” is pretty much wrapped up! If I were to die tomorrow, and someone was to inquire about my accomplishments (purpose) in this life, I would hope it would have something to do with the thousands of little kiddies I have taught during my career. The thought of pursuing some giant purpose at this stage of the game is, quite frankly, tiring! As for me, my current purpose is relaxing, traveling, enjoying every day, learning new things as I stumble upon them – and that’s quite enough! ~ Lynn

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lynn – I wrote in my journal this morning that it’s about “joyful living”. Maybe that’s part of my personal purpose. I was always the cynical, glass-half-empty, find all the possible things that could go wrong kinda-girl. At this moment, I’m trying to live in the moment, relax and find the joy in each day. Practicing positivity or as Janis says living with an “attitude of gratitude”. And remembering, as you do, all those I did influence in my 30+ years of working. Maybe not the thousands you did, but I was a mentor to many and it might be helpful to re-read their letters of good bye (yeah I have a scrap book I made with them!). And to realize… yeah, that is enough!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for expressing the question I’ve asked myself many times … What if I want my retirement lifestyle to be mostly about self-indulgence and freedom from responsibility?

    I felt that there was something ‘defective’ about me because I didn’t have the instinct to dive into volunteer work and giving back.

    I believe that there is no one-size-fits-all. We each have an idea of a lifestyle that appeals to us and likely not to others. What excites us, challenges us, makes us what to get up in the morning varies from person to person.

    I say embrace all of what’s in your heart and ignore the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joanne – one of the things I love about my blogging is finding out I’m not the only one with those “defective” thought patterns – which are not defective at all but appear that way since they don’t fit the published norms. I’ve always been one to try and meet expectations, so when I want to be self-indulgent and free of responsibility and the expectation is “you need to be volunteering” and getting that from so many folks…it’s a tough place to be.

      I hate to tell you that I succumbed to the volunteer expectation and am trying on something in January in that vein. But it’s not that long of a commitment. Committee is a 4 week long, once a week thing – grant letter reviews. So I can say that’s it and not do anything more… or I can say I love it and join the next round of work. I thought it was a decent one to experiment with. And I promise you that if it doesn’t excite me, I will not continue. Because it’s not defective to want to be free of responsibility!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good luck with your new initiative. Does it count that I joined the Board of a Senior’s Club I belong to? It is a volunteer position with a good chunk of work involved … but I am interested in the social aspect.


  9. My short answer to your final question is YES, and I’m doing jay this at the moment. I’ve had similar thoughts on retirement to you but I’ve decided to go with it and enjoy what I’m doing which is blogging, reading, travelling and community worth throughout Rotary. I’m happy 😊 and I hope you are able to enjoy your blogging.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Debbie. I do enjoy the blogging and the blogging buddies who encourage me in my pursuits! Getting feedback on these mental dilemmas and knowing others are having similar thoughts is so helpful! And I’m so glad you are happy in your pursuits. That is what retirement should be!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi, Pat – I agree with Rob. You had 30 years in a very demanding job to which you gave your all. This is now time for you to have fun exploring and doing what you want with absolutely no need to justify. I believe that your work on your blog more than qualifies as a ‘purposeful, 21st-century retirement vision’. Your posts are well-researched, thoughtful, articulate and thought-provoking. If that doesn’t qualify, what does?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Donna. You couldn’t have given me a better compliment than using words like well-researched and thought-provoking! I do think some of this is a switch in thinking going forward… stating that this is my (current) purpose and passion. Being more purposeful in it… like re-energizing my book writing on the same topic (retirement transition). And continuing to explore new passion-ettes like Janis encourages. This is one of the reasons I love the blog-o-sphere and my blogging buddies…. you guys encourage me and inspire me regularly!


      1. Thanks, Pat – And you encourage and inspire me! I am glad to hear that you are re-energized on writing your ‘Retirement Transitions’ book. I look forward to reading it!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I think blogging is a fine purpose, especially if you are trying to add value with your writing. You may find another motivating purpose in time or you may not. Don’t stress! You had 30 years of intense, regular stress. This is time to do what you want! I am exploring dozens of options. Like you, I have not found any one thing that lights a fire under me, but I am enjoying what I’m doing and I am having fun with the process of exploring and experiencing a lot of different topical areas. I guess I don’t particularly see a need to converge!

    One of my favorite movies of all time is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. You may not think you have done a lot to give back or to influence others, but if you reflect deeply, you will see that you have influenced a LOT of people in a positive way, maybe more deeply than you know. For example, one of the ways my wife and I believe we have made the world a better place is to offer our gift of four awesome, intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working kids who are shining their own lights in the darkness. But, if I look back on my life and I’m honest with myself, I have also influenced many people in a helpful way and I’m proud of that. I will keep looking for ways to help others in the future, but I’m not going to feel pressure to rack up a certain number of merit badges per month. Ha ha.

    Relax Pat! Enjoy yourself and do good when the opportunity presents itself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love the “number of merit badges a month” phrase! And you are right about having influenced many people through the years. I guess a part of me misses that influencing aspect of life. (I don’t have the awesome kids to do that to). Maybe I need to explore those types of opportunities a bit more next year… something to think on as I write up my yearly action plan. Yes, some habits do not die… I do a yearly review and action plan! Luckily it’s versus my personal vision and gives me the thinking time to revisit and refine my vision as well. Recall, that is the 5th step of my transition process – refine! LOL.


  12. I have long used the term “passion-ette” to describe my various interests. I don’t have just one focus… and that’s OK. It’s even better than OK, I prefer it that way. And, if at some point I find something that I want to pursue with a passion… that’s OK too. I think you are doing just fine blogging, reading, traveling, whatever you want. This is your time.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. This is why I love the blog-o-sphere – You are one of my role-models for being OK to have passoin-ettes. I’m pretty sure you taught me the word! I need this counter-voice to the ones proclaiming “find you passion/purpose or else doom”. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Strange to see this shift in the worldview of retirement. Makes sense how Boomers have changed even the status quo of retirement. With my 35-yr back ground in leisure services and now a “pracademic” teaching in leisure education, I shared several posts on this subject. Take a look when you get a chance. Having a hobby or two in retirement and NOT having a second act/career is really OK. Blogging falls under the category of “serious Leisure,” which includes the passion and dedication to making it a wonderful hobby! https://secondwindleisure.com/2014/10/10/from-togas-to-leisure-suits-what-is-leisure/ https://secondwindleisure.com/2016/02/28/leisure-is-a-state-of-mind/


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