Enrich Your Life with Meaning
There’s a common myth that life happens in three stages. That life is linear and that there is a clear path that moves from education to work and family and then on to leisure. Those who follow this path often find their identity changes with each stage, along with their quest for reward and enrichment.
Reward and enrichment go hand in hand when it comes to gaining meaning and purpose. Reward is something given to you in recognition of service, effort, or achievement. Enrichment is the action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something.
If you stick with the supposed trajectory of life it’s easy to gain both reward and enrichment from stages one and two. In stage one you’re are a student who has clear learning goals and a realistic plan to accomplish these goals. You’re continuously learning and improving your knowledge, knowing that you’ll benefit your future.
In stage two, you’re responsible for raising a family and performing a job, which gives the feeling of being connected to something bigger and it creates value for others.
Stage three is the tricky one. Devote the whole time to ‘leisure’, which is what we are told to do, and you can reap plenty of rewards. The problem is, you don’t get the enrichment component that creates meaning and purpose.
Why Retirement Shouldn’t Be Just About Leisure
Purpose and meaning are significant assets in life. Leading a meaningful and purposeful life leads to:
- Reduced feelings of loneliness
- Engagement in healthy behaviours
- Stronger physical functions
- Protection against chronic and cognitive disease
- Longevity and happiness
If purpose and meaning are fuelled by a balance of reward and enrichment, retirement can’t just be about leisure. Luckily it doesn’t have to be. There is so much potential that older adults can untap.
How To Find Purpose & Meaning In Your Older Years
1. Identify the activities that make you happy
Everyone is wired differently when it comes to finding purpose and meaning. Some feel purposeful when they experience a sense of direction, while others find purpose in giving others direction and nurture. The key is to know what works for you.
One way to find purpose and meaning in your life is to make a list of the activities you’ve done over the years that have made you feel happy. Identify the activities that give you a greater sense of well-being and make a plan to do more of this. If nothing comes to mind, remind yourself of the reward and enrichment philosophy. Make a list of activities that give you both.
2. Strengthen your inner landscape
Learning to live your purpose requires some internal investigation. For many, the education, work, and family years require conforming to external guideposts and demands. For the first time in your life, you may find yourself needing to develop skills that are typically more reflective. Engage your curiosity, explore new internal sensations, and be open to new discoveries.
3. Keep giving
Many older adults find purpose and meaning in their older years by transitioning not to retirement but to part-time work or consulting. You can also embark on volunteer work, personal projects, or home improvement, which allows you to keep giving and sharing the skills you possess. You might no longer be motivated by traditional work goals, but you don’t have to give up the idea of work completely.
4. Make friends and catch up with old ones
Forging new friendships in your older years may require a bit of extra effort but the reward and enrichment you get from being social makes the effort 100% worthwhile. Friends and social activity is a crucial component of finding meaning and purpose as you age. Friendships are good for the mind and body and research tells us that how much time you spend with friends can determine how long you live.
5. Look for small joys and simple pleasures
You don’t have to come up with a lofty purpose project to find meaning and purpose in your older years. Learning to appreciate small pleasures is a habit worth cultivating. Get enrichment from placing a bird bath outside your window and gain a reward every time you sit down for a cuppa to watch the birds play. Get enrichment from sending a letter to a friend and gain a reward when you hear back from them. There are plenty of simple pleasures to cherish every day with little effort.
6. Stay strong and healthy
Staying independent combines both enrichment and reward so keep yourself physically fit and able with regular walks, visits to the gym, and eating right. The more energy and strength you have by staying strong and healthy, the more you’ll be able to accomplish.
7. Contribute to the repair and improvement of the world
There are so many little ways to make the world a better place and for every little activist activity you embark on you create meaning and purpose in your life. Help a neighbour, call attention to a problem, compliment a friend or stranger, get involved or donate to a local charity, attend to your local community garden, give away your unwanted stuff and become an organ donor. These are all small actions that can make a big difference.
Preparing For Retirement
When it comes to preparing for what your retirement journey might look like, it’s okay to not have much set in stone. It’s also okay to have mixed feelings about the transitional period. A retirement living report in 2022 showed that only half (51%) of respondents feel on track to retire at their preferred age and that 42% admit they underestimated the emotions involved in retirement. It’s normal to feel some loss of control as you embark on this new stage of your life but you have more control than you might think. Plan for purpose and meaning now and start with the above ideas and you’re already on your way to a happy and fulfilled retirement.