One of the challenges of retirement is finding your sense of purpose in life.
While we are working, the responsibility and commitment of work give us a sense of purpose and meaning. When we retire, we look forward to leading a more relaxed lifestyle. But many people often miss the feeling of being valued in the workplace.
The important thing to remember that just because you have retired from work does not mean you are retiring from life. Retirement is a huge transition where you have to refocus your energy into something different than your career. Think about the new lifestyle you will be walking into as well as if you are prepared for it.
Purpose and Meaning
In the past several years I have been talking to retired friends and reading blog posts about what has given retirees purpose and meaning in retirement. And what I have learned that finding a new purpose in life is a major undertaking. It takes quite a long-time to find how to replace a work-related purpose with something new.
Most people believe that preparing for retirement is all about saving money and building wealth. This is true because money and financial independence are a huge part of a solid retirement plan. However, it is not the only one. Understanding your personality and creating a plan for what to do with yourself may be just as important as saving in your 401(k).
So how to find a new purpose in life? Think about how to refocus your life by writing down your interests and things you want to do in retirement.
Some people might find their purpose in doing meaningful work like being a volunteer while others might find that their purpose is to help family and friends. Some people find their purpose is going away on a spiritual journey or helping others on a similar path.
Think about who you want to be in retirement and ask yourself:
- What special talents or interests do I have? Am I a creative type?
- Do I have a dream that I want to pursue?
- What do I want to achieve?
- What skills I can use to benefit other people?
- Do I like to work at something I am used to, or would I prefer to face new challenges?
- What would I regret not doing if I die?
As you gather your thoughts answering those questions, you can begin to outline what your new purpose in life might be. Look at retirement as a time for exploring, developing new skills, and trying out new interests and activities.
Pick one or two things from the list below and discover if they bring a sense of purpose to your life in retirement:
1. Hobbies in retirement
I believe that everyone has some interests that they were forced to put on the shelf during their working years. But retirement gives you a great opportunity to start over again by pursuing your passion. You should always stay active once you retire. Do not consider yourself as ‘retired from life’. Refocus your energy on learning something new and more interesting than your previous job.
People still enjoys traditional hobbies such as cooking, reading, gardening, coins collecting, building models, even antiquing. If you are not sure where you want to start, compose a list of old hobbies you have enjoyed but had to stop and what hobbies you have wanted to try. Try to choose hobbies with a good mix of activities – physical and mental ones. And try something outside of your comfort zone. Also, it might be fun to try something new with a friend or a family member.
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2. Travel in retirement
These days traveling is a number one goal for most retirees. Many people look forward to traveling after they retire because you are no longer is constrained by the number of vacation days you can take off. You can go whenever you want and for how long you want.
Many people (including myself) looking at retirement as the best time of our lives, a time for fun, adventure, and travel. I believe that one of the biggest benefits of retirement is the freedom to explore the world.
I have found it useful to create a bucket list. That is a list of things I want to do and see in our local area and other countries. My bucket list is always get updated with the name of new places, activities, recommended tours, dates of future travels, and more. Roman and I feel excited when discussing our travel plans, and the places we want to visit.
Today, the fact that people live longer has produced a new generation of adventures – senior travelers. They are bold, resilient, and enthusiastic about fulfilling their childhood dreams. Professional obligations, family life, and financial concerns prevented them from actually doing it. But retirement brings freedom and they do not wait any longer to explore the world.
3. Health and fitness in retirement
Finding your sense of purpose in retirement often comes with staying in good health.
During the years of working and raising a family, it is so easy to let your fitness slide. There is not enough time for everything so many of us allow our weight and diet to decline. But once you have retired you will have plenty of time to improve your physical health and fitness.
Stay in shape.
There are still many retirees who spend days lying on a couch watching TV and snacking. Some people gain weight during retirement because they are not active, and began to eat more out of boredom and depression. Overweight and lack of exercise put retirees at great risk of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, cancer, and heart disease.
But you can get into shape with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Exercise can take many forms – jogging in the mornings, hiking in the woods, biking to the grocery store, taking yoga classes, swimming in the lake. Try to choose an exercise activity that you enjoy so you can stick to it for a long time.
There are many books and videos that you can use for working out from the comforts of your home. But if you want to exercise with others you can join a gym and take group fitness classes. Do not be afraid to try something new such as Pilates, Kickboxing, or Zumba.
Another good idea for staying in shape is to hire a personal trainer and learn new techniques for improving your overall well-being.
Stay in good health.
Maintaining good health is often a number one goal in retirement. Do not wait until something is wrong to visit your doctor. Take a preventive approach and have your regular health check-ups and screenings, so if any problems get caught early you can do something about them.
4. Working in retirement
If you still find that you miss working, there is no reason not to make work your new hobby as long as you find it enjoyable and not stressful.
Working part-time in retirement can be a great way to feel fulfilled. Even though your official full-time career has ended, it does not mean you have to stop working completely. The surveys show that many retirees prefer to work part-time jobs to stay busy, socialize with people or simply pursue their lifelong passion.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that a growing number of the labor force (164 million people by 2024) will have 13 million workers aged 65 and older. Many retirees have enough money to cover their living expenses in retirement. But many others who prefer to take on a part-time job for extra income or to cover the shortage of retirement savings.
There are plenty of part-time jobs for seniors including tutoring jobs, consulting jobs, service jobs, and more. Part-time jobs provide you with extra income and still allow you to enjoy more free time, travel time, and indulge on your hobbies.
Here are some options for the part-time jobs for retirees from the AARP article:
If you are planning to start your own business in retirement, you are not alone. According to statistics, the highest rate of entrepreneurs is in the 55-64 age group. For many people, being retired does not mean never working again. The most popular types of business these days includes consulting services, and freelancing.
Whatever business you are planning to start make sure you do something you passionate about. To start a new business will require a lot of time, money, and effort over a prolonged period. You need to be passionate about the product or service you are offering to make your business succeed. Otherwise, you will lose the excitement when faced with challenges fast and will not be able to carry on.
5. Giving back to the community in retirement
Many people choose to give some of their time to charity work and volunteering. Many of us feel the desire to give back to the world in gratitude for the opportunities we had in life. This is a great way to find your purpose in life and stay busy and valued. You will have a chance to meet new people and feel good about yourself while contributing to the community.
Countless groups and organizations are looking for an extra hand and might not have money to hire the help they need. If you need to find an organization, think about what you are passionate about and what matters to you the most. You can volunteer by sitting on Board of Directors, helping renovate housing, tutoring children, or organizing events and fundraisers.
Some great options are to volunteer at a homeless shelter, animal shelter, local hospital, church, and library, or teaching to share your knowledge. Offering your time and assistance to those in need will give you a great sense of purpose and making the world a better place to live.
One of my friends is passionate about helping seniors in her local community. She teaches nutritional training class “Successful Aging” at several senior centers. Currently, she is focused on raising funds for the creation of an Outdoor Recreation Area and Shade Pavilion so older people will spend some time outside in nature and feel less isolated and lonely.
6. Caregiving in retirement
Many people choose to become a caregiver to take care of aging parents who need help with their lives. I know a few neighbors who are taking care of their grandchildren and a friend who retired early to become a caregiver for her disabled brother.
These situations are very common. We all hope for long and healthy lives for our family, but there are times when our loved ones need our help. Becoming a full-time caregiver is not an easy decision and it may affect your lifestyle. But most caregivers take on this new role out of love and good intentions.
Retirement is not a one-time event. It takes place over time, and we need to develop new interests, explore different parts of ourselves, and form new identities.
Everyone is different. Your retirement should be about you. And what other people find rewarding and enjoyable might not appeal to you. So, keep looking until you find something that you are passionate about and it adds meaning and purpose to your retirement life.
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