Today we’re talking about how to find your passion in retirement – how to figure out your direction or your purpose once you’ve made the decision to leave the traditional working world or once your children have left home.
Usually, when I get questions from people who don’t know what they want to do with their lives – when they’re trying to “find their passion” – they tend come from three distinct groups of people:
- teenagers or young adults in their early twenties who are just starting out trying to choose the “right” career path for themselves;
- stay-at-home-mothers who are trying to figure out their next step now that their children are old enough to attend school full-time; and
- people in their fifties and sixties who have already finished at least one career and have recently retired, or whose children are now grown and out on their own.
All three of these groups struggle with the question of “what do I do now?” but it comes from different places. I talked about the first group – the younger set — in a blog article last week, but today we’re going to focus on the third group – the recently retired.
The retirement mindset
For this older group, what often happens is that people count down the days to retirement like it’s the holy grail of happiness, but then once they actually get there, it turns out it’s not what they expected it to be and they feel lost. And there are usually one of two different things going on in this situation:
- they feel they “should” be doing “something” with their lives even though they feel no pressing need or calling towards anything in particular; or
- they feel lost because their sense of identity or importance was tied to their jobs or their children and now they don’t know what to do with themselves.
Forget the “shoulds”
If you’re in the first group and you’re caught up in the feeling that you “ought” to be doing “something more” with your life (maybe because everyone you know who is also retired is running around with fuller schedules than they had when they were actually working), then the best thing you can to is to ask yourself why. I’ve talked about this before, but that very feeling of “ought” or “should” is something to beware of – whenever you feel ought or should, it’s almost always an indicator that you’re paying more attention to outside opinion at the expense of your own inner wisdom and guidance.
Essentially, if you’re happy being where you are right now, and are enjoying a slower, quieter pace, then why should you try to shake that up? If you’re happy reading your books, working in your garden, and meeting friends for an occasional mid-day round of golf, then why are you giving yourself a guilt-trip over not having some great “passion” in life?
What if the point right now IS to take it easy?
Perhaps, at this particular point in your story, your mission IS to relax and enjoy yourself! Perhaps this is the time when you’re meant to let yourself slow down a little and take the time to reconnect with yourself – time to just BE, just for the sake of being. Perhaps this point you’re at right now is a rest and regeneration time for you.
It doesn’t mean that you will never find another calling, or a new direction to forge ahead on. It doesn’t mean that your purpose is complete and that the world doesn’t really need you anymore. (You’re definitely still needed!) But trying to force some sort of epiphany when you’re in a natural rest cycle isn’t going to work.
More than that, it’s just going to make you feel like you’re not living up to some arbitrary, outside standard about purpose and missions and grand visions. If you’re happy where you are and doing what you’re doing, then just LET YOURSELF be happy and content! Enjoy it!You can't force an epiphany about your passion when you're just not feeling it. Click To Tweet
Who are you?
Now, if on the other hand, you fall into the second camp of having lost touch with your sense of who you are, or if you just don’t know what to do with yourself after you’ve retired or after your kids have moved out, and this is very common, by the way – a lot of people find that, despite all the anticipation that they had about retiring, they’re frickin’ bored when it actually happens. If you’re in this situation, it’s time to re-examine your presumptions: You’ve been basing your identity on other people or on situations that are external to you.
This is a big problem, because now that those outside things and people are gone, you’re feeling lost. You can’t base your “you–ness” on anything outside of you – no matter how much you love those other people or outside situations, you can’t ever base your identity or sense of self on them. YOU are not your job. And you are not your children.
Likewise, you are not important to the world because of your job or because of your children. You are important to the world whether you have those things or not. You are important – and will always be important – just because you’re you. There’s nothing you have ever had to prove, and no dues you’ve ever had to pay – except the ones you felt that you ought to .
There was comfort in predictability
Your problem right now is that you’re bored and you’re drifting. You’ve always had a generally predicable schedule with your job or with your family, and you’ve always known, more or less, what you were going to do each day. And you defined your purpose around this. Now that all of that is gone, you’re missing that element of predictability.
And the best thing you can do is to create yourself a new schedule and a new routine. What is it that you used to enjoy doing when you were working or looking after your family that you didn’t get to do as often as you wanted to? What did you used to wish you had more time for? This is a good starting point for setting yourself a new schedule and finding your new direction and new purpose.Retirement is just another stage of your journey. It will become what you choose to make of it. Click To Tweet
It’s a new beginning!
Stop thinking about retirement as an ending – it’s a beginning! You can use this time to revisit old hobbies that you never had enough time for. You can sign up for continuing education courses and learn about something you were always curious about. You can volunteer in a school to help children learn to read or you can volunteer with a seniors’ home to drive residents to medical appointments. You can become a mentor to someone who is just starting out in your field of expertise. You can start a blog about a topic or a cause that you care about. The possibilities before you are endless so let your enthusiasm flow and run with it – let the real you come out and shine!
And regardless of which camp you fall into, retirement is just another stage of your journey. It will become for you what you choose to make of it. As always, taking the time for silence and stillness will allow you to reconnect with the wisdom that you already have within you. Listen to your inner guidance, and you will find your way.
photo credit: (c) Can Stock Photo (modified by me)