Various studies have suggested that having a sense of purpose is important for healthy living, longevity, and life satisfaction. Having a sense of purpose is also an important component of a satisfying retirement. Those who don’t find a sense of purpose in retirement are more likely to experience depression and regret than those who do.
Even before I officially ‘retired’ a year ago from my teaching career, I had started to develop a sense of purpose for the new chapter in my life. I asked myself questions about what I thought was really important to me. I also considered what I enjoyed doing most—the kinds of things that energized me rather than drained me. This personal exploration took some time and energy, but it was worth it.
Because most of us will live much longer than earlier generations did, I realized that issues around aging needed to be explored and discussed. That’s what I do, and that’s what keeps me motivated from day to day. How I carry out my purpose has evolved over the past year, but I am as energized as ever and feel like I’m a woman with a mission.
Sometimes people find a sense of purpose in very personal ways. I’ve talked before about individuals who found purpose in caring for their pets or investing their energy in their grandchildren.
I realized after retiring that finding a sense of purpose didn’t have to be one single mission. I also experience a sense of joy and purpose when spending time with grandchildren, family members and friends. I also find joy and a sense of purpose as a “pet parent.” To me, having a sense of purpose is what motivates me, gives me joy, and a sense of satisfaction. To me, purpose is also something that tells me I can make a difference.
A Community Cause
Other people discover their sense of purpose through working with others and/or through community service.
I live within two blocks of the Fords Pond recreational area in Sutherlin, Oregon. When my husband and I first moved to Sutherlin over 15 years ago, Ford’s pond wasn’t much more than a neglected old logging pond.
A few years ago, I kept running into one of our retired community members who wanted to talk about a vision he and some others had for the pond area. As a result of a lot of hard work and a great deal of vision, these community members formed a nonprofit organization called the Friends of Ford Pond.
In partnership with the city, the foundation has been awarded more than $632,000 to improve visitor access to the 202-acre area. Ford’s Pond is now a beautiful area where people can walk, hike, fish, and birdwatch. The pond area has also become a gathering spot for community members who want to participate in group walks.
Future plans include ADA-accessible parking and walking paths s well as playgrounds, picnic pavilions and a permanent restroom (instead of the current outhouse located near the parking lot). The group plans to continue fundraising to support improvements to the park. Volunteers take care of the area by keeping trails mowed and by picking up trash.
Making a Difference
Some people feel like they have already used up all their energy during their working years. I would argue that finding a purpose of your own can renew your energy. I also believe that when we find a sense of purpose, we can offer our unique contributions and can make a difference in the world around us.