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If I asked you what you cared about, I bet you’d have no trouble telling me.  Often we shed those lifelong purposes, but we forget to replace them.  Most probably because we didn’t have to think of them earlier in life.  Raising children, having a job, and caring for elderly parents are but a few of the purposes we had in life that we did not have to think about or even define.

Now it’s different.  We have to define purpose and claim it.  The need for purpose is one the defining characteristics of humans. Human beings suffer serious psychological difficulties without purpose. Purpose is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life.

In order to reinvent our lives at this stage let’s look at how we can claim purpose.  In a nutshell, here are the categories.

1.  Reading

Reading connects us to people and events across time and space.  Finding an author, an historical period (even our decades) or commitment to read a newspaper or journal can connect us to a purpose.  Many of us have the desire hence purpose to read a newspaper or listen to a news program to keep us abreast of current events in the morning. So go to a bookstore, library or any place that offers courses and you will, in effect, be scanning your purpose options.

2. Your own life experience as a springboard to picking a purpose.

Selecting a purpose is not just intellectual but can evolve from your emotional response to a former situation.  I remember in 10th grade when I was assigned the most feared English teacher in my high school and was frozen with terror at being in her class.  As it turned out it was this teacher that was savvy enough to access my benefits and didn’t let my deficits interfere with success.  I couldn’t write, but could speak clearly and I was allowed to lecture my papers to my class. In my adult life, I realized that not all children who had to write college application essays could do so in their best interest via writing and so I set up sessions with them where we talked on a tape and then we listened to that tape and wrote what they said.

3. Cultivate wonder, appreciation, and unselfishness

When we acknowledge our place in the cosmos, it helps to put into perspective any personal concerns.  Wonder is the emotion that promotes this perception.

Certainly no ones life is entirely good or bad.  We all have experienced the gamut of life’s possibilities.  Unfortunately, sometimes we focus on the detriments and don’t give equal emotional time to what are our benefits.  Every time negative thoughts cross your mind just give equal time to all the good things that have happened in your life.  Appreciation ultimately outdoes regrets.  

It’s hard to be unhappy if you focus on another person, interest or outreach. Wiping away a child’s tears can wipe out any personal emotional turmoil you might be experiencing.  Whether unselfishness takes the form

bringing a housebound friend fresh bagels, to volunteering at a child care center, if you add unselfishness to your weekly diet, you will add to your own happiness.

4.  Telling your story

Isn’t it wonderful to have someone interested in hearing about your life?  While we can’t always find someone willing to sit down and listen to us, we can always find time to write, record or even draw our lives story.  I’ve always been taken with the number of books that grandchildren write about their grandparents’ lives.  Recording your life’s experience in any way comfortable for you is a gift to future generations and while your children might not be interested, you can bet that their children will or those who have no experience living through the times you did. 

5. Playing

Sometimes after a career or lifetime that had been exacting and demanding the need to have unencumbered time to play is sufficient purpose for retirement.  My dad who after a lifetime of caretaking his own nuclear family, his brother’s and his parents lives too, wanted nothing more than to arrange to play golf or tennis and watch sports and was perfectly content to do so for the 20 years stage of his life.  Playing can be placed in the category of purpose, it all depends on you.

Purpose, The Key to Reinvention