At a recent symposium on aging optimally, Lisa and I provided a break out session for participants interested in examining their sense of purpose. At the end of our talk, we provided the attendees with a short list of questions to consider and reflect upon. Upon reviewing the questions for myself, I thought about how the meaning of purpose has changed throughout my own life and will continue to evolve. The key seems to be when to hold tight and when to let go.
Think back to when your child was learning how to ride a bike and how you had to let go of the bike and how you were afraid, he would fall. Remember the first time you gave your child the car keys and let him drive the car alone for the first time. Remember how you felt when you dropped your child off to college and how it felt knowing you might not see him for a full semester. All of these experiences are not just about letting your child grow but if you are honest, the realization that in letting him become independent he becomes less dependent on you and a large part of your sense of purpose changes and it creates a bit of uneasiness in not being needed as much.
There can be a void, so to speak.
In one of our workshops, we ask participants for a show of hands if they find themselves sometimes reviewing their sense of purpose; not surprisingly many affirm that they want to experiment with their choices. We discuss/practice many methods in examining our choices including vision boards, journal writing, and meditating to name a few. In considering one’s options we share a piece of sound advice that has served us; if your choice from life’s menu is not a strong yes, then it’s a no.
We talk to participants about how the second half of their lives allows them to review their passions; whether it be painting, birding, mentoring, or just hiking in the woods with their four-legged friend. It is a confirmation that our sense of purpose is intact and changing in a way that is healthy and helpful. We also sometimes find participants telling us they retired from their first careers and jumped right into another job, or volunteer position without taking a pause to consider their options and wished they had. By no means are we suggesting that making a decision quickly is a bad thing but we should also remember that it does not have to be a permanent thing either. After ending my career in teaching history for 34 years I thought I would jump right into being a labor relations specialist, but that did not pan out. So, I moved on and began cultivating shiitake mushrooms as a niche product only to decide after 5 years that I wanted to stop and pursue writing a book and going out on the road to share what I have learned thus far with others which brings me here and glad that I have a passion for sharing ideas with others and not afraid to be on the proverbial bicycle with my own set of training wheels.
One thing that is constant is change, when it comes to your sense of purpose.
Victor Westgate, a high school educator of 34 years, along with his wife Dr. Lisa Cowley, a holistic chiropractor and nutritional counselor of 25 years, are authors of Pack Lightly: Making Sense of the Second Half of Your Life. You can learn more at: www.joyinaging.com