In recent years, there have been a number of studies about the relationship between purpose and aging. A Sense of Purpose Promotes Healthy Aging is one example. Research suggests that living with a sense of purpose not only adds quality of life but years as well. It also is associated with less risk of Alzheimer’s.
But what is ‘purpose’? What is it like to not have a sense of purpose in your life? How do you find purpose? There are many ways to describe the impact of living life without purpose – languid, meaningless, without soul, etc. No wonder it is so important!
When you look at various definitions, purpose is really about having a driving force in life or sense of meaning. So, you could say that purpose is what gets you out of bed in the morning. Or, from a quote in Jennifer Louden’s book Why Bother, “Meaning arises from loving life…” What can you create so that you love your life even more?
Purpose Is in the Present
Notice that purpose is present tense. Loving life is present tense. So, our purpose is NOT what we have contributed in the past or who we have been. Those experiences have only served to bring us to who we are today. One of the gifts of life is that we can renew ourselves as we choose.
An internet search offers lists of things mature people can do to create meaning, such as joining groups or taking up hobbies. There are ample great ideas, and it is more personal than that.
My question for you is, what matters to you, right now? There is no right answer; there is your answer. For one person, it may be helping the hungry or homeless, for someone else it may be touching the world through art. Perhaps what matters relates to nature, social good, family well-being, education, or spreading laughter. The person who feels the vitality and love of life is you; it is your choice.
Time to Light Your Fire
The point is, where is your spark? How can you feed that flame? Happily, at our age we are wiser than we have ever been. Right? So, listen to that wisdom; listen to yourself. Then create a life you love.
Here are some steps you can take to amplify the sense of purpose in your life.
- Have a conversation with the wise woman that you are. You might even hold a little ceremony to honor her presence. Have tea together!
- Brainstorm alone or with a friend. Go crazy; nothing is out of bounds. Hopefully, you will have a good laugh at some of the ideas, and then find a nugget or two that is worth some exploration.
- Explore. Try on different ideas. You don’t need to commit until you are ready. Think of it as taking some outfits into the dressing room to see if you like them.
- Trust that once you tune into something that brings you energy and aligns with your values, you will suddenly see opportunity. You will.
- Take one action toward what you are drawn to, no matter how small. This creates even more energy and commitment. Do this every day.
- Talk back. You probably will hear yourself think things like, “I’m too old,” “It will be hard,” or “I don’t know how.” Good! That means you are challenging yourself. You are just right, it might be easy, and you can learn how. Growth is invigorating.
I’d love to hear about your relationship with your purpose. Perhaps you are like me, using the freedom of this age to contribute from a deep place of purpose. Perhaps you are where I was several years ago, knowing there was something more and puzzled about how to move forward. Thank heavens for the little voice that says there is more. Do you hear that voice?
What is your purpose? Have you been in such a place where you did not have a sense of purpose in your life? How do you find purpose? Where do you look for it?