How to find your purpose in retirement
The questions you need to ask yourself about finding your purpose
Having a meaning and purpose in life is vital. It can help you feel happier, can reduce stress and give you a greater sense of wellbeing. But science has found that it can also help you live a longer and healthier life.
Here, we explain the importance of finding your purpose in retirement and the steps you can take to work out yours.
What we know about finding your purpose
There have been plenty of studies that show the benefits associated with a strong sense of purpose. They include resilience, longevity, and a greater sense of wellbeing.
An analysis of 10 research studies involving over 136,000 people found that having a purpose in life can reduce your mortality risk, particularly in relation to cardiovascular outcomes. People with purpose are more likely to undergo preventative health measures like staying active, getting a colonoscopy or getting their cholesterol levels checked.
This could be because people who believe their life has meaning had a lower stress response. Therefore, they had lower levels of inflammation and lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
The purposeful people in Okinawa
Okinawa in Japan is home to one of the longest living communities in the world. In Okinawa, everyone is part of a social group of a Moai. A Moai is a circle of friends that connect regularly and support each other through life’s difficulties well into old age. It shows that the positive influence of good friends can add years to your life.
The other reason the people of Okinawa live so long, is because they all have a sense of purpose. In Japanese, they call it ‘ikigai’. It translates to a life worth living or purpose in life. Everyone in Okinawa has clear responsibilities and they feel needed and a part of a community well into their 100s.
In this Washington Post article, the journalist spoke to elderly Japanese who said ikigai could be anything from “taking care of grandchildren,” “volunteering,” to “keeping their street clean and pretty.”
How can you find your ikigai?
To find your ikigai, have a think about:
- What you love
- What you’re good at
- What the world needs
- What you can be paid for
When you think about your ikigai, think of where those four concepts intersect. That is your ikigai.
As we age, we may not be in paid employment, but it’s equally important to find meaning in life and have a reason to get up in the morning.
What are your values?
If you’d like to find your ikigai but you’re still stumped, it might be helpful to think about your core values.
Do any of these resonate with you?
How your values can help you find your purpose
Choose two or three values that resonate with you. Then do some brainstorming to think about some activities or programs that could align with these values.
For example, if family is a core value, can you volunteer to mind the grandkids or help your family out in some other way? Could you regularly go to their sporting matches or teach them a hobby, like knitting or baking?
It doesn’t even have to be your own grandkids – can you ‘adopt’ some children in your street or your friends' grandkids? Connecting with children is a wonderful way to feel a sense of purpose and see life from a different perspective.
If curiosity or education are core values, could you join the University of the Third Age? This is a member organisation where you can learn new things and meet people. Have a look at what’s on offer at your local chapter.
If growth is a core value, you could join a book group or talking group where you can learn new ideas.
If fitness or health are core values, you could join a yoga class, join a gym, or consult with a physiotherapist for age related exercises.
If charity or contribution are core values, you could look into volunteer work.
If you’re still not sure, talk to the Positive Ageing Department of your local council, your local library or local community centre. They will have plenty of opportunities, programs and classes for you to get involved in.
The other advantage of broadening your horizons and doing new activities is the opportunity to meet new people and find your own Moai. Having a group of like-minded friends can instantly bring a greater sense of meaning and compassion to your life.
Keep it simple
Of course, finding your purpose doesn’t have to involve extra activities or meeting new people. There can be great pleasure in finding meaning in the everyday moments in your life. Think about the moments in your life that you’re grateful for. It could be the way the sun shines through the trees in the morning or the first sip of your cup of coffee. It could be the friendly smile from your neighbour or watching the dogs run through the garden.
By practising mindfulness and gratefulness, you can experience a higher level of emotional awareness. It can give you a deeper appreciation for the positive aspects of your life and help bring more enjoyment to your day.
Ask for help when you need it
If you’re ready to join a new club or meet some like-minded people but you’re not sure how, it’s ok to ask for help. At Five Good Friends, we can help with things like transport to classes or meetups, someone to help you in the garden or even someone to have a cuppa with.
We match you with the support person who best suits your needs and personality. It’s our mission to help people live vibrant lives in their own homes. We want to be your Moai.
If you’d like to talk to us about what help you need, get in touch. Our friendly team is available to talk about ways that our services can help you find your purpose.
Learn more: Life after retirement: side hustle for seniors