Purpose in Retirement

Purpose in Retirement

Cultivating Purpose in Retirement


Purpose in life is important, especially during transitions, such as retirement.

Languishing, or not feeling engaged in one’s life, is not ideal, especially in retirement when you have more time to focus on yourself. Not knowing what is next is off-putting and unsettling. On the other hand, purpose is associated with increased longevity, preserved cognitive ability, and other positive attributes.

What fills you up? Purpose is inspiration, living life in alignment with your values, choices, actions, and decisions. Hustling again.

Let’s look at why cultivating purpose is important in retirement.

Purpose vs. Meaning or Goals

First, how is purpose different than meaning or goals?

Meaning is backward looking. Meaning makes sense of the world as it is happening. Purpose, on the other hand, is an inspiration to attain something in the future.

Goals are intentions that can be accomplished, whereas purpose can never be accomplished. Say your purpose is to be a caring grandfather. When is that finished?

A purpose can help you set and accomplish goals, but purpose needs cultivating.

You can’t imagine not doing it when it is your purpose. Regardless of monetary reward, your cup is full just in being with your purpose. You never work a day when you work for your purpose.


The purpose of life is to find your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away. ~David Viscott


Why Purpose?

Without purpose, you languish. When young, you might experience uncertainty. In midlife, ennui. When retired, however, a lack of purpose is linked to isolation and loneliness.

A purpose is necessary for all phases of your life. Once you retire, you have time to cultivate purpose. Life seems to fall into place when you have a purpose. Purpose allows you to be even-keeled, even during challenging times. When you live in alignment, you pursue what inspires you. A sense of purpose mitigates stressors; you can roll with the punches. You focus on the future, and less gets in your way.

Why purpose? Well, the alternative is to have a pretty good life. Pretty good, but things just fizzle out. Purpose brings motivation and inspiration. You have the discipline to get things done and do not require willpower. Purpose provides perspective and meaning to your life. Purpose is a positive feedback loop: the more you give, the larger your reward and the more you give.

Finding a Sense of Purpose in Retirement

Do You Have Purpose

Do you feel your life has a clear direction? Do you feel your daily activities are engaging and important?

A sense of purpose is subjective. You feel as if your life has a purpose. Thinking you have purpose has positive health outcomes, not only in longevity but improves resiliency and other health outcomes. You are more resilient through health challenges and have slower rates of cognitive decline. Finally, you are less impulsive and play the long game with purpose.

Purpose inspires. You no longer need motivation to get things done; once you are inspired, you no longer have to “try.”


How to Cultivate Purpose in Retirement

Why do you want purpose? Peace, freedom, joy, being? Can you discover purpose, or is it cultivated?

Purpose emerges from your unconscious mind when you are ready for it. You might just be surprised at how obvious the answer is. Your purpose is hidden in plain sight. You can’t discover it, but you have to cultivate it. You can’t go out looking and find your purpose. It grows.

Purpose can be:

  • Borne out of gradual interaction with a hobby or a skill. Like a snowball rolling down the hill
  • A reaction to something that happens in your life. Now you know the direction of your life. This is re-invention
  • Drawn from the example of another. Seeing someone at their purpose provides inspiration

There is no test to take or form to fill out that describes your purpose. It isn’t a mental process but engaging with the world. You build scaffolding around you as you cultivate your purpose.


Leap and the net will appear.


Purpose is awakened doing. It’s the quality of your now rather than a fun game to play now, but ultimately unimportant.

Cultivating Purpose in Retirement

Retirement is re-invention. See yourself persisting through time and ultimately contributing to the world. You have, after all, a body of work to create and a reason to be.

As I like to say, It is a joy and a relief to be myself.

Cultivate purpose in retirement by living in the present. The purpose of life is to be present.

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