Do you get up each day with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose? Judging from the King County Library Wisdom Cafes that I facilitate, many of us desire a sense of purpose yet struggle with redefining what that means as we age. The daily routines and rhythms of most of our lives relate more to habit and necessity than to a deeper sense of calling.
Here are five concepts that can help us feel upbeat and hopeful about our lives. They’re listed separately, but they are actually interdependent. Knowing the answer to one can naturally lead you to discover answers for the rest.
Something to do
Many people anticipate a time where they don’t “have to” do anything. While the thought is appealing, the reality can be disappointing. Having something to do that is more than “routine maintenance” means finding activities that engage us deeply.
What have you loved doing in your life? When have you felt most energized and excited? What kinds of activities engaged you? What personal attributes were called forth by those activities? Think of it as a kind of personal job interview in which you are asked what your greatest talents and gifts are for the job you want. What would you say?
Something to look forward to
We hear many reminders about staying in the moment, yet planning for and anticipating future events encourages us to think about the choices we make every day. And looking forward to something can get us through difficult times.
What we anticipate with pleasure can be as simple as lunch with a friend, a new class, or a family visit. It can be as unique as one of our “bucket list” items or as regular as the exercise class we signed up for to stay in shape.
Something to believe in
When asked what you value and what sustains you, can you identify what those things are? For many, their spiritual traditions are their foundation. As people become increasingly aware of the serious issues facing the world, they might be moved to activism and involvement in ways they hadn’t been before. Whatever those deep places of certainty and comfort are, knowing them and honoring them grounds you.
Something—or someone—to love
We often use the word love casually: We love our favorite restaurants, the teams we root for, the new car, old mementoes. While the things we love are important, at least as important are the people we love and who love us. Family, friends, pets, teachers, and colleagues—all are among those whose care and caring matter to us.
Something that makes us laugh
Laughter is good for us. It has health benefits, clears our brains, and can lead to more creativity. The internet has lots of funny things to give us a daily dose of humor, but even more essential is being able to laugh with compassion at our own and others’ foibles, and at life’s absurdities and incongruities.
So, tomorrow morning, if you wake up with your stomach tight and a list of un-dones and to-dos hounding you, run through the five concepts and see what comes up. Only you can tell what is really “yours to do.”
Rebecca Crichton is executive director of Northwest Center for Creative Aging and presents programs on that topic in the Seattle area. She worked at Boeing for 21 years as a writer, curriculum designer, and leadership development coach. She has master’s degrees in child development and organizational development, and she is a certified coach.