Those of us nearing retirement, or who have retired, may ask, “What’s next?” For some, retirement can be a time to engage in activities that are more aligned with their passion. Others may decide to return to work, pursuing something familiar or finally doing what they always wanted to do.
Ken Dychtwald tells us, “When you enjoy your work, be it paid or unpaid, you tend to feel needed and productive, which adds meaning to your life.” As many of us live longer and remain healthier, we have new opportunities to follow—or to find—our passion. It is up to each of us to decide how to use the gifts of this new longevity in satisfying ways.
What is passionate calling? George Bernard Shaw described it as “…the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.” Writer and theologian Frederick Buechner adds, “A vocation is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep needs.” It’s not too late to find it.
Look through the rearview window of your life. What subject do you love learning about? What are you doing when time seems to fly? What do you do that energizes you and rarely bores you? Describe a time when you felt that you were in your passion. Most importantly, complete the statement, “I love to (fill in the blank).” What is it that you cannot not do?
Reflect on the sense of fulfillment you have found in work. Some careers may offer a high level of success or reward but provide a low degree of fulfillment. When we engage in activities that reflect our passion or calling, we are more likely to experience a high sense of fulfillment and a high level of success and reward. Ann felt called to help others. After retiring from satisfying jobs in social work and nursing, she developed a “care team” ministry within her church.
Identify the strengths and skills that you use routinely, even if you never did them for pay. Driven by a by a desire to give back to his community, Doug remained an active community volunteer until his death at 92. His strong organizational ability was evident in all of his volunteer work.
Next, develop a plan. Here are four ways to start:
Take small steps. Maybe you love animals, but becoming a vet is not practical or desirable. You can follow your passion through volunteering at rescue shelters, fostering animals, or becoming an advocate.
Take moderate risks. Community engagement through political involvement may feel risky, but serving as a volunteer on a local commission or board can be less so.
Develop a choir of support. We all need cheerleaders who give us encouragement, wisdom, and perspective.
Slay those “you can’t do that because…” messages we may carry with us.
Now ask the burning question, “How and where am I to use the talent I have been placed on earth to use?” Then, promise in advance to listen and live the answer.
Linda Henry writes regularly on topics related to aging, health care, and communication and is the co-author of several books, including Transformational Eldercare from the Inside Out: Strengths-Based Strategies for Caring. She conducts workshops nationally on aging and creating caring work environments. Her volunteer emphasis is age-friendly communities.