It’s not a “Mother Teresa” sort of thing. Purpose is the best way to make your life really really happy.
A lot of what’s out there about finding a sense of purpose comes from the premise that we owe it to God (or whatever you choose to call that external force) to do something worthwhile with our time here. That’s all well and good, but what if your personal philosophy doesn’t go there. Is purpose irrelevant then?
Not at all.
Purpose is important for every single one of us. One of the critical pieces of becoming an effective adult is knowing where you want to go–a sense of purpose. It is your rudder, your sail, and your North Star. Purpose helps you get going and keep going because you know where you are going. It also holds the key to why you want to get there.
As young adults, purpose typically isn’t fully formed. We may say we’re working to afford that hot car or the killer flat screen TV and sound system. That’s actually a good way to start toward becoming an effective adult. But as we move through life, we either either evolve beyond that childish materialistic definition of purpose or we start to drift. And drifting can be very unsettling.
Purpose doesn’t have to be something herioc and monumental. It may be as simple as “make sure each person I interact with is better off because of that interaction.” But it’s got to be bigger than you, to be about more than your own comfort and convenience.
Once you retire, the need for your own clear sense of purpose becomes even more critical. The job provided a lot of what you used to prove your self worth. When that goes away, you need to replace it with something that you believe in strongly–with something you want to do something about. That’s purpose. Maybe it’s teaching inner city kids about personal finance in an after school class and maybe it’s creating a beautiful garden. The “what” is your call.
But do it.
Without purpose, we notice what hurts more. We notice slights more. We get depressed more easily. We get sick more often. A sense of purpose is as important to your overall health as good nutrition and regular exercise. Once you have it figured out, it’s downright exhilarating.
Purpose is the path to doing things you love. Get on it.