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A Meaning & Purpose-filled Retirement

After the honeymoon phase of retirement wears off, retirees often feel an overall sense of loss.  Specifically, common feelings are:

  • A lack of social interaction
  • A lack of purpose
  • A feeling you’ve reached your peak and are no longer needed
  • A feeling of being disconnected from society

The most common remedy is filling up the new free time with pleasures. And while pleasures are important, they don’t satisfy a lack of purpose

When asked about how people are doing after retirement, you’ll often hear “I’m busy! I have my grandkids, the condo association meeting, shopping, movies, my garden, etc. I don’t know when I found time to work!”

Yes, these people are busy and even experiencing pleasures —and maybe that’s satisfying enough for the short term. But the loneliness and depression often set in if there’s a void of true fulfillment and purpose.

“I used to be somebody important; I used to be needed,” is a frustration commonly expressed by retirees. At work, they were needed, valued, respected and a contributor. As a parent, they were part of something larger than themselves. Now think about what would provide the same feeling of purpose in retirement. 


Here are a few suggestions to finding new meaning and purpose:

  • Study and learn something new. Be curious and interested. Observe and absorb.
  • Look at retirement as an opportunity for a new start.
  • Keep moving forward toward new goals.
  • Stay Social.  Studies show social people live longer.

What’s the difference between pleasure and fulfillment? Pleasure comes from an external source and delivers short-term satisfaction. It feels good at the time, but quickly fades. On the other hand, fulfillment comes from deep within, and the satisfaction it provides is long-term. Fulfillment lasts long after the event is over. Pleasure is winning a game. Fulfillment is teaching the grandkids how to fish, making a gift for children in the hospital, listening to a friend, volunteering at an animal shelter. 

Without purpose, one will end up just seeking pleasurable activities, which is not fulfilling in the long-term. How does someone find purpose and fulfillment in retirement? 

  • Engage with others and stay social
  • Be open to taking risks, make new friends, go new places
  • Work at physical and mental fitness regardless of limitations
  • Practice being enthusiastic, grateful, and satisfied
  • Find ways to give of yourself to others and your community
  • Identify what brought you joy at work, as a parent or child and replace it 

(Source: Forbes, Jun 21, 2016)

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