Having a Purpose is Vital in the Second Half of Life

Having a Purpose is Vital in the Second Half of Life...

People have a desire to feel and know that their lives make a difference. In the second half of life, this desire becomes even more pronounced. At the first of each year, there is often a focus on having resolutions for the New Year. The majority of New Year’s resolutions quickly go by the wayside, often because they are not connected to something that has a deeper meaning, and that really connect to their purpose in life. Research has shown that having purpose helps you live longer, healthier, and happier, and even help brain functioning in the later years. Some people are aware from a young age what it is that they uniquely offer this world, and are able to pursue it throughout their lifetime. For others, this may begin to evolve in their thirties or forties, and may even become a deep longing in their career choices. In the second half of life we want to know we are effectively supportive to others in our lives. We have a deep desire to make sense of our lives. If this is something you want to gain clarity about, there are ways to explore this. The well-known developmental psychologist and Pulitzer Prize winner Erik Erikson described the eight stages of human development in his book Identity and the Life Cycle (1959). The last stages are ones that concern us in the second half of life. According to Erikson, in adulthood, if a person has adequately matured through the earlier stages, the seventh stage of development is that of either being ‘generative’ in one’s life or ‘stagnating’. Generative is the ability to be supportive of others. Often it can be of a younger family member and others of the younger generations. It...
My Second Act: Writing My First Musical

My Second Act: Writing My First Musical...

This editor hopes to pursue his passion all the way to Broadway For my second act, I’m in the process of writing my first musical, with dreams of taking it to Broadway. Let me tell you how this has happened and my hopes for it — and for me. The course was charted long ago: when I was in fourth grade in Cincinnati, Ohio, my parents took me to see the national touring company of The Sound of Music and it was love at first sight. From that moment on, I spent hours listening to Broadway cast albums and reading the published scripts of plays and musicals my parents received monthly from the Fireside Theater Book Club. While other nine-year-olds memorized baseball stats, I memorized song lyrics. Turning a Pipe Dream into a Project For 50 years, the love affair continued. Every so often, I’d imagine what it would be like to someday write a musical, but I thought it was nothing more than a pipe dream. Since I also loved writing poetry and reading, I’d pursued a career in publishing, editing dozens of books running the gamut from Johnny Cash’s memoir to a new translation of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Then, about two years ago, at a friend’s birthday party I met a talented singer-songwriter named Jay Jacques, who played a few songs on his guitar. A few days later I wrote Jay, suggesting that I’d be happy to write lyrics if he ever needed a songwriting partner. He took me up on the offer and we wrote a few pop songs, including a fun bossa nova. One day, as Jay glanced at the posters and books in my apartment, a veritable shrine to musical theater, he asked:...
What It Takes to Turn Your Passion Into a Career

What It Takes to Turn Your Passion Into a Career...

Enthusiasm isn’t enough. Follow these tips from the author of ‘What Is Your What?’ (The following is an adaptation from What Is Your WHAT?, the new New York Times bestseller by Steve Olsher. You can now get a free copy of the book at the What Is Your WHAT? website.) We’re often told that if we pursue our passion and do what we love as a career, we will — to quote Confucius — never have to work a day in our life. And let’s not forget Oprah who popularized the phrase: “Do what you love and the money will follow.” In theory, pursuing your passion as a career should be easy, effortless and create a monetary nirvana where income flows and happiness prevails. Reality, however, demonstrates that few who follow such advice will ever reach their desired destination. When Passion-Following Turns Sour It seems like a dirty trick. We’re encouraged to chase the carrot and before we know it, we’re miles down the rabbit hole with nothing to show for our efforts but mountains of debt that may take decades to repay. Consider the countless examples of those who quit their day jobs to pursue passion-related opportunities (cupcakes anyone?) only to end up emotionally, spiritually, and financially drained. When you throw in the harsh realities of capitalism, the happy-go-lucky “if you build it, they will come” rhetoric is a blatant disservice to those who lack clarity on the elements truly needed to bring their anticipated utopia to fruition. Now, before the hate mail starts rolling in, I’m not saying passion isn’t important. I am saying that you need to focus on cultivating a sustainable career… not merely engaging in a hobby. Creating a flourishing existence that provides a...
Why Even Adults Need Heroes

Why Even Adults Need Heroes...

Superman and young athletes don’t do it for us anymore It was easy to have a hero when I was young. Heroes could be anyone older, wiser and more accomplished, and when you’re a kid, that could be pretty much anyone. Growing up in the 1960s, if you asked me to name those I most admired, I probably would have answered NFL quarterback Bart Starr or baseball great Mickey Mantle. If you asked me to name a hero who wasn’t a professional athlete, I probably would have come up with Charles Lindbergh. Now, however, it’s harder for me to say who my heroes are. A Different Perspective I’ve heard too much about Mickey Mantle’s off-field drinking and skirt-chasing to consider him a role model today. Something similar happened once I read about Lindbergh’s views about racial superiority and staying out of World War II. Now that I’m older and wiser, or perhaps more cynical and more attuned to feet of clay, whom can I admire today? To paraphrase Tina Turner, do I need another hero? It’s more complicated, but still possible and valuable to find a hero, even as we get older, according to Scott Allison and George Goethals. They’re a couple of University of Richmond psychologists who have written extensively about heroism in books like Heroes: What They Do and Why We Need Them. Allison said we seek out heroes because they have the potential to energize and inspire us. We also seek wisdom from our heroes, hoping they will reveal meaning, truth and purpose, according to Allison. “They help us grow and improve and heal wounds. They give us hope and they elevate us emotionally,” Allison said. Recognizing the Flaws But hero worship becomes more nuanced and...
The 3 Questions to Help You Find Your Purpose

The 3 Questions to Help You Find Your Purpose...

Answer them and you’ll love your life more, says ‘The Payoff Principle’ author In junior high school, I decided that I would go into the ministry. The problem was, I wasn’t sure it was my dream . . . or ever had been. I went on to get my master’s and doctoral degrees, taught several undergraduate classes and something strange happened. I discovered I loved teaching and I was good at it — very good. But I also felt guilty for tossing aside my “supposed” purpose or calling to the ministry. Fortunately, I attended a workshop on “intensive journaling” about how to relax, think, reflect, visualize and keep a journal, so the deeper things inside me might be revealed. I then wrote in my journal: “I can serve God and others as a teacher, speaker and author.” Almost instantly, my guilt disappeared, and a sense of peace, direction, and well-being settled over me. I knew I was living my life and working my career on purpose. For years, I had confused a job with a purpose. Now, decades later, I am loving the work I do and feeling thankful that I’ve been able to touch the lives of thousands of people because my life and work have lined up with my purpose [http://www.designingbrightertomorrows.org/growth/5-tips-to-find-meaning-and-purpose-in-later-life/]. The payoffs start to roll in when you know that your life and your work are lined up with your purpose — at least some of the time. So that raises a critical question: How can you discover your purpose? It all comes down to the three critical, but deceptively simple, questions: What are you good at? What excites you? What difference do you want to make? Here’s how to answer them to find your purpose:...
The Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering in Nature

The Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering in Nature...

When ‘citizen scientists’ help gather data, they don’t get paid, but the rewards are priceless There’s something innately restorative to the human spirit about watching the flow of water in a stream, and this is especially true in spring. The frozen landscapes and frigid temperatures of the winter months can cast a stillness across one’s interior terrain as well, so to watch the current of a river in May is surely to come alive again. That sense of renewal is even greater, though, when it extends from one’s own spirit to the larger environment. Which is just what happens when I go to watch for the herring in the annual spring monitoring program. Herring spend most of their life at sea, returning to the freshwater rivers and streams they were born in once a year to spawn. In recent times, however, their numbers have declined dramatically, possibly because of overfishing, diminished water quality and/or habitat loss. Or maybe something else entirely. Fishermen, researchers and environmentalists would all like to understand what’s causing this. To this end, volunteers help scientists monitor the herring’s arrival into the tributaries of the Hudson River and collect baseline data about these changing migration patterns. And while we citizen scientists know we’re helping out, what we get in return is worth far more than the time we give. The Call of the Wild This is not difficult work. It requires only that one stand at a bridge or the edge of a waterway for 15 minutes twice a week in April and May, look for signs of the herring, then write down what is seen — whether herring are there or not. This is about absence or presence. And if those minutes spent watching the...
Why I’m Not Buying the Retirement Gloom

Why I’m Not Buying the Retirement Gloom...

In the emerging Unretirement movement, you are your best investment Gray wave. Age wave. Geezer tsunami. (Pick your favorite — or most hated — euphemism.) Catchphrases like these capture the realization that we’re living longer and that older Americans make up a growing share of the population. As economist Laurence Kotlikoff and columnist Scott Burns say in The Coming Generational Storm: “The aging of America isn’t a temporary event. We are well into a change that is permanent, irreversible, and very long term.” Living longer should be a trend worth celebrating. But many people believe that America’s boomers can’t afford retirement, let alone a decent retirement. They fear that aging boomers are inevitably hurtling toward a lower standard of living. And here’s their evidence: We’ve just been through the worst downturn since the 1930s, decimating jobs and pensions. Retirement savings are slim. Surveys show that boomers aren’t spending much time planning for retirement. The prediction that the swelling tab for Social Security and other old-age entitlements will push the U.S. government and economy into a Greece-like collapse seems almost routine. The Unretirement Movement Don’t buy into the retirement gloom. I’m not. Here’s why: The signs of a grassroots push to reinvent the last third of life are unmistakable. Call it the “Unretirement” movement — and it is a movement. Unretirement starts with the insight that earning a paycheck well into the traditional retirement years will make a huge difference in our future living standards. You — and your skills and talents — are your best retirement investment. What’s more, if society taps into the talents and abilities of sixty-somethings and seventy-somethings, employers will benefit, the economy will be wealthier and funding entitlements will be much easier. The Unretirement movement...
5 Tips to Find Meaning and Purpose in Later Life

5 Tips to Find Meaning and Purpose in Later Life...

How to program your internal GPS in retirement Throughout my middle years, I never questioned what held meaning in my life. The scaffolding of my identity as a successful college Chief Financial Officer and owner of a thriving software company was built into the job. What I did was who I was, and that was the end of it. Then, once I moved over to the other side of full-time work, the picture became less clear. Take the job away and who was I? Stepping aside, I was more than ready to bequeath my left-brained razzle-dazzle to the young Turks whose beta-wave-oriented brains were just reaching full-flourish mode. I could also sense that new personal capacities were opening up for me, which could change my sudden sense of loss to a sense of gain. I felt something stir within me: The potential of moving forward with vitality and purpose. Yet I had only the slightest awareness of how to construct such a new reality. Six years later, life is again a happy adventure and my mission is clear. (I captured that journey towards wholeness in my recent memoir, Sailing the Mystery.) Here are five tips that will hopefully ease your passage into a purpose-filled later life: 1. Identify the activities that provide you with a sense of purpose. There is no objective reality when it comes to defining what we find personally meaningful — we’re all wired differently. Some of us feel purposeful when we experience a sense of direction, others when we’re engaged in nurturing and still others when we are immersed in nature. The key is to know what works for you. My favorite process of gaining discernment is to keep a notebook over a month (or...