No matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s possible to discover new passions, achieve fulfillment, and ultimately find your purpose. Focusing on these goals can lift us up and help us foster more meaning each and every day. Read on for six tips that may lead you down the path to self-enlightenment.
Honor your feelings about the past
Before we look ahead to a meaningful new chapter, it’s important to look back and honor the feelings that often bubble up as our roles shift in life, says family expert Jim Burns, PhD, author of Finding Joy in the Empty Nest. “When my wife and I became empty nesters, for example, I threw myself into work,” he reveals. “I didn’t realize at the time that I was in grief.” Just admitting that his identity as a father was changing helped Burns slow down and reflect. “As we get older, it’s healing to mourn what we’re leaving behind — we have to allow this process so we can embrace renewal and reinvention.”
Go easy on yourself
Purpose sounds “effortful,” but doing less work often helps us discover more of it, says spiritual director Alice Fryling, author of Aging Faithfully: The Holy Invitation of Growing Older. “I’ve always been very responsible, but in my 70s, I decided I would try the ‘discipline of irresponsibility,’” she says. “Before saying yes to something, I’d ask myself if I had the energy or desire to do it.” The space she created for herself crystallized her purpose: “It allowed me to see that I don’t need to be everything I thought I needed to be. For example, I don’t have to teach my granddaughter lessons in order to be there for her — I just need to listen to her. My ‘purpose’ is to intersect with people in a meaningful way.”
Shift from role to soul
Discovering greater fulfillment means being “aware and awake to life,” says emotional healing expert Leah Guy, author of The Fearless Path: A Radical Awakening to Emotional Healing and Inner Peace. “Just reframe from what you think of as your ‘role,’ to what you feel in your soul,” Guy advises. In other words, being a mother, sister, co-worker are all roles — but what stirs your passions? “That could be anything from ‘artist’ to ‘lover of nature.’ This simple mental shift lets you pinpoint what you want more of in life.”
Let little things lead you
“We find inspiration by living out our values,” declares Burns. He suggests looking for small ways to honor what matters to you. “There was a season in my life when work was my focus, but as I get older, living authentically becomes more and more important,” he says. “Family is my core value.” I find meaning in talking to my daughter on the phone or reading an inspiring book about family relationships.” It’s these small, everyday purposeful acts that add up to your bigger purpose.
Recharge by connecting
Reaping more joy is far from a solo activity, assures Burns. “We have to look to the ‘replenishing relationships’ in our lives, the VIPs, and move on from the VDPs (very draining people).” Just connecting with friends and chatting about their challenges and triumphs will inspire you. “We don’t tap the collective wisdom of our community enough — simply opening up lifts us all up.”
Embrace your legacy
Having purpose ultimately gives us the freedom to be less “productive,” in the traditional sense, and instead become more fruitful, says Fryling. She notes that folks who describe themselves as enjoying a meaningful life tend to serve others — even in small ways by, say, babysitting their grandkids or being a shoulder to cry on for a loved one. “Let yourself respond to life: By giving to others, you give to yourself.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.