For well over eight years after I retired, I had a fundamental question in my mind. The question was: “What is my purpose?” In other words, does my life have an important purpose? This question arose quite unexpectedly. You see, I retired over ten years ago and my purpose before retiring, though not explicit in my mind, was my profession.
Before my profession, my purpose was being a student and preparing for the profession. But when I retired, I discovered that I was confused about the apparent lack of a “sense of purpose.” I remember telling anyone who asked me what retirement was like, that I unexpectedly found it difficult to find a sense of purpose. I guess I had never thought purposefully about purpose until then. “Purposefully about purpose” – don’t you just love that statement? :-)
OK, so what is my purpose, now that I have had over ten years to think about it? That’s still a good question. I want my life to have an important purpose, and I know I’m the only one who can determine what that purpose is. Looking back on my life, I now realize I sincerely believed that being a good teacher – my profession for most of my working life – was an important purpose in my life. So now, since I’m no longer teaching, what is my purpose? I didn’t realize before retirement, that I would need to rethink my purpose when I retired. When I bring up this issue with fellow retirees, I often get a confusing look. Some, if not all, seem to know what their purpose is, OR they don’t think it is important enough to even consider.
Before I go any further, I should point out a possible point of confusion. I have often confused purpose with worth. In this case, I’m referring to worth as a personal or moral value that’s not monetary. I now realize, that it is important to NOT look outside of yourself for worth. You see, at the beginning of my professional career, I would often judge my worth by how well I was doing in my profession.
Judging my worth by how well I was doing in my profession, as I see it now, was a mistake. When we look outside ourselves to feel worthy, we are creating a dilemma where we must constantly work for approval, acceptance, control and yes, even love, in order to feel worthy. We then make our self-worth dependent upon a career, an income, our appearance, our family, our neighbors, and the list goes on and on and on ….. If we lose our job, or our appearance (due to looking or feeling older), or our family grows older and moves, or our neighbors move, etc., then there goes our worth! Hopefully, you can see where I’m going with this; your self-worth must come from your inner-self. In fact, we all have an inner value, and it is there for each person to find for her/himself.
I believe a sense of purpose helps me live a more satisfying life. It is important for me to give meaning to what I do and NOT for what I do to give me meaning. Therefore, what is my purpose? My purpose is almost the same as it was before I started my profession — to be a student that is preparing for tomorrow.
Oh, and what is my worth? The only way I can answer that question is with a spin-off of an Einstein quote: “I’m non-quantifiable!” In other words, my worth is ∞!
Is it worth knowing your purpose? Of course, as long as you don’t exchange purpose for worth. :-)