Who are you now? The importance of purpose

Every article about roles and transition starts with a recitation of all the roles and/or transitions the author has gone through.

This story is not about me (until later). This story is about some of the people I have worked with or known, as they were going through transitions. One of the stories is not happy. One has a positive outcome. And then my story ties in purpose.

The names of the people in this article have been changed.

Greg – Lonely and lacking purpose

There was Greg. He was in the Senior Executive Service with the US government. He had a staff, notoriety, and responsibility. He set agendas, investigated safety violations at nuclear facilities, sat in a lot of meetings. Every weekday morning, he put on a shirt and tie, commuted into Washington, DC, and every weekday evening he came home exhausted and counting down the days to retirement. He also talked about all the people he knew who had retired and died shortly after retirement. He was afraid that would happen to him.

He was looking forward to long days on the trout streams, time sitting in tree stands waiting for deer to appear. He did some of that. But he was lonely. He had not developed friendships outside of work. He had a difficult relationship with his son. His marriage had ended. When he wasn’t hunting or fishing, he had little sense of purpose. His roles in life had changed dramatically and he was not adjusting well to that.

As he predicted, he did develop a terminal illness and passed away within two years of his retirement. I do not believe this happened just because he was lonely and purposeless. He was also a smoker. But in the end, he did not have the desire to get healthy, change his live, develop meaning in his life and I do believe that contributed to his death.

Sally – excited about new possibilities

Sally, on the other hand, knew she needed more in her life. She had retired as a teacher for children with special needs. She told me she always had a plan and now, after two years of retirement, she was floundering. She had lots of thoughts and ideas about things she might like to do, but no plan, no direction.  After a few months of coaching, she was feeling rejuvenated. She had a direction, a 6-month and 12-month plan. She was discovering new roles and new purpose for her life.

She decided to go back to school to study some creative work that she was excited about and that she thought would be beneficial if she worked with kids again. The course work did not work out, but she found some local artisans that she developed a relationship with and began learning from them. She learned that she was emotionally strong and resilient. She recognized her ability to connect with people with humor, empathy and support. She is experiencing more energy and enthusiasm for what is next.

Finding my purpose at this stage of life

What about me? I did not start my adult life with strong role definitions. I dropped out of college to get married, I was a mother at 23 and divorced with two children at 28. At that time, I went back to school to get my degree. Even as I went to work to support my children, my strongest role definition was as Mom. I took pride in my work and earned approval for the work I did, but at the end of the day, I wanted to be a good Mom. One of my most difficult transitions was when my children left home and I was no longer “needed” as Mom. It took me several years to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. I went to Georgetown University and earned a certificate in Change Leadership in 2000. I took coach training and became certified as a coach in 2013. I had my own business for a while, a KidzArt franchise. I went back into corporate as a Director of Training. Lots of roles, but I still did not feel like I had found the role that felt right for this stage in my life. Until I started the Hey, Boomer show and started coaching people going through the transition from their career to what’s next. Now I am a broadcaster/podcaster and coach. I am also still a mother and a daughter and a sister. I am a member of some organizations. I am a friend. But when someone asks me what I do, I say I am a broadcaster/podcaster and a coach.

Finding a purpose, finding a meaning, feeling useful and relevant are three important attributes for a successful transition. From the stories above, you do not see BIG CAPITAL P- Purpose. You saw that Greg felt lonely, he had lost his sense of purpose when he walked away from his work. You saw Sally find a sense of purpose in her creative work and her desire to share it with children. And you see me living my purpose in bringing you guests with important and meaningful messages, and coaching people in transition or getting ready to transition, to find their sense of purpose and meaning.

The graphic says that “Life begins with purpose.” To me this means you have a sense that what you spend your time doing has meaning. It may be teaching English as a Second Language, it may be developing new cooking skills, it may be learning to be a master gardener, it may be volunteering, it may be registering people to vote. Whatever it is for you, it gives you meaning and energy.

My next coaching program, called “What’s Next” is starting on August 2nd. It will run for 6-weeks. For more information check out https://heyboomer.biz/coaching

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