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A Path to Purpose

Since becoming an Encore Fellow, I’ve come across a few blogs and books which contained the author’s formula for successful aging. I thought I’d add my own formula which provides a way to reflect on the past and look toward the future. Here is my path to purpose: place + perspective + privilege = purpose.

First, it starts with “place.”

I grew up in rural Nebraska and to this day, the plains continue to call to me. The minute I step outside the airport in Omaha, I know by the quality of the air that I am home. Place surrounds us like a silent family member and we never totally separate ourselves from those early experiences of place. Whether we grew up healthy or not, happy or sad, rich or poor, and in the country or in the city, place is embedded in our souls and it is best to pay attention to it. What memories do you have from the circumstances of your early years? Can you describe the vivid images that arise when you close your eyes and visualize the place(s) where you spent your formative years?

Go from considering “place” to examining “perspective.”

I once played an unusual game of Monopoly. At the start of the game, everyone was given a different amount of money. As you might imagine, those who were shorted at the onset struggled to gain ground, and those who were doled out more than their fair share proceeded to easily buy up all of the property on the board. The former players were frustrated and the latter ones with all the money grew increasingly embarrassed. It was obvious that both parties were learning important lessons, but the lessons were quite different. So, what was the perspective that you gained from where you were “placed” during the first half of life?

Then understand the “privilege” of your “perspective.”

I have been lucky in my life to know people who come from all kinds of places and perspectives. I have had close relationships with people whose wealth places them in the upper one percent. I have also had close relationships with people who struggled with illness, suffered from discrimination,  or had no income and were forced to rely on welfare benefits. All of these individuals had the privilege of learning something very important from their unique circumstances. Embedded in their stories are the very truths of life. What wisdom have you been privileged to gain that is ready to be passed on to others?

Use the “privilege” of your life to find your “purpose.”  

Many of us think that retirement was meant for pleasure, but I think that the pleasure comes from finding our unique purpose during the second half of life. No matter what the circumstances were in the first half of life, everyone has what it takes to make a difference in the lives of others. Ironically, the more you may have struggled to make your way, the more you are qualified to assist others in certain situations. So the final question is, “What is the new purpose that can be forged from the evaluation of your place, your perspective, and the privilege of the unique knowledge that has resulted from your past?”

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