Let's talk about doubling down on the meaning and purpose of your life. By that I mean re-evaluating what gives you purpose and meaning right now.
If you asked people what are the important ingredients for a happy life, most would mention meaning and purpose. In fact, in the Blue Zones where people live the longest, the research shows that meaning and purpose add to longevity.
It’s important to look at your new reality and reestablish those things that really give you purpose because our lives have changed, our family dynamic has changed, and some of our interests have changed.
I bet you’ve anchored your life on making a difference, through your family and friends, through your work and interests, and through your community involvement. But once you’ve launched your kids and gotten to the top of your career, and you’ve established a community of friends, all those things you’ve poured your heart into may not require the same time and attention from you.
Let’s think about what we were so engaged in before… what we did with such passion and meaning that it took over our lives.
Many of us were raising kids, trying to give them experiences that would shape them into productive members of society. That’s a full time job. We helped out in their schools, with their sports, AND we chipped in to help our friends, our family members and our neighbors. We had meaning and purpose in our work and in all other things that interested us.
When I think about all that stuff, I’m amazed at it all. There was so much packed into each day. When I was in my early 40’s I used to joke that it felt like I was shot out of a cannon each morning, like a circus act. People laughed because the image was vivid and they knew all too well what I was referring to. Life was more than a little hectic for all of us. There’s still a lot I do each day but I don’t feel the same kind of responsible for so many people.
Meaning and purpose have informed most of my activities since we moved to the beach. As I think back, There were three big important things that stand out to me as most significant in keeping me on track. These three things have made me feel re-engaged with purpose.
First off, even before we moved, we spent a lot of time figuring out the lifestyle we wanted and creating an actual list of what we needed in our new home to support our needs. For instance, have a large family and we knew we wanted to have large family gatherings. But we also wanted a smaller home that didn’t have all the maintenance associated with our old house. So how do you entertain larger groups in a smaller space and enjoy it? Those two things seem to be opposing but with an open floor plan and outdoor entertaining in Southern Califiornia, we were able to do the seemingly impossible. I actually have a much larger dining table and another table just outside so that I can accommodate more people now at the beach than I could in our larger suburban home.
Of course we didn’t get everything we wanted on our list. We had to make some trade-offs since no home has everything you want at the price you want it.
You should look at your lifestyle and your home and make sure they are compatible, especially at this stage of your life. Home is such a foundational aspect of life. Being in a home that supports you really adds to your health and wellness.
You don’t want to miss out on the lifestyle you truly desire. If you want to renew your meaning and purpose, you have to look at your lifestyle and make sure it’s what you want.
After we moved, we wanted to put down some roots in our new community, Serendipitously, my husband and I were invited to join a small faith group as part of a church near our new home. Learning and growing in our faith while connecting with others has tremendous meaning to us. I think of this as the second important thing we did to re-engage with purpose. Your second half is an opportunity to look inside yourself with heart. It’s an opportunity to renew your optimism and joy.
I’ve always believed that helping others is a gift we give to ourselves so going along with that thinking, the third important thing I did to re-engage with purpose was to apply as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. In the past, I had volunteered in various philanthropic groups. I had volunteered with my daughter. I had worked on the school board. I had worked on a lot benefits to raise money for worthwhile causes.
It was fun to be part of those groups, to go to meetings and help plan events but most of my time was spent interacting within the group. This time I wanted more hands on volunteer work and I liked the idea of mentoring a young person. I had spent many years mothering my kids and as an empty nester, I was missing those experiences. Mentoring a child has given me an opportunity to dust off those skills I spent years honing.
We have so much to give in our second half. We have more experience, more wisdom, and more points of reference. We see things differently than we did in our 20’s and 30’s. Hopefully, we have more empathy and compassion. Volunteer work IS a gift we give ourselves. It can fill us with a deep, soul-satisfying joy.
As Regan Phillips, CEO of CASA OC said on the last podcast, CASA is like Big Brothers, Big Sisters but with bite. The bite is the court appointment. You advocate within the court system on behalf of a foster youth so that his or her best interests are served. You understand what your foster youth really wants and needs because you are his or her mentor.
Of course there’s a pretty substantial training for all of this. You wouldn’t be effective without the training. During the training my eyes opened to a bunch of things I didn’t expect. We watched a video about a kid who grew up in my old town of Pasadena, California. Every place in the video was familiar to me and I realized this kid could have been any kid in the neighborhood.
Through no fault of their own kids can end up in foster care. Neglect is a common reason kids end up in foster care. The foster care system is there to protect children but sometimes well-intentioned actions can have unexpected consequences.
A rebellious boy like the one depicted in that video training I watched can be overwhelming for even the most loving foster parents. This can lead constantly changing temporary housing for that child.
Kids with long term relationships with CASA’s do so much better in life. The consistency of an adult that really cares, that’s doing this not because they’re getting paid but because they want to, makes a huge difference for these kids.
Writing about my life in the application for CASA, I realized there were so many times when I might have ended up in a very different place if I didn’t have so many people in my life that loved me and helped me through difficult passages.
Now’s a good time to tell you about the freebie fun sheet I created just for you and this episode. It will encourage you to look inside yourself so that you can move forward in your life with greater clarity. Get it now by clicking here.
I always say that opportunity can show up in the most unlikely places. When you give back and help others, it’s really a gift you’re giving to yourself. There’s a joy you’ll feel deep inside you when you see someone’s eyes brighten a little bit, when you share a smile, or when you discover a similarity. I believe that when you volunteer your time and talent, you open yourself up to living more fully.
Sometimes I think about how we get in our own way. Have you ever wondered what stops you from moving forward and living more fully?
Fear stops most of us in our tracks. Fear keeps us from making changes. Fear keeps us in a rut.
There are so many fears. Fear of overwhelm. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of trying something new and failing. Fear that we’re somehow not good enough.
I’ve come to think of fear as the devil’s workshop because fear stops us from shining our light. Our fears stop us from growing.
Your fears are real but they don’t actually exist in this moment. They’re a future projection of something going terribly wrong when everything’s okay in the present moment.
There’s nothing wrong with being cautious, taking baby steps so you can make sure you’re on the right path forward. But letting fear stop you from moving forward all together is just wrong.
I have a friend who was afraid to volunteer with CASA because she believed she would become attached to a child who might find permanent placement. If permanent placement was found, she would be relieved of her official role as mentor and advocate by the court.
She was afraid to live and love because of what might happen in the future. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been afraid to do something because you didn’t have a crystal ball to see how it would all work out?
I think addressing our internal fears is an important part of our second half. It’s an internal relationship we forge within ourselves. Taking little baby steps can be powerful. Small, seemingly insignificant actions can make a profound change in your life.
But you’ll never know unless you play along. What’s something that you think you might enjoy but you’re afraid to do? How could you take a tiny step toward that thing?
As you're taking that tiny step, keep checking in with yourself on how it’s going in that moment. If all goes well with that one little step, take another baby step. You can adjust your course as you keep moving forward. The momentum of taking action and finding your way will let you overcome your fear.
I started this podcast talking about adding more meaning to our lives and making a difference in a refreshing new way in our second half.
So what are three ways to add meaning and purpose to your life?
Start with where you are and your present reality. Think about where you live and your lifestyle right now. Are you planted in the spot you want to be? Are you growing? Which aspects of your life would you like to develop more?
Next, ask yourself if you’re getting in your own way and stopping yourself from getting what you really want. Is fear ruling your life? What fearful future are you projecting?
You can change the way you think about things. You can decide that your old way of thinking isn’t true. Perhaps those thoughts came from parents or a past experience you had. Question your thoughts. Be curious. Turn them upside down. There’s always a different way to think about things.
The way we think about things determines our actions or lack of action. If you feel yourself being resistant — if you’re not doing something even when you say you want to do it —it’s probably because of what you’re really thinking, deep down inside. When you change those perceptions, your resistance will melt away. This is a crucial step to take if you want to renew the meaning and purpose in your life.
As you’re questioning your thoughts, keep taking baby steps toward that thing that interests you. Actions leads to forward momentum.
Those baby steps you’re taking give you time to pivot and find your best path. Keep checking in with yourself. Stay in the moment with each step. Don’t get caught up in some distant future. Enjoy the journey.