Last week we talked about the role of work in Bold Age, this week we ask the question; ‘What is the meaning of life? Embarrassingly, Siri’s response sums it up well: “I don’t believe there is a consensus on that question.”
There are as many different ways of finding meaning in life as there are people in the world, because we are all unique after all. So, how the heck do you find life meaning in Bold Age and why is it so important?
The way we describe this life meaning thing in Bold Age is ‘the degree to which you’ve found a direction for retirement which offers you a deep sense of personal fulfilment’. It is more than just filling your days with the leisure pursuits you enjoy.
One quick note: Two words which are often used interchangeably are ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’; one is not the other but one does facilitate the other.
Purpose – the goal, the objective, the prize, the amazing outcomes.
Meaning – a felt sense we experience when we are doing something necessary and worthwhile, i.e. working towards our purpose.
So without a clearly identified and well formed purpose it is possible we could never experience the wonder of life meaning.
Why is this important in Bold Age?
You are less likely to die, according to a study published in November, 2014 by University College London – seems like a fairly compelling reason to me.
They found that for people over the age of 65, a sense of purpose and overall well-being meant that they were 30% less likely to die over a period of eight and a half years. This study followed over 9,000 English people and found that, at the end of an eight and half year period, only 9% of people in the highest category of wellbeing had died, compared with 29% of those at the lowest level of wellbeing. Those who reported the highest level of fulfilment lived, on average, two years longer.
So what is it about life meaning, taken from fulfilling your purpose that impacts our wellbeing so positively in Bold Age or indeed life in general?
It keeps you moving
We can all have those days where we get up, eat, work, eat, sleep, repeat, and wonder “what’s the point?” or “is this it?”. A strong sense of purpose gives us a motive and reason for everything we do. What’s more, it helps us stay on track or get back on the track should we take a necessary diversion.
I say ‘necessary’ because often we subvert true meaning with a million and one diversions or trivial activities that we think are fulfilling a purpose, but are really just filling our time.
It keeps you strong
The quote I always think of is from the German Philosopher Nietzsche “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”. Having a clear why, a clear purpose gives us strength and reason to overcome challenges and transcend difficulties that may otherwise have beaten us. We can apply more endurance, resilience and determination in the face of adversity because we know why we are pushing through it.
Keeps you positive
You hear of stories where people have retired in the traditional sense and just stopped without a clear purpose and therefore suffer from meaning deprivation, and what happens? Unfortunately, some people wither from the inside out; a lack of meaning on the inside can turn into toxic behaviours on the outside having all manner of implications for health and relationships.
Living with a sense of purpose provides access to hope and optimism and therefore much greater resistance to the scenario above. Finding meaning is not a luxury in Bold Age, it’s a need.
So what is your Bold Age dream? What fills you with awe, wonder and delight? Where do you find meaning?
An exercise I often use with clients to get them started on answering these questions is outlined below. Go on, have a go yourself.
Here are five major life meaning needs: –
- Think of at least one activity you engage in right now in each of the five categories.
- Think of one thing you long to engage in within each area.
- Dr. Richard P. Johnson of Retirement Options advises you to ‘take off your worldly glasses and replace them with the ones you wore as a five year old when the world was wondrous’ when doing this!
- What do you notice about where and how you find meaning?
- Improves physical health
- Improves emotional wellbeing
- Improves mental wellbeing
- Enhances socialisation
- Gives you status in your community
Some people ask, “am I wishing my life away by pursuing purpose and meaning?” My response – we can still live in the present at the same as moving towards our purpose and meaning, in the same way that on a train journey you can look out of the window and enjoy the scenery.
Enjoy the ride folks!