One of the most common topics that arise in our group discussions and in my one-on-one counseling with older women is the question of life purpose. Some women have experienced a life-long struggle to define their sense of purpose in life, but many others have had a sense of purpose that has changed or gotten lost in the process of becoming older.
A number of women previously found purpose in their work lives, especially when their work involved teaching or helping others. Many found their sense of purpose in family—in raising their children to become independent successful adults, volunteering in the schools, and effectively managing a complicated household. Other women have found a feeling of purpose through a particular calling—whether art or ministry or social activism. Many activities can generate a sense of purpose.
But what happens to that sense of purpose when you find yourself less capable, less energetic, or struggling with your own illness or disabilities? Or what if you are simply tired from the long history of giving to others and don’t have the motivation or energy to continue these activities?
It may be hard to envision, but there are other ways of achieving a feeling of purpose in life as we age. Deepening into our own spirituality, loving others, growing a beautiful garden and nurturing ourselves after years of giving can actually give us a sense of purpose if we give ourselves permission to consider purpose in a broader context. It isn’t a common way of defining purpose, but if we are open and flexible, we may be able to come to a new sense of purpose that is more about “human being” than “human doing.” Let’s talk about our individual experiences with purpose.
- Did you have a sense of purpose in your earlier life? What provided you with that sense of purpose?
- Has that original sense of purpose lasted through the years or how has it changed and evolved?
- Do you feel a sense of purpose in your life now? If so, please share.
- If you are lacking a sense of purpose, how essential is it to you to have one now?
- What gives you a sense of vitality and contribution? Perhaps you already have a sense of purpose but just have not recognized it as such. Try and reconsider.