The search for meaning, Part 3. Pleasure AND purpose

In my ongoing quest for meaning in retirement I found another great online article which really did resonate.  It’s by retirement planning coach Larry Jacobson and describes why fulfilment or meaning is ao important in retirement.  It’s certainly dawning on me that spending the rest of my life simply seeking pleasure will not be enough. 

The good news is that being released from work gives me the opportunity to pursue something really meaningful not living to pay the bills, instead working to nourish the soul.  Perversely this three-month lockdown has enabled me to confront this sooner than I otherwise would as so many pleasure seeking opportunities have been closed off!

The article states that after the initial euphoria of retirement wears off many people feel an overall sense of loss because of lack of purpose and social interaction and feelings of being no longer needed and disconnected from society. Jacobson writes:

The most common remedy, people think, is filling up the new free time with pleasures. And while pleasures are important, they don’t satisfy a lack of purpose. With a life expectancy of 10 to 30 years more than in the past, that’s a long time to go without purpose or fulfilment. When asked how they’re doing in retirement, the answer people often give is something like this: “I’m busy! I have my grandkids, tennis, shopping, movies, my garden and we’re planning a cruise this summer. I don’t know when I found time to work

I’ve heard so many retired people say just that and I’ve always felt that it’s not the way I want my retirement to be.

What’s the difference between pleasure and fulfilment? While some may see them as the same, I see distinct differences.  Pleasure comes from an external source and delivers short-term satisfaction. It feels good at the time, but quickly fades, leaving you in need of another pleasure. Think of a warm cappuccino or sex. Pleasure is fun.

On the other hand, fulfilment comes from deep within, and the satisfaction it provides is long-term. You get the warmth and fuzziness of pleasure and feel it deep down in your soul. Fulfilment lasts long after the event is over. Fulfilment is rewarding.  Fulfilment and purpose are harder to come by than pleasures. Finding fulfilment is a process more than an event, and is often elusive. That’s why many people are willing to “wait and see what comes along” and have fun in the meantime.

 The happiest retirees I see are the ones living a life of true purpose. How do you find purpose and fulfilment in retirement? By mentoring, teaching or volunteering. Retirees who do these things are achieving their own personal dreams, discovering new passions and sharing their legacy through writing, speaking and storytelling. They are frequently part-time employed with work that benefits the social good. They are continually working to improve their physical and mental fitness and making an effort to avoid being isolated.

The least happy retirees I’ve seen are ones who are afraid to leave their profession, aren’t willing to take a risk at something new and have become a permanent babysitter to their grandkids — fulfilling their children’s schedules, but leaving little time for their own passion.”

This really does resonate for me and while I will welcome the prospect of being a grandparent I will never let it take over my life.  I am also carrying on with some employment by keeping my business going, sharing my experiences through this blog and certainly working on my fitness.  It’s the mentoring and working for social good elements that I need to find.

At the end of the article Jacobson lists some actions to take to help find fulfilment:

  • Mentor, teach, or volunteer to share your knowledge and wisdom
  • Engage with others and stay social
  • Be open to taking risks
  • Practice being enthusiastic, grateful, and satisfied
  • Notice the good things every day
  • Laugh more, especially at yourself
  • Like more, love more, and give more

I think they make good sense and I’m going to work hard to make them a part of my retirement life.

Published by brianjonesdiary

Dad, husband, brother and son. Interested in travel, politics, sport, health and much more. Semi-retired and aiming to making the most of life as I approach my sixth decade.

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