Everyone needs to be needed.
In some way.
To have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
It gives structure to our lives. Meaning.
Knowing that if you don’t do it, the job won’t get done.
I ran into someone recently who had been struggling with changes in his life. Recently divorced, he suddenly found himself in a new Chapter he hadn’t planned on writing. Single again. Retired. Long-distance father and grandfather. Friendships had shifted. Relationships changed. He was disheartened and depressed.
The life he’d planned hadn’t turned out quite the way he expected. He felt rudderless. No direction. No real purpose. And that’s a bad feeling to have.
My friend continued to try to find his joy again. And sometimes that’s all you can do. Just try. He traveled. He took up tennis. He took classes. He hosted dinner parties. He stayed in touch with the friends of his old life as best he could. He put on a good front, hiding his unhappiness in this new role. And yet he knew there was no going back to the old one. But he continued to try.
Then Came a Change
Several months passed and when I saw him next there was a noticeable difference . . . physically, emotionally . . . and when I asked him how things were going he grinned and said, “I have a purpose! I finally have a purpose again!”
It turns out that one of his children had moved closer and two days each week my friend was responsible for his grandson, driving him to and from school. Hanging out with him until his mom and dad finished their day. He was helping with homework, school projects, even taking part as a classroom volunteer from time to time. Then there was the fun stuff: Teaching his grandson tennis and how to fish. Showing up at all his grandson’s sports events.
He’d always been a grandfather but his role took on new meaning when he became a grandfather with a purpose.
We All Need a Purpose
I started to consider times when people feel rudderless . . . without purpose . . . and it’s not just from a marriage that ends badly.
Mom’s who find themselves without children to raise once the nest is empty. Anyone who has lost a job and is having difficulty finding a new one. A widowed spouse. A retired executive. Even teenagers.
In “Reviving Ophelia” Mary Pipher, Ph.D. spoke of the need for teenage girls to feel they are part of something larger than themselves, to be accepted, and be given structure.
That advice applies to more than just teenage girls.
I recently read an article titled “The Cheater’s Guide To Living To 100” and research shows that people who live long lives have an activity, passion, or career that motivates them. It’s their reason for waking up in the morning according to journalist Dan Buettner.
A sense of purpose can come from anywhere but often begins with doing something you naturally love to do——teaching, gardening, working with children.
And another benefit? It leads to lower stress levels too.
Speaking from personal experience, it’s true.
For most, finding your sense of purpose is a snap. But for some, it’s not so easy.
Because the time you really need to look outside yourself to find a purpose is often the time you’d just as soon crawl into a dark space and hibernate, hoping it will pass.
And hope is a bad strategy.
Are You Seeking a Purpose?
What are you a part of? What do you do to give your life meaning, structure, and purpose? What’s the void you fill for someone? What is the one thing you do to give yourself absolute joy and fulfillment?
If you don’t have any answers, try this:
- Find yourself a yellow legal pad and begin a list of everything you enjoy doing. Your interests. Your hobbies. The kinds of people you like. The activities you enjoy. The books you read. The movies you see. The television you watch. The things you want to learn about.
- Unleash your imagination and write down everything that comes to mind.
- Then find something on the list to make you smile. A really big smile.
- Underline it. Highlight it. Write it on sticky notes and post those notes everywhere.
- Then make as many phone calls and contacts as it takes to turn that underlined and highlighted item into your purpose. Your passion. Something that gives you satisfaction and puts joy in your heart and a smile on your face.
And when you find it? You’ll put joy in someone else’s heart as well as your own.
And that smile on your face? It doubled in size.
Because you shared it with someone else. And now they have a smile on their face too.
Nice way to a longer life!