Finding the right path to follow isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. You just have to commit yourself to some hard work.
We’re all constantly searching for things to do. But finding something truly meaningful can be tough. In my book, “The Retirement Maze”, one of the biggest problems faced by retirees trying to adjust to this lifestyle is using time in a way that feels fulfilling. That can leave many longing for the days when they were working and had some value to an organization and other people.
Unfortunately, the reality is you may never find something so satisfying as your job — you had valuable tasks to perform and you were working alongside others who had the same goals. That gave you a lot in common with them, and so you felt connected to a group. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep looking. In fact, you have a personal responsibility to move your life forward.
If finding a direction is what you’re experiencing, the first step is to give up your old life. By that I mean you must first accept the fact that you are a retiree and not define yourself by what you were. You’ll know you haven’t done so if you start a lot of conversations with, “When I was working…” If you don’t re-define yourself, you end up stuck between two worlds — not really a retiree and not really in the workforce.
Once you embrace the horror of where you are in the life stage, you can then focus your attention on building a new life that’s worthwhile.
Now comes the hard part — finding your passions, that is, things that are interesting to you and would like to spend time doing. What makes it so hard is there are so many options. Options are always a problem because when faced with too many, you don’t want to commit to one or another. So you might end up in a learned helplessness situation, meaning you do nothing, and that can lead to depression.
There are lots of life coaches out there who have recommendations for discovering what turns you on. Some of the ideas might seem a little whacky, but what the hell, you might as well consider them. I’ve gone through the range of them to come up with a list that’s sensible. And I’ve also added a few of my own whacky ideas.
GIVE UP WHAT YOU’RE DOING NOW — if how you spend your days is not satisfying, then you have to admit that change is needed. Otherwise you wouldn’t feel you have to find something that’s more fulfilling.
GET A UNIVERSITY COURSE CATALOG — they cover a very wide range of topics, and as you flip through the pages, you’re likely to find some that draw your attention.
TALK TO A LIFE COACH — they can take you through the process of identifying your interests, and can help you evaluate and prioritize various options
TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS — they know you well and what you tend to talk about, so they have a sense of what perks you up. They might have recommendations or can spur your thinking toward a specific direction.
PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU DO OR THINK ABOUT — what we dwell on are usually the things we love (it can also be the things that we hate, but that’s for another article). A clue is if you find that you lose track of time with something that you’re focused on, you’re interested and engaged, and that make it a passion.
THINK LIKE A CHILD — Believe it or not, many life coaches recommend this technique. Think back to the things you enjoyed doing as a kid. For example, if you loved to listen to music, take it up a level — study music at a local college or learn how to play an instrument; if you liked coloring, take an art class.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND AND BE WILLING TO EXPERIMENT– There are no bad ideas in this stage of the process. So don’t reject something because you think it’s just not you. You might discover something about yourself. For example, I always hated dancing, so I decided to take dance lessons to get better at it. I did that for about three years, and while not a passion, I actually enjoy it now.
HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE — Look at the process as an adventure, a chance to learn new things about yourself and grow. Don’t feel pressure to get it done right away and don’t be afraid of getting it wrong. Staying positive is motivating and keeps you committed to finding what you love.
DISCOVER RECURRING THEMES — Take a look around and see what you tend to accumulate in your home, such as books, films, etc. You might notice there are certain themes that attract you. Think about how you spend your free time. If you’re watching TV or reading, what do you watch or read about? If you go to a book store, what section do you go to? Therein might be your passions.
KEEP A LIST — write down the things that seem to strike you as enjoyable and worth pursuing. Remember this is a development in progress, and so you should be vigilant and adding to your list as ideas occur to you.
As I said, this ain’t easy. To do it right, you have to devote time and effort, take it on as a serious commitment. It won’t happen overnight and you probably won’t have a “eureka” moment. It’s important to keep this in mind because a lack of initial success can be demotivating and cause you to quit.
But you can get there if you stick to it, and as a result you’re likely to be happier and less stressed, and have a more satisfying life. Using time constructively is one of the surest ways to achieve emotional well-being and a sense of purpose in the world. If you give up, on the other hand, you might develop a “life sucks” attitude and as a result be miserable, and make everyone around you miserable.
We’re certain we didn’t cover all the ways one can go about discovering their passions — that’s why it’s so difficult. So, If you have any ideas or experiences that have helped you, please leave a message below so you can help others who are in this predicament.
Oh, I should mention that this is just the first step. In a follow-up article, I’ll get into how you can implement your passions into action.