-Written as a guest post for BloomerBoomer.com (September, 2020)
What do you want to be when you Grow On?
-Heidi Herman, author of On With the Butter!
As children, we were often asked,“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Our answers were often based on the idea of a particular lifestyle – a cowboy, rock star, ballerina, fire fighter. In high school, our thoughts turned to college majors or technical skills and the next question was, “What are you going to be when you graduate?” The way we answer that question becomes part of our identity, but it doesn’t define us as people.
An article on Seek.com poses new thought-provoking questions: Are you your job? When did you last hear yourself saying: “I’m an administrator,” “an electrician,” or “a journalist”? It’s hard-wired into our culture to label others and ourselves. During many if not most of our income-producing years, we have a professional identity and the loss of that identity is often part of retirement. Who will you be in retirement? You’ve already grown up, but now it’s time to grow on. But onto what?
Facing retirement is difficult for many people because they haven’t given much thought to “growing on.” The majority of people focus only on the financial aspects of retirement without making a plan for how they will use their time. So, it’s time to ask yourself the question again: What do I want to be? It takes only a moment of consideration to realize the answer cannot be “nothing, I’m retired.” When we give ourselves permission to grow on in whatever way sounds most fun or interesting to us, we immediately realize that retirement doesn’t have to be a slow-down. It’s not end of activity and new experience, it’s the beginning.
This is the next chapter of your life and, and you can spend it any way you like. Whether your plan is to pursue your ambition to raise prize-winning roses or to participate in a 10K run in every state, having a purpose in life is crucial to your health and well-being. If you haven’t figured out what’s next, the quest can be exciting, even exhilarating. ,When we embrace the challenge of finding new things to love in life, we try new activities, explore more possibilities and are open to all sorts of adventures.
The health benefits of having a purpose in life include reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, improved sleep, reduced risk of strokes, and improved mental functions. [https://practicalneurology.com/articles/2015-sept/the-science-behind-the-powerful-benefits-of-having-a-purpose] These benefits, among others, have been shown in numerous research studies including studies conducted by Rush University in Chicago, University of Stirling in the UK, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Michigan.
Purpose doesn’t have to be philanthropic or complicated, it can simply be pursuing activities that are important or enjoyable to you.A business owner may look forward to the day they can work part-time, or serve on a board of directors in an advisory capacity, even mentor small business owners. A doctor may want to pass the practice on to the next generation and occasionally write articles for medical publications. Others may wish to leave all aspects of their career far behind and embrace the RV lifestyle, continually exploring and traveling. A world of opportunity is waiting for you.
And like the teenager you were years ago, you’re faced with the question, “What do I want to be?”