Trying to find your perfect purpose in retirement? Why not just give something a go!

By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant.

First published by Over Sixty [Link:].

So many people struggle with finding their purpose in retirement and spin their wheels as a result. They see other people doing amazing things in retirement and they believe that they have to get it ‘just right’ from day one. Unfortunately the fear of making the wrong decision means that they do nothing other than muddle through each day, waiting for the inspiration to strike.

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Mary* saw friends in retirement building schools in developing countries, serving on the board of their local not-for-profit and even starting a business. She feared there was no way she could ever do anything so worthy. She downloaded every ‘find your purpose’ resource she could find online but because she couldn’t find that perfect purpose, did nothing, and allowed her days to drift by.

What is interesting to note, however, is that none of her friends actually started off with a grand master plan. The home handyman business came about by painting a neighbour’s house and his services then spreading by word-of-mouth. Building schools overseas was a result of staying in touch with the family of an exchange student from 20 years earlier. The difference between these people and Mary was that they saw opportunities and did something with them!

Rather than waiting to uncover the perfect 'thing', get started and do something meaningful each day! Want to know how? Try these tips below.

1. Say ‘yes’ to everything once

This piece of advice comes from my mother and has served me well for many years, particularly during significant change such as starting a new school, a new job and moving cities. It applies equally well to life in retirement. Step out of your comfort zone and say yes to each invite that comes your way (provided that it’s legal!). Sure, you may not enjoy everything you try and you may never become best friends with the person who invited you, but know that you’ve tried something different, expanded your social network, and you just never know where that initial invite might lead…!

2. Be cautious in taking on the advice of family and friends

Most likely your friends and family will have your best interests at heart, but recognise that you are unique and that what works for them may not light you up. Volunteering with the local historical society may work for them, but if the organisation doesn’t align with your values, you’re not able to contribute your skills meaningfully, or (worse still!) the people seem a little odd, it will become nothing more than a burden as you try to keep others happy. Focus on what’s important to you, and only you!

3. Do something fun!

You finally have the freedom to do what you want, when you want. Forget about what is ‘proper’ and ‘age appropriate’ (what does that mean anyway?). Have fun, laugh deeply and share the experiences with others. Why leave all the fun to the younger generations? If you dream of stand-up paddle boarding, running a marathon on every continent or creating a charity, get out there and give it a go! Learning new skills and training for events will no doubt provide purpose and structure to your days!

4. Make a decision.

It is not unusual for new retirees to experience “choice dilemma” (Osborne 2012). Confidence in one’s own decision-making ability can take a hit because there is seemingly so much at stake and the new circumstances are so unfamiliar. As a result, they lapse into procrastination.

With the life expectancy in Australia now well into the 80s, people have 20-30 years ahead of them in retirement. Can you truly imagine that what you decide to do now you will still be doing in 30 years? For some there will be big change and for others only small, but without a doubt we will all alter our path to some degree as we navigate life after work. Take it one step at a time and make a decision that feels right for you today.

Don’t be left wondering. Be curious, be bold and grasp the opportunities that come your way – you just never know where they may lead!

I wish you the very best on your journey,



*Name changed.

If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read How do I stay connected in retirement? and Thinking differently about volunteering in retirement.

Inspired to do some planning? Why not download your copy of the Focusing on You Reflections Sheet which has been designed to help you gain clarity and insight into what is important to you, and what you value in life after work.

What do you mean, I hear you say? I have kids, grandkids and ageing parents. I know all about their goals and what is important to them, but I draw a blank when it comes to my own dreams and aspirations – I can’t think of anything!

All too often we put the needs of others before our own, but to give our best to others, we need to first take care of ourselves.


This Reflections Sheet therefore provides an opportunity (and permission!) to take some time to focus on just you!

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