Bookmark and Share

Finding Your Life Purpose Directs Your Career Efforts

By Karma Kitaj, PhD

Lately I’ve been interviewing Boomers and older for my new TV show, called “Alivelihood: New Careers As We Age.” I’ve been curious about what themes I can discover that make all of these people seem so “alive,” so purposeful, in describing their new ventures. Their days are filled with activities and people who are meaningful to them. They know they are performing immensely useful services to people who might not even know them.

Here are a few examples:

  • Carol Caro directed the automation of a consortium of libraries in the Boston area. She “retired” from that position and soon became President of a Sister City Project with a region of Nicaragua, raising funds and administering programs about the health and well-being of that poor community.
  • Linda Kenney had a medically induced trauma 10 years ago and went on to found the only medical advocacy group that partners with patients, families, and hospital caregivers who’ve been involved in medical trauma – a collaborative process (see www.MITSS.org).
  • Mei-Mei Akwai Ellerman, former Italian film professor, now is Director of the Board of Polaris Project (see www.polarisproject.org), a program that provides advocacy for anti-human trafficking (for victims of work and sex trafficking).

I’m reading a book by Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, called The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure. Interviewing people who’ve embarked on this 3rd chapter – boomers and older – she has found that people are fearful of learning new things and no longer being the expert in their fields, yet they are excited and passionate about their journey.

How do we find our passions, so elusive for some, seemingly so available for others? I came across a website, written by a young person named Tina, who’d been chasing the money dream and had an Aha! experience that caused her to relinquish that dream and take a very different path. See www.ThinkSimpleNow.com. Wow! Wish that I had had her wisdom at age 28. Here are some of the questions she suggests one must answer to find one’s life purpose (my edits are in parentheses). Try them out. I did and they’re just as good as some that are composed by much older purpose-gurus that I refer to in my coaching practice.

1.What makes you smile? (Is it babies? Animals? Teaching someone? Feeling “gotten?” Talking with like-minded people? Creating something?)

2.What were your favorite things to do in the past? What about now?

3.What makes you feel good about yourself?

4.Who inspires you? (people you know or have read about or seen on TV?) What qualities about these people appeal to you?

5.What are you naturally good at? (You don’t have to try so hard; you have fun or feel fulfilled doing it)

6.What activities make you lose track of time? (This is the Flow question; it helps us identify what puts us “in the zone,” in that place where time flows without effort, where we are completely alert, focused, and unself-conscious.)

7.What do people usually ask you for help about? (networking? Party planning? What books to read? How to talk to their kid? Being with them for difficult doctor’s appointment?)

8.If you had to teach something, what would you teach? (Be specific here – what’s the content? What’s the process?)

9.What would you regret not doing, being, or having in your life? (Is it a network of friends? A significant other? Leaving a footprint, a legacy?)

10.You are 90 years old… You are blissful and happy, thinking of the wonderful life you’ve had. What matters to you most about what you’ve achieved, acquired, and the relationships you’ve developed?

11.What are your deepest values? (You can download my free questionnaire, called “Discover Your Goals” to access a section on values; go to www.LifeSpringCoaching.com)

12.What were challenges, difficulties and hardships you’ve overcome? How did you do it? (Perhaps you’re still in the process of overcoming – describe this too and how you’re coping.)

13.What causes do you strongly believe in and connect with? (If you haven’t been a cause-joiner, what gets you really mad at the injustice of it? Or the stupidity of it? What do you think is a “no-brainer” about how to make the world better and others haven’t thought of it or put it into practice?)

14.If you could get a message across to a large group, who would those people be? What would your message be? (Visualize yourself at a podium or writing on your computer or being interviewed on Oprah about something that you really care about.)

15.Given your talents, passions and values, how could you use these resources to serve, help, and contribute? (Brainstorm as many ways as you can think of. Don’t pay attention to what’s realistic or whether anyone is hiring to do this. Stay in the blue-sky atmosphere at this stage of the project.

In order to get to a life purpose statement, the author of ThinkSimpleNow suggests (with my edits):

  • Doing this exercise quickly, without obsessing over your responses
  • Underline all the action verbs in your descriptions and list them
  • List everything and everyone whose lives you believe you want to transform
  • How will the “Who” listed above benefit from what you “Do?”
  • Combine the last 3 bullet points into a Statement – this is your Life Purpose or Mission Statement. It will direct your attention to what you really want to and need to do in your lifetime. Have fun doing this!