The advantages of living on purpose in retirement

Living on purpose. Dedicated senior pretty woman preparing a nursery tree before planting in in the soil while working as a volunteer for the sake of the environment

Image: Yacobchuk/

‘Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.’ That’s how Mark Zuckerberg described it. He’s quoted in an excellent article you will find here.

He was speaking at Harvard College as their commencement speaker. There’s a touch of irony here because Zuckerberg had dropped out of Harvard to start Facebook.

He continued saying purpose leads to a sense ‘that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.’

As you face your retirement, what is going to be your purpose during retirement? How will it help you be a part of something that’s bigger than you?

How do you define purpose?

Zuckerberg set out a three-point plan to make for a more purposeful world:

  • Pursue meaningful projects
  • Redefine equality so everyone has freedom to pursue purpose
  • Build community

You may want to say it differently or have a different emphasis. Paolo Gallo, for instance, found purpose in questions his father once asked him: ‘Do you love what you do, are you helping others, are you learning?’

Life coach Helene Stellan went through a process of identifying her strengths, passions, and values to define her purpose. Whatever your process, it’s a worthwhile project. It will help you create a better life before and in retirement.

Why bother?

Why bother if you’re thinking about retirement as a time when you can kick your shoes off and find a comfy chair to relax with a good book? Of course, you can do that. It’s your retirement, after all.

But if that’s all you’re doing, are you really living?

Besides, this is the time when you have more freedom than you’ve ever had since you started school. This is the time to do the things you want to do. Do the comfy chair thing for a week or two (or a few), but then it should be about life and living. Doing life on purpose puts you in control.

Giving or taking?

Gallo asks: ‘Who are the most successful people: the givers, the takers or the matchers?’ He explains: ‘The takers want something from you, the matchers wait for reciprocity while the givers want to help you and give something to you, such as their time, energy, contacts, knowledge, feedback or just advice.’

‘The correct answer to this question is “the givers,” as long as they understand the difference between pleasing others and helping others.’

What have you got to give? I’m not talking so much about money, I’m talking about skills, abilities, teaching or simply being there. Is there something you can be involved in (that is, giving) where you get the sense of—as Zuckerberg says—being needed.

Purpose helps set priorities

Living on purpose helps you set priorities because you’ve decided what is and what isn’t important to you. It helps you discover and follow the bigger picture of your life.

Done well, living on purpose counters selfishness because it should involve connecting with others. That’s just a sensible thing to do. You need to remain connected with family and community for your own wellbeing.

And living on purpose magnifies your influence in the areas you deliberately focus on.

There’s always more to learn

Paolo Gallo says he learned ‘a wonderful lesson when my daughter Sadika was only four years old.

‘I was working and she came to give me a kiss. “Not now, I am busy working,” I told her. She looked at me in disbelief and told me: “Dad, never ever again refuse a kiss from someone who loves you!”’

That’s an important life rule.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of



Category: Purpose

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