6 Ways to Find Meaning and Purpose in Retirement

What is meaning? Why is it important for life after retirement?

Happy couple in retirement on the beach
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

The famous psychologist Viktor Frankl knew a lot about looking for meaning in life. In his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Frankl wrote, “Happiness cannot be pursued, it must ensue. One must have a reason to be happy.”

Frankl believed that the very pursuit of happiness is what thwarts happiness, but once you have a reason to be happy — i.e., a meaning — happiness comes automatically.

  • Happiness is about looking inward. It’s about satisfying your needs and wants. Happiness without meaning results in a shallow, self-absorbed life. When things go well, when your needs and desires are satisfied, you’re happy. When things get difficult, watch out.
  • Meaning is different. It’s focused outward, on others. It’s about taking care of others and contributing to your community or society as a whole. When we see our purpose as larger than ourselves, we no longer need to pursue happiness. It comes naturally, even in the face of temporary setbacks and discomforts.

The problem is that many people spend more time planning a vacation than they do planning their retirement. Chances are your career provided a lot of your life’s meaning over the last 40+ years.

So how do you find a replacement for that fulfillment once you’re no longer punching the proverbial time clock?

Here are several ways to help you find meaning for your life after retirement.

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