By: Nanette Fairley
April 14, 2021


Leaving full-time work isn’t always easy.  After the initial excitement of not having to get up for work on Monday, it can mean a loss of identity, a feeling that you lack purpose and meaning, that you are no longer a relevant or contributing member of society.  We all experience it differently of course, but these feelings and reactions can be very real.  A high profile banker once told me that he felt ‘all out of sorts’ for upwards of three years after retiring.  This can be challenging to deal with.

Research tells us that having a purpose in life has been associated with positive outcomes for older adults including fewer chronic conditions, less disability, reduced mortality and better mental health.  Having a reason to get out of bed in the morning is a key part of successful aging.

Feeling that your life still has meaning, and that you are contributing in some way, also appears to correlate positively with taking care of your health – following positive health behaviours e.g. exercise, and benefiting from consistently better health.  The impact on better mental health through greater resilience and stronger social support, was also found.

So it’s clear that having purpose is important. But how you find it, if it is elusive, is much less clear……….

We are all wired differently, so our ‘why’ in our Third Age will also look very different. And that is OK!   Many of us may have explored our values at times in our careers.  Re-examining our values, what is important to us as individuals, what guides our thoughts, actions and decisions, is a great place to start.  There are many free values activities that can be sourced online or reach out to me by leaving a comment below, for a link.

Often our purpose in our Third Age, is a combination of things, usually not one big thing.  If we had one, big job in the past, our thinking may continue this way.  My purpose at this time in my life, as well as helping people successfully transition to an inspired Third Age, is to stay fit, be adventurous in travel, keep finding things to do for the first time, give back (in various ways) and build stronger relationships with my family (specifically my niece and nephews) as being an expat I have been remote their whole lives.  So think of your purpose as a portfolio, rather than ‘teacher’, ‘lawyer’ or ‘finance manager’.

There is lots of inner work to do here too.   Inner reflection and exploration, taking opportunities to be still, perhaps for the first time in our lives, and let our purpose find us. For some this may feel a little too touchy feely,  so do persevere.  Reading more philosophical books like ‘Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life’ could be one place to start.

Think about these more traditional components of a Third Age. Do you want to:

  • continue to do paid or volunteer work in an area you love
  • find love and/or wider friendships
  • do something for someone else – through all kinds of volunteer work
  • stay physically active and healthy – this is a key part of my own purpose and I often invest upwards of two hours a day here.
  • engage in more creative projects – gardening, travel, immersion in different cultures
  • contribute to community projects – which make your local community a better place to be

The list is quite endless, and your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to ferret out what will bring you contentment and happiness in your Third Age. You deserve it, don’t you?

Try out a few things – observe what they bring for you, how they make you feel. One of my friends, since moving on from running a business, has literally been trying everything from soap making, to rock n’ roll dancing to 4×4 travel and the list goes on.  Don’t restrict the experimenting!

This is not an easy mission.  Many school leavers these days struggle to decide what they want to study and what they will do as a career.  This is akin to that, but perhaps more important, as our time now seems finite. We no longer have our whole lives ahead of us as we did as a school leaver.  So what will your what’s next hold for you???

#retirement #purpose #Whatsyourwhy #thirdage #whatnextology