Retiring With a Purpose: Knowing What You Want When You Retire

What Do You Do?

The question that used to be answered so easily now gives you pause. You spent a lifetime working, defining yourself in part by your occupation. But now that you’ve retired, that most basic question has become a minefield. Finding a simple answer for who you are now is not so easy. Who are you if you aren’t working? If you are no longer the doctor, or lawyer, or professional? When you can’t reduce your identity down to a single occupation as an explanation. What new word can you use to encapsulate who you are and what you do? When “I’m retired” doesn’t roll comfortably off the tongue, then it’s important to examine why. You’re retired now and it’s up to you to define what that means.

We suggest planning retirement goals long before you’re carrying your boxes out of the office that last day. The transition will feel more natural and less dramatic if there is more on the horizon than just not working anymore. Asking the questions of how you will fill your days and what you will, in fact, do before you leave the world you are so familiar with, is key. You spent your entire career working toward something, the same should be done for your retirement. Though in this case, the goal should be working toward what fulfills you and brings happiness. After all, you worked hard to retire well, how would you like to spend that time?

Finding What Brings You Happiness

What, outside of work, do you enjoy? If time was on your side and you could do something you love, what would it be? How can you be you beyond how you’ve largely defined yourself as for a generation? What would you like to be known for? These questions are deeply personal and every individual asked will have a different answer. There are no right or wrong answers, it’s your time and you owe it to yourself to make the most of it.

Fulfillment and Looking Ahead

Retirement is an end, but also a beginning. Approaching this next chapter as a start of something, the beginning of a new adventure, and attaching goals and expectations, can really help ease the transition. Finding joy and optimism in the future helps you see what you have gained in retirement and not what was lost from leaving work.

Practicing mindfulness and focusing on positive outcomes can help you approach retirement with hopefulness. This is a time to finally explore things there wasn’t time for before. Real happiness can be found in hobbies, new adventures, relationships, all by approaching it with a positive state of mind.

As more people retire, it’s important to find value in the aspects of life that you can control and find joy in. Celebrate your health and mobility and find fulfillment and happiness where you can. More and more automation and technology are being designed to assist and keep people in their homes. And more of the world is being designed around and accommodating an aging and retired population.

Happiness and fulfillment can come not only from hobbies and interests but also in investing in one’s health. Exercise and a good diet. But healthful life choices do not need to come exclusively from a gym or the natural foods market. Volunteering and finding ways to be active in your community is also beneficial. Social connections and community involvement, for the retired, help one live longer and happier.[i] Being part of something bigger and being needed and seen as a resource can also bring fulfillment. You worked all your life to make your retirement a good one. You were never only your career. How can you use your skills to contribute? How can you be part of something bigger than yourself? How can you redefine yourself as a retired person, not as someone uncomfortable with where to go next but excited to be part of something new?

After answering the questions above, then when that fateful moment comes, and someone asks, “What do you do?” You’ll have a good answer, in part because you’ve been thinking about it and working toward this moment your whole career.


Purpose in life helps stave off cardiovascular events

purpose in life associated with reduced risk of disability in older persons

Age date young/old people motivation

Meaning in life more important than happiness

happiness in the elderly

good life in later years project