If Pfizer announced FDA approval for a drug that promised to reduce your mortality rate by half and make it 2.4 times more likely that you will remain free of Alzheimer's, would you race to your pharmacy to get it? We'd probably bump into each other at the counter!
But that dash may not be necessary if we live our lives purposefully, according to neuropsychologist Patricia Boyle with the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago. She and her colleagues found a high degree of correlation between increased life expectancy and decreased risk of Alzheimer’s among people with high levels of life purpose.
Do these findings grab your attention? How purposeful is your life right now? How purposeful was it 10, 20, 30 years ago? What does your future purpose look like?
Every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65. For many, it marks the phasing out or end of a career that has been an organizing principle of their lives, along with changing parenting roles, downsizing and relocating. How does this affect the place of purpose in our lives?
As Mount Airy resident David Mosenkis approached 50, he felt a yearning for a new purpose in his professional life as a data analyst. He took a break, did some exploration and soul searching, and repurposed his skills to make a positive difference in things that mattered to him: He moved from being a data analyst to being a data activist.
Consequently, he discovered that in Pennsylvania, one of only three states without a “fair-funding formula” for public education, far less money was spent educating black students than white students. He presented his findings to the state legislative commission looking at the funding formula, as well as to the Governor’s Chief of Staff and Education Secretary.
Legislators passed into law in June 2016 a fair-funding formula that is free of racial bias. Unfortunately, they chose to apply the formula only to recent increases in state funding – only 6 percent of the budget, so that 94 percent of state funding is still distributed in the old inequitable way.
Mosenkis’ current data activism focuses on rallying support in the legislature to apply the formula to 100 percent of state funding, by showing legislators how the school districts they represent are being shortchanged.
Ultimately, Mosenkis, now 55, found a way to integrate his newfound activism with part-time paid work as a data analyst. He describes his current life as “a great blend of work important to my heart with work that supports me financially and keeps my skills sharp.”
By creating an encore career, Mosenkis joined an estimated six million to nine million Americans who have chosen a similar path, making a positive difference in the world while continuing to make a living.
Because life purpose plays a key role in what this is about, I call this life change repurposing. Since turning 50 and leaving my role as CEO of a management-consulting firm in New York, I’ve repurposed my own skills into a series of encore careers, most recently providing life coaching to clients interested in discovering new purpose in their lives.
And so, back to the question I posed earlier: How purposeful is your life right now?
If you are approaching conventional retirement age and want to reclaim purpose in your life, here are some coaching tips:
- Apply this three-stage process: 1) clarify your life's purpose, 2) acknowledge your skills and strengths, and 3) discover places to use them.
- Purpose is not about what we do but why. Recall times in your life when your purpose guided your actions. Remember how good it felt.
- List the skills and strengths from all areas of your life. Realize which of these you especially enjoy using by recalling times you were totally engaged and energized by using them.
- Reflect on the settings, not jobs, in which you see yourself thriving: working alone, being part of a team or a startup, joining an established organization, advocating, assisting.
- Stop expecting to see a burning bush! Very few of us have that kind of epiphany. Rather, adopt the approach described in Designing Your Life (Burnett and Evans, Knopf 2016) that is called “prototyping” (trying things out). Seek out people whose area of work interests you and ask them what they love about what they do; shadow them at work; do some volunteering or take a temporary job in an appealing field.
As Smokey Bear counseled those of us old enough to remember, “The life you save may be your own.”
Yosaif August is a Philadelphia-based International Coaching Federation-certified life coach, specializing in encore careers. He is the inventor of the Bedscapes healing environments system for hospitals and author of Coaching for Caregivers: How to Reach Out Before You Burn Out and Help Me to Heal (with Bernie Siegel). Web site: www.yestolifecoaching.com