For the typical servicemember—especially one who is old enough and has served long enough to be contemplating retirement—a question about “life purpose” is probably much too touchy-feely. That’s just not the sort of language that we employ or that falls into our comfort zones. Yet as you face retirement and the start of a new phase of your life, exploring your life purpose is not just helpful but wise. Do you really want to spend your remaining productive years doing something that at the end causes you to look back, shrug, and say “Meh”?
Let’s start by dispensing with the New Age terminology. As one author summed it up, we have a finite amount of time on this earth. Some of the things we do with that time are important. A lot of them are unimportant. Figuring out what things are truly important to us allows us to focus our time and energy on those things and spend less on the time-wasters. His point is well-taken. So instead of asking “What is my life purpose,” instead consider the question “What do I consider important enough to be worth a big chunk of my time?”
What are you willing to sacrifice for your career?
There’s a great starting point for figuring this out—a simple question that provides a litmus test for every path you consider: What are you willing to sacrifice for? As a servicemember, you’re familiar with sacrifice. We’ve sacrificed time with family, being present for births and birthdays and first days of school, first steps and first dates, and just time spent being there. Some of us have sacrificed physically with wounds or injuries or permanent disabilities or just the simple toll that years of military service takes on a body. And we’ve all served to know that at some point we could be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice.
We did those things because we considered service to something bigger than ourselves, to the defense of something we consider important, to be worth the sacrifice. In fact, facing the end of that phase of your life and the prospect of finding something equally worthwhile to replace it can be daunting.
In addition to being familiar with sacrifice, military service members are familiar with what for lack of a better term we will just call “the suck.” Pursuing anything important is going to come with struggle and failure and disappointment and just plain bad days. In Silicon Valley, a tech entrepreneur hasn’t earned his or her stripes until he or she has suffered through a few failed startups. The bottom line is that anyone who hasn’t failed isn’t really trying. What will inspire you enough to pick yourself up after falling flat on your face over and over again and try again?
What Do You Love?
Finally, one surprising path to finding what you really love is to revisit your childhood. We’ve all been told the value of “growing up” time and again, but is there something you loved to do as a child that you let go as you got older? Maybe other things seemed more important, maybe you figured there was no way to make money doing it, maybe you felt (with society’s help) that it was just plain “childish.” Well, as the old saying tells us, do what you love, and the money will follow. Maybe your childhood self has some advice to offer your adult self if you’ll just stop and listen.
Deciding what you value and want to do with your life is neither quick nor easy. It’s also a decision that has to be made at least as much with your heart as with your head, if not more. Take comfort in the fact that as a service member you already have some advantages that will help you down this path, and start looking for the thing (or things) that will get you out of bed in the morning as readily as service to your country did.
Need help in determining your life purpose, schedule a free session with Coach Margaret today to learn more.
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