What is purposeful ageing?

At the most recent Re-inventing Retirement Coaches group session we looked at the whole area of “purposeful ageing”. This idea is based on the work of Richard Leider who is an American Executive-Life Coach.

In his work, Leider talks about all sorts of aspects of ageing. He posits that for many people life unfolds as a default, where we end up doing things “dished up” by our background and culture rather than where we actively design and plan our future. We all recognise the transition from adolescence to adulthood, but less so the transition from adulthood to elderhood. We live in a society now where our life expectancy is around 3 decades more than it was at the turn of the 20th century.

Purpose is not a luxury, but an imperative; some of the latest evidence from neuroscience is that we can measure the difference having purpose makes to our lives in terms of positivity and how we deal with the world: Leider mentions evidence within recent neuroscience research that people with a clear purpose are likely to live 7-10 years longer. There is the potential for our 60s, 70s and 80s to be the happiest time of our lives with considerably more choice as to how we spend our time and doing more of the things we feel energised to do.

Identifying your purpose

Leider talks about 3 elements of purpose: having a purposeful mindset, having some clarity about what your purpose/path of choice is and practising this in the day to day of life. The thing that resonated with me particularly was the idea of purpose having a big “P” and a small “p”; the big P is the overall cause that you have identified, the small p the day-to-day things you do in service of your cause. So, for me my big P would be something like to help others thrive in their lives in the coaching work I offer, the small p could be smaller day to day activities like writing articles like this, seeing a couple of people for a session today, or starting with a new client through a chemistry session.

The other idea he mentioned which resonated was the idea of “inner kill” where people have lost their edge, their sense of what’s important, what to get up in the morning for, perhaps in the pursuit of money or fame, or ambition. Perhaps they haven’t followed their soul and been authentic in their life choices.

There was some push back to these ideas in the session, particularly in terms of purpose: the American “go for it” philosophy that demands complete clarity and certainty on our life’s purpose as potentially being too literal and simplistic, where a more natural and emergent path might show itself to us rather than forcing our purpose too hard. However, the consensus was that the idea of taking time out to reflect on a regular basis on who we are, what’s important to us and to live our lives authentically is a really worthwhile thing.

The resources below include some of the videos that show Leider talking through his ideas, plus the link to a “purpose check-up” that explores elements of outer and inner life and spirituality and was very revealing.

Resources to support

  1. What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old? The Path of Purposeful Aging (14:03 minutes long) found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-LNO3Bdlwg
  2. Optional Resource: On Growing into Yourself with Age (32 minutes long); an interview with Richard Leider facilitated by Andrew Keen; a video found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vy2cPev9RY (quite a bit like the video above but with a more challenging flavour to it. :)
  3. Purpose Check Up: an assessment exercise which looks at your outer life, your inner life and your spiritual life. Found at: https://richardleider.com/the-purpose-checkup/
  4. The Power of Purpose: Nine Questions for Richard Leider found at:https://www.bluezones.com/2015/12/the-power-of-purpose-9-questions-for-richard-leider/