Since I do transition coaching, I am privileged to work with people experiencing major turning points in life. A client may be graduating from undergraduate or graduate school and looking for a job, or retiring and planning that major lifestyle change.
These disparate groups of clients amazingly have a lot in common.
Those graduating and wanting to enter the workforce are well aware that the current job scarcity has major impact on their possibilities. We’ve all heard the stories and many of us have family members living those stories.
Still, recruiting does go on and in spite of – perhaps because of – the climate, young graduates are thirsting for some sense of meaning in work. Personal balance is becoming increasingly important to men and women.
At the same time, corporate leaders are learning that people who engage heart and soul in their work will be more committed and produce at a higher level.
There are some fulfilling possibilities arising from the two forces. An organization may no longer offer security or regular raises, but can invest time into determining what brings meaning to the company. Leaders can ask about their larger responsibility. Then they can make sure they know how to honestly communicate these qualities to prospective hires.
At the other end of the spectrum, when pre-retirement or retired clients work at planning a shift into less time – or no time – in the workforce, they express the need for a lifestyle that has meaning for them. They want some elements of the retired life to be engaging at the deepest level. That doesn’t mean they want to rule out golf, ski trips each winter or long leisurely lunches. As part of the fabric though, most clients preparing for a successful retirement want to create a blueprint that is in sync with their true values and that gives them a sense of purpose.
They want to feel fully alive.
At the outset or end of one’s career, then, these questions arise: What is my purpose here? Where is the meaning in my life? Am I living out my true values? What ignites my passion? How do I want to be of service right now?
Of course, these are great questions for self-reflection at any time in life. They are great questions to ask periodically. Without knowing the answers (or even asking yourself the questions) you have little chance of feeling connected and fully alive. Without knowing your true self on this deep level and honoring that truth, you may find yourself floundering about or being an understudy in someone else’s life instead of truly living your own. You may find yourself looking for meaning in all the wrong places.
I recommend that you approach this search for meaning in a serious and light manner. Be patient with yourself and expect that the answers are within you. They may be elusive. You cannot force them to emerge. I ask clients to imagine their own personal Martian whose job is to determine the client’s values by observing behavior for, say, one quarter. Would the Martian know the truth about you? Could the client list and prioritize your values? Could your spouse define what gives the most meaning to your life? Could your kids?
That kind of thinking and that sort of conversation with those closest to you will help ferret out the deep truth about who you are. I don’t know of any data more important as you walk through your life, as you create plans for your work or your retirement.
Whether you are in touch with your spiritual side or not, we each have a basic human need to be useful and to have a sense of meaning in how we spend a chunk of our time here. One of these days, you may have the opportunity to take a stand, to go “to the wall” for something. Best to know what that is.