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Make Meaning


Examples of new ways to make meaning

A meaningful life can only be lived from a strong belief in what you are doing. Here are some examples of people who have found meaning to energize them once they are retired.

Aunt Lou

In a recent conversation, she admitted that when she retired, she was so depressed she stayed in her pajamas for an entire month. But she’s a smart woman and knew that wasn’t a long-term solution.

She’s also mom to a large brood and that’s where she looked to create meaning for her new lifestyle. Taking an active part in her kids’ families was particularly challenging though because her kids lived all over the world. Not to be deterred, she made being an on-site grandma when the first child was born to each of her kids her mission. She started by agreeing to be with her middle child when her first baby was born—in the Philippines! She did the same thing when her other children started their families.

Her mission took on a new direction when her youngest son’s first child was born. This family lived where she lived. Both parents were teachers. Aunt Lou agreed to care for their three sons while they taught. The oldest one is now off to college, but those boys still insist on time with her. Aunt Lou will turn 88 later this year.

The Work Connection

In the late 1980’s, a union leader by the name of Peter DiCicco meshed two sets of needs to create a program for at risk youth with the local electrical workers union. The idea was an “alternative sentencing program” for youth who got in trouble with the law. They’d committed non-violent crimes and had a second chance IF they got their acts together.

The big problem with alternative sentencing in the community was the inability of such offenders to find and keep jobs. At the same time, much as they would not have admitted it, retirees within the union were frustrated with the lack of meaning in their lives. DiCicco took the lead in creating a mentoring program for the kids with the retirees as mentors.

This was not an “advice over the phone” kind of arrangement. The mentors went with the kids to court dates, gave them leads, helped them network, and went to bat making calls on their behalf with prospective employers. The help didn’t stop once the kid had the job either. The older guys made sure the kids got to work on time and helped them through the challenges of keeping a job and becoming valuable employees.

These guys cared about these kids and wanted them to succeed. In doing all they could to make that happen, they gave meaning to their own lives.

Un-retired and loving it

Barb retired from a major corporation several years ago. That lasted about a year, the way she tells it. Then she knew she needed to work again. But now, she is working for a non-profit…a paid position where she can make a difference for the community.

She gets to meet new people, handle complex challenges, and do things that make the area a better place to live. Meaningful? You bet.

Less? Or more??

A friend in oil country was trying to decide if he wanted to sell his business and retire. Every time we talked it was apparent he wasn’t at all ready to “do nothing.” Still his existing business demanded a significant amount of cash in reserve and had long ago reached to point of being predictable—okay, “boring.”

After three days of deliberating when an offer to buy came in, he decided to keep the original business but on a reduced scale and start a new company in an entirely different line of business.

He didn’t need a rocking chair; he needed a new launching pad.

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