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Spirituality & Aging: Finding Your Purpose

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What do you want to be when you grow up?  This is a common conversation starter with children. The conversations that follow are often filled with excited possibilities. The answers reveal a lot about our interests, dreams, passions or sense of calling. What I love about children is that the possibilities seem as endless to them as their youth. We could learn a lot from children. There is purpose in any season of life that can also be filled with seemingly endless possibilities. Every adult was once a child who grew up. Yet our sense of purpose continues to grow and develop throughout our lives, regardless of our age. What we should be asking kids of all ages is, “what are you going to do with the rest of your life? “

As we discussed in last week’s post, our spirituality informs how we relate to our self and others. Our spirituality plays an integral role in the choices and actions that give us a sense of meaning and purpose. Nurturing a growing a sense of purpose could unfold in a number of ways.

You might find purpose in how you relate to yourself and your identity in relation to the God of your understanding. For example, the belief that we were created by a benevolent god who loves us, and desires that we be in relationship with God and with one another, is a powerful one for many traditions. Even if our higher power is seen in nature, it still casts us as part of a greater whole. This sense of being part of something greater than self can give hope for purposeful living at any age. As another example, your spirituality may hold that God has a purpose for you being here. You stay connected to God through religious rites and rituals, such as prayer or meditation, or feeling connected through the natural world around you.

Finding purpose through connection with others is another means spirituality informs our sense of purpose. One might find purpose through joining with others doing things. Examples include:

  • service projects
  • attending or leading support groups
  • writing
  • teaching
  • the gift of being present with one another

The belief that we have something to offer in any circumstance or stage of life can also give us a strong sense of value.

A woman, who became bedridden, often lamented that she had nothing to contribute. She was a great listener who cared deeply for people. After listening intently and learning about her strong ethic of helping others, her pastor returned some time late. With help from others, he equipped her with technology that enabled her to check up on people in her church via a voice activated telephone. This gave her a sense of value and purpose because she felt like she was contributing to the well being of others.

While our spirituality informs our lens in which we view our purpose, there is plenty of practical advice that might help in cultivating our sense of purpose. A common suggestion for cultivating our purpose is to discover ways to just keep “doing” the things that we are passionate about and that bring us joy. According to Dr. Susan Biali, M.D., it is through “doing” that we can find purpose rather than waiting to find a purpose before we act.  She states, “…your purpose will slowly emerge [or grow] as you put one foot in front of the other, following your heart, talents and where life seem to be leading you.”  Biali also suggests not putting “too much pressure on yourself about clarifying your purpose.  Your purpose might indeed be something grand and complicated, or it may be as simple as dispensing love and kindness wherever you go.”

Finding and staying connected with our purpose is part of our own life story. Each day, each moment is like a blank page. It is your story to tell. It is yours to fill the pages with the story of a life fully lived with purpose.

How does your spirituality help to answer the question:  What do you want to be when you grow up?  Or rather, what are you going to do with the rest of your life?

Resource:
6 Keys to Finding Your Purpose

Reverend Sherry Perry, serves as staff chaplain with Blakeford at Green Hills to residents, family, and team members. Sherry has a special interest and passion for senior adults. She is focused on supporting the various relationships surrounding senior adults as they navigate this special season of life. She is board certified with both the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc. (BCCi) an affiliate of the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) and the National Association of Veterans Affairs Chaplains (NAVAC). She received her Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School.

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